#2 on the LIST – Reduce the number of one-time use bags we use

Like everyone else, we’ve been embracing the trend to bring your own bags to the grocery store.  I used to bring paper bags back to Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s because they were just piling up like crazy and I hated just throwing them out.  Trader Joe’s would enter you into a raffle for a gift card (I must have entered 75 times and nuthin’. Nada. Zip. Zilch) and Ralph’s gives you a 5 cent discount for each bag you resuse.  Not bad, but then TJ’s started selling the canvas and plastic reusable bags so I bought a couple of those.  Then I would promptly forget to take them with me and now would have reusable bags plus the paper bags.  So I’ve been working on that.  We pretty much always take the reusable bags to the farmers market and I probably take the reusable bags in with me to the market 75% of the time.

Where I fail usually is when I go to retailers other than grocery stores.  I never have a bag with me at Target or Macy’s.  If it’s something small, I try to carry it in my hand or in the stroller but I’ll admit it makes a bit of a mess because often it ends up strewn all over my car.  Anyhoo, I want to do better.  I want to really cut down on the number of bags we bring into the house because they clutter up my home and end up making more waste than we need.

I do often re-use the bags to line our garbage cans throughout the house and sometimes I keep a couple bags in my diaper bag for when I don’t have my wetbag to store wet diapers in but other than that, I find myself throwing them away or recycling them.  So why not do something about it?

Define the Problem

I started looking for some shocking facts about how evil these things are because I’m feeling a bit like a drama queen tonight.  Baby woke up FOUR (count ’em FOUR) times last night.  I’m tired and have been eating some serious sugar to get me through the day.  I’m feeling a little sick at this point but wait.  I may be wandering off topic now.  Regroup.

Here’s what I found on envirosax.com (keep in mind they make plastic bags for a living, so take it with a grain of salt):

  • Approx. 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year.
  • Approx. 100 billion of the 380 billion are plastic shopping bags.
  • An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.
  • Only 1 to 2% of plastic bags in the USA end up getting recycled.
  • Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
  • Plastic bags are often mistakenly ingested by animals, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. Other animals or birds become entangled in plastic bags and drown or can’t fly as a result.
  • Even when they photo-degrade in landfill, the plastic from single-use bags never goes away, and toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals.
  • Greenpeace says that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. Nearly 90% of that debris is plastic.
  • Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags per year. Approximately 14 million trees are cut down every year for paper bag production.
  • Most of the pulp used for paper shopping bags is virgin pulp, as it is considered stronger.
  • Paper production requires hundreds of thousands of gallons of water as well as toxic chemicals like sulphurous acid, which can lead to acid rain and water pollution.

So some of these seem hard to believe but no matter how you slice it, we can do better.  The good news is that towns across the nation are starting to ban them.  Now my little family of three doesn’t consume thousands of bags a year but we too can do better.  I don’t have a baseline of our usage so I’m going to set a goal around keeping our usage small.  So let’s try.

The Goal

Reduce the number of one-time use bags that I bring into the house to just 15 bags a month.  That might sound like a lot but keep in mind that this will include produce bags (which I’m using more of – yay!? or boo?  I dunno.), shopping bags from the mall/target/grocery stores, bags from when we pick up food, etc.  I’ve easily brought home 15 bags of just produce and groceries in one mere week.  And the holidays are a-comin’ so there will be more shopping going on.  If this goal is too lofty or too easy, I’ll readjust in a few months.  We’ll start in October.

How I’m going to get there

Well, I have bags that I use at the market.  Because I’m always forgetting them when I need them, I need some strategies.  Here are some things that I think will help:

  • I usually have a stroller with me these days and the stroller has a convenient basket underneath that I can use to store stuff.
  • My car has a cargo net that I can put stuff in loosely without a bag
  • I hang the shopping bags on a closet that’s next to the garage door, which I always leave through.  That way, even if I forget on my way to the car, I can quickly run inside and get the bags without having to look for them.
  • Use my gTote as a diaper bag more often – it’s a good sized, sturdy bag and there’s usually extra room in it after putting baby’s stuff in there.  It’s made out of recycled sails from sail boats.  Cool, huh?  It looks like this:

  • I just spent $16 on reusable bags.  Sounds silly, I know.  In general, I’m cheap and it seems strange to buy bags that I’ve always gotten for free.  I bought these for produce to cut back on all those bags.  I considered making them myself for a few seconds but let’s get real here.  I’d like to be crafty.  But I’m not.  And I would hate myself even more if I bought the materials and then they just sat there taking up more space.  I want to move on this, not lag.  If you are crafty, here’s a great tutorial.
  • I will look through the house and see what other bags/boxes I can keep in the cars for easy access.
  • I also purchased these to keep in my purse/diaper bag so that I always have something with me.  They’re cute too, right?

What do you do to limit the number of bags you use?



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