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Weaning Yourself Off Plastic Bags

I had always heard about how bad plastic bags are for the environment. So about a year ago, I decided to stop using them. It seemed like a pretty simple way to help out.

But it isn’t simple. I quickly realized I couldn’t live without the stupid things. When I wasn’t looking, they had ingrained themselves into the fabric of my life – not only did they get my groceries home, but they had become a variety of valuable tools: my lunchbox, my soiled-diaper stink isolators, my recycled-items holding units, etc., etc.

But I was determined. The replacement for their main use, getting groceries home from the store, was easy, because my wife used to be a teacher and, apparently, teachers accumulate reams of canvas bags from years of giveaways at seminars and through textbook promotions. I use the biggest one to hold all the others and leave it hanging on a hook in the basement stairwell so I can easily snag it on my way out to the store.

The challenging part was eliminating all those secondary uses. But I did it, with the help of one really simple little mindset switch I made. I’ll reveal it farther down.

But first let’s get into why we should even bother to stop using plastic bags. Why is it, exactly, that Ireland, India, China, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and the latest, Washington, DC, have enacted bans or taxes to discourage plastic bag use?

Most obviously, they’re unsightly. Hundreds of billions of plastic bags are used in the U.S. each year, making them one of the most common pieces of litter blowing across the nation’s streets and into our waterways. And once they’re out there, they’re not going anywhere – plastic bags don’t biodegrade, but rather eventually break down into tiny pieces that can harm wildlife. And as for harming wildlife: By collecting by the trillions in the oceans, bags are killing sea turtles and untold legions of other marine animals.

A less-obvious reason to stop using plastic bags is revealed when you take a look at how they’re made – they’re composed of polymers, which come from fossil fuels like oil or gas. The more plastic bags we use, the more CO2 we release into the atmosphere.

So what are the alternatives? If you don’t happen to be married to a teacher, you’ll have to go buy some reusable bags. Suggestions:

Revenge Is … bags, made from recycled bottles

Mission Playground’s organic cotton bag

Wavyo, for a big selection of recycled/cotton bags

Simple Shoes’ assortment of multiple-use bags

Calypso Studios’ woven rice cloth totes

Passchal designer bags, which aren’t going to help you all that much at the grocery store but felt I had to mention because they’re made from tractor tire inner tubes. Very cool.

Or you could just pick up a bunch at your local store, since they all have them now for super-cheap.

And that little change I made that freed me from using grocery bags for little household duties? I realized I had enough plastic bags already in the house from other sources, and simply started re-using those. I now stuff the smelly diaps in empty bread, produce, or newspaper bags, or food-storage bags after they’ve been used a couple times.





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“Weaning Yourself Off Plastic Bags”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I just read this on "How Stuff Works"
    The United States alone creates and uses more than 100 billion plastic bags per year, a measly 0.6 percent of which are recycled. Good post- thanks for sharing!