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They’re Real, Not Plastic

July 27, 2011

Earlier this year I would have thought blogging about plastic bags would be boring and quite redundant.  I have heard and read of the dire effects plastic bags have on the environment countless times.  And I am well versed in the “green tips” of bringing my own bag that are so prevalent.  Intellectually, I realize that plastic bags…well, suck.

I heard the implications and I pride myself to be eco-savvy yet I still would often be caught red-handed with those pesky plastic bags on a few desperate occasions.  However, once I began reading some of the statistics behind them and learning how repurposing newspaper into bags can be an alternative I officially banned myself from those aforementioned guilty moments.  Though several advocates for plastic bags state that they are either not as bad for the environment as people think or that they are a better choice than paper bags, I tend to err on the side of caution and heed the advice to choose neither and bring my own (and much more attractive) bag.  A few statistics from loveyourearth.org stood out and turned me completely against the plastic carriers, for example:

  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic (polyethylene) shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers: $4 billion)
  • Only 1-3% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide.
  • It takes (roughly) 1000 years for polyethylene bags to break down.
  • The amount of petroleum used to make 1 plastic bag would drive a car 11 meters.
  • They photdegrade-breaking down into smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways.
  • Approximately 1 billion seabirds and mammals die each year by ingesting plastic bags.

Ideally, more cities in the U.S. and throughout the world will follow suit like San Francisco, California, China, Ireland, India, and others and ban the use of plastic bags.  I was proud to see that my favorite Texas city, Austin, was pushing for a ban as such, and I hope that my Austinite-like sustainable spirit becomes contagious especially as I return to Cornell.

So, what I am to do to fulfill my personal pledge to boycott the bags? And, what can I do if I cross these plastic hazards?  First, in addition to carrying a reusable tote in my car and hanging one by my door when I leave, I have invested in a small one that easily fits into my satchel like this one from ChicoBag.  There are many different kinds to choose from and even some for produce to avoid another grocery plastic predicament.

Also, call me strange, Betty-homemaker, or whatever, but when I was at Cornell, I learned how to take a plastic bag and turn it into a yarn of sorts.  With it, I would knit and crochet things like bags and coasters.  I find the crafts to be very therapeutic and rewarding knowing that I have prevented the plastic bags from further contaminating landfills or expending precious energy to be recycled.

And if this wasn’t enough of an incentive, saving money was.  I recently shopped at WholeFoods Market, and I had my reusable bag in tow.  I purchased my items, placed them in my handy bag, and checked my receipt.  To my great joy, I noticed I had been given a 10 cent discount for bringing my own bag.  College Student + Saving Money = Happy College Student.

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