Monday, September 28, 2009

Going Green

Going green is a big topic these days. It's also a pretty trendy thing. Which is good, I think. I hope eventually we'll all be so green we'll have flowers sprouting from our ears.

Peter and I have made a few small efforts to "go green" in the past few years and I wanted to share them here. My first green topic is one of my biggest pet peeves: disposable plastic shopping bags. How many times have you been to the store and bought one item and they hand it to you in a bag? I know that I am not the only person who thinks this is ludicrous!

I remember in 3rd grade my class was discussing the environment. We were debating the advantages and disadvantages of paper versus plastic bags. It boiled down to the fact that paper bags biodegrade but they use tons of trees. Plastic bags, on the other hand, do not cost us our precious trees but they do not (readily) biodegrade and they produce pollution during manufacturing. At the time I remember being thoroughly stumped. Neither option seemed ideal but what, oh what, was the alternative?!? No one suggested one that day in class.

It took me until about 2005 to find the solution. Reusable canvas bags! I'm not saying that I spent that entire period between third grade and 2005 agonizing over that problem. I'm just making the point that something so simple and so economical should not be such an anomaly in our culture. We have just grown accustomed to a wasteful, disposable lifestyle.

So, a few years ago Peter and I became the proud owners of these three handsome canvas bags that we bought at H-E-B, pictured above (notice Theodore sitting so urbanely in the background). Today, you can buy reusable bags at almost every grocery store that I've seen. Although, most of the ones I see are not as big as ours. I really like ours because they can hold a lot and they are very sturdy. I would recommend seeing if H-E-B still carries them.

In my opinion, this is one of the easiest changes you can make as far as going green goes. It will probably take a few grocery store trips before you remember to grab your bags. I keep one or two reusable bags in each of our cars in case we forget them or we are out and need to run an errand.

The cool thing is that this actually saves you money. At Whole Foods you get $.10 for every bag you bring in. I believe that is also the case at Kroger. Granted, it's not enough money to fund your dream vacation to the Bahamas. But it's something. It does add up. You will have earned a Starbucks in a few weeks. Which is convenient because now there is usually a Starbucks right there in the grocery store! At the very least, the bag will pay for itself.

Of course you'll still probably need plastic bags for various reasons in your household. But you might be able to find creative ways to reuse plastic bags. I recently started bringing slightly used bags home from the hospital (patients put their shoes in them during surgery) to use in our small trashcans. There are also huge, sturdy plastic bags that are used to bring in various items to our stock. The stocking manager leaves them for us and I've been bringing them home to use them in our big trashcan. This saves money as well, we haven't bought trash bags for months.

Here are a few ugly facts about plastic bags:

Introduced just over 25 years ago, the ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that society's consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that's 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.

Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.

Those were from this website. If you want to know more or shop for reusable bags go here:


Daniele said...

Also, keep in mind that you can use canvas bags at any store you go to. I use them when I shop at Payless, Old Navy, Dollar General, ANY store! It doesn't have to be JUST the grocery store! :)

I think Europe has been way ahead of the curve on this whole "green" thing. I remember when I was around 7 years old (so that's back in 80s), and we'd go to the grocery store in Germany you'd HAVE to bring your own bag to put your stuff in or pay $$ for a plastic bag.
For some reason the USA is not only way behind when it comes to environmentally friendly ideas, but we're also very stubborn when it comes to changing or accepting new ways of doing things.

There's a lot we can learn from other countries and canvas bags are just the beginning!! :)

Peter and Leslie said...

Good point about using the bags at other stores, very true.

I agree a lot of other countries are better regarding plastic bags. I even heard that Australia has made them illegal. Though I have not looked into that claim in depth.

Vanessa Rogers said...

In other countries they charge you per plastic bag. That would help the canvas bag cause if they did the same here.

Robin and Don said...

You know a few months ago on Good Morning America they talked about this issue and I cannot remember what state, I believe it was back east though, is considering passing a law of no plastic bags. You will have to bring your own or buy as you check out!