December 10th, 2012

Give the Gift of a Plastic-Free World By Using Reusable Bags

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Groovy Green Livin reusable bags

Reusable bags are where it’s at. Are you in? Have you committed to using reusable bags whenever you can? Making an effort to use reusable bags is a simple change we can all make which will have a big impact on our environment. These days it’s pretty easy to accumulate a substantial stash of reusable bags. Most business are readily handing them out with their logo proudly embossed on the side of each bag. My favorite reusable bags are small and fit easily into my handbag. That way I’m assured that they’ll be with me most of the time.

If you still haven’t jumped on board the reusable bag train it’s not too late. Check out these plastic bag facts to help bring you over to the world of reusable bags.

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide.
  • An estimated one million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags.
  • It’s not only the birds and turtles. In my friend Beth Terry’s book,  Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, she talks about how so many cows in India have died from ingesting plastic that many states in the nation have banned plastic bags altogether as a way to avoid it. Beth goes on to explain how in the United Arab Emirates veterinarians have seen goats, camels, sheep and other endangered desert animals dead because they’ve ingested plastic garbage.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, only 1% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide; the rest are left to live on indefinitely in landfills (or worse, in the environment).
  • Plastic bags don’t biodegrade and can instead photo-degrade and dissolve into toxic particles. Most often, when this happens, it happens in the ocean.  Toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals.
  • The United Nations Environment Program estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
  • Recycling isn’t the answer. The cost to recycle plastic bags so outweighs their value that most recycling facilities will not take them, leading more and more to just be thrown out with the rest of the trash. According to Beth Terry recycling should be a last resort after we have reduced our plastic consumption as much as possible.  Recycling is problematic because first, it doesn’t close the loop.  For example, a plastic bottle generally gets recycled into something like polar fleece or carpet or other polyester produce, so virgin plastic must still be used to create new bottles.  Also, most of our plastic recycling is shipped overseas to countries like China, where it is processed in some environmentally-unfriendly ways, and third, plastics can only be recycled so many times.  When plastic can no longer be recycled, those non-biodegradable molecules linger in the environment virtually forever.  Plastic recycling is necessary, but we should first focus on turning off the spigot of new plastic products and packaging.
  • It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of plastic bags the US uses per year.

Did you know that the average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags? Check out this fantastic map which describes the evolution of various solutions to the plastic bag problem throughout the world.

After forgetting my reusable bags more times than I care to admit I finally figured out a simple solution for remembering them most of the time. I keep a few smaller bags in my purse and I throw the big, supermarket sized reusable bags in the front seat of my car.

What’s your trick for remembering your reusable bags?

photo credit: Mr. T in DC via photopin cc

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7 Responses to “Give the Gift of a Plastic-Free World By Using Reusable Bags”

  1. Those are great facts, Lori! Those 12 million barrels of oil scare me. :(

    I always carry a small one in my handbag, and I bring big, sturdy ones with me for groceries. But I couldn’t tell you how to go about remembering to do that, it’s just something that has to become a habit for me over the years (and there have been many times when I realized I left them behind once I stepped into the store). Keep them in the car, as you said, or perhaps near the front door as a visual reminder?

  2. Thanks for the tips Andrea. I try to keep my reusable bags in the front seat, but unfortunately I forget them way too often! I have a small one in my handbag too.

  3. Its sad to know that millions of living creatures are dying each year, and people has shown surprising apathy towards these issues.

    Thanks Lori for sharing the Plastic Bag Ban Community Page.

    - Ishank

  4. I’d put mine in the front seat if it wasn’t always full of other to-do things for the day. I need to work on the car organization thing.
    Anne recently posted..Guest Post: Going Green for the HolidaysMy Profile

  5. [...] shopping bags. All of these are gifts that keep on giving! From Groovy Green Livin, why not give the gift of a plastic-free holiday and everyday? Check out their link for horrific statistics about plastic bags. Just a few of her [...]

  6. [...] giving! From Groovy Green Livin, why not give the gift of a plastic-free holiday and everyday? Check out their link for [...]

  7. […] Does bringing your own bag really make that much of a difference? YES! In the not so distant past, people had no choice but to bring their own bags to carry their groceries home; they also brought bags for the flour, tomatoes and nuts too! Expand your bag usage to the produce and bulk section as well. Feeling crafty? Make your own mesh produce bags in a snap. Not feeling so crafty? There are many companies now making reusable tote bags that you can purchase online & in some health food stores. Most of these bags can even be thrown in the washing machine along with your other totes. Does your grocery store give you a bag credit for your reusable bags? Many co-ops do this.  Bonus! You may even get additional credits with your reusable bulk and produce bags too. […]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I like to make noise and stir the pot especially when an issue hits home and effects the health of our families. Join me as I make some noise and share along the way tips for living a green and healthy life. Read more.

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