Forgot Password?
Home arrow GreeniacsGuides arrow Consumer Products arrow Bring Your Own Shopping Bag
Written by William Klein   
Share |
Monday, 23 April 2012

Bring Your Own Shopping Bag

Paper or Plastic? Tired of throwing away bag after bag? Well then why don’t you try a reusable bag?! It’s what people were doing for centuries prior to the adoption of the plastic bag in the 1970s, so why not go throwback and bring your own?

BENEFITS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Paper bags take up more space in the landfill and remove more trees from the planet, adding to deforestation problems. Plastic bags expend greater energy in their production and are derived from oil, i.e. they are a petroleum product. Biodegradable bags combine the worst of these two, and can only be “composted” in industrial facilities. Reusable bags can come from responsible sources, significantly reducing both waste and energy required for production. Plus, they can be fun!

BENEFITS for Your Wallet: If you’re lucky, your grocery store will give you a small token of compensation (typically 5 cents or so). Some cities have plastic bag taxes, so you will save yourself that expense as well.

BENEFITS for the Community: A decrease in the number of bags distributed reduces the chances for them to go airborne and litter the city or end up in our waters, where they potentially kill wildlife. The cleaner the city, the less tax dollars need to be used to clean it up!

Cost: Low
You can find reusable bags for less than $5. Some places offer bags at a discounted rate when you buy larger quantities, which will lead you to keep different bags for different items (i.e. food, clothing, etc.). The trick here is to actually reuse your bags so you don’t have to keep buying new ones. You should clean you bags regularly if you use them for food items.

Time and Effort: Medium
This will require some getting used to for sure! But with a little patience and effort, you can make the switch and soon enough, you won’t even think twice! You can always keep some bags in your purse, in your car, or on your bike so that you don’t have to always remember and be able to shop on the fly

Materials
If you’re switching from single-use bags to reusable bags because you’re annoyed by the petroleum intake or other harmful environmental impacts, then it’s important not to buy a reusable bag made from the same petroleum sources with the same harmful impacts. These materials are good options for ensuring that your reusable bag is manufactured in a responsible way.

Hemp: The cultivation of hemp is known for its sustainability. It grows well with little water and without herbicides or pesticides. If you are in need of a sturdy and durable bag, hemp may prove to be your material of choice. Hemp fiber is eight times stronger than cotton fiber, so it stretches less and is more durable. It is also hypoallergenic, mold-resistant, and UV ray resistant.

Organic Cotton: Conventional cotton farming ranks second in pesticide use among all crops and uses 25% of the world's insecticides. The farming of organic cotton eliminates the use of these harmful chemicals, but the cultivation of cotton is still very water intensive. That said, cotton bags are quite versatile. From string bags to canvas bags, you have your variety of choices depending on what you are looking for. While hemp is probably your best bet for durability, organic cotton is your best option for a lightweight bag.

Recycled PET: This fabric is made from post-consumer plastic bottles and containers, helping redirect waste away from landfills. It is a good alternative to nylon and is a bit sturdier, making a more durable bag.

Recycled Cotton: The cotton comes from the scraps acquired during the processes of spinning, weaving, and cutting cotton. As much as 40% of cultivated cotton goes to waste between the harvesting of the crop and the manufacturing of apparel. Instead of ending up in landfills, these scraps are being recycled and put to use. These bags are both lightweight and sturdy.

While there are bags made from other materials, these are the most eco-friendly materials. Bamboo is another option, but it comes with its own controversy. Nonetheless, it is a better option than using new plastic bags and throwing them away with each use. When opting for bags made from recycled materials, be sure to check the percentage of recycled material used. Also remember to look for fair trade and fair labor goods.

Types of bags
Cheap: Reusable bags are all over the place as free giveaways. Visit farmers markets, tabling events, or just ask a staff person at the next store you go to. While these aren’t always the most sturdy, their price is appealing, and they carry the groceries home.

Small: Chico Bags are great if you are concerned over the bulk of the bags. They are lightweight and can be smushed together in a nice little ball to fit in a purse. Plus, they can be quite trendy!

Resourceful: Perhaps one of your roommates hasn’t yet joined the reusable bag revolution, and still comes home with paper and plastic bags. Well in true repurposing spirit, these often make great reusable bags as well!

Designer: If you’d like to make a statement or just look like you’re on the uppity up, then maybe a designer bag is for you. With the significant increase in demand for reusable bags, many artists are trying to stake a claim on the bag market.

Sharing is Caring: Some stores offer a bag exchange program in which they have a box at the front of the store filled with reusable bags. You can grab a bag when you get to the store, and also drop off extra bags later. Don’t worry, these programs wash the bags to prevent diseases and things like that.

The Backpack Approach: This is perhaps my most preferred—it’s just a simple backpack. Granted, it limits the amount of stuff you can buy, but for those short trips, this is perfect. Just remember to take out all of your papers before hand.

DIY: Do you have extra t-shirts lying around? Or some extra cloth? Customize your bag by making it yourself. You can create small bags perfect for veggies, larger bags for general grocers, etc.

Remember Your Bag!
This is easily the biggest hindrance to using reusable bags—it’s just not the highest priority in life! But there are a few tricks you can use to integrate it into your daily shopping routine.
  1. Keep a stash in a memorable place. Whether it’s your car, below the kitchen sink, next to the car keys, wherever, just define a place and stick with it (unless you find a better place, then switch and stick with that one).

  2. Use visual cues to help you remember—both to bring your bags from your house to your car, and to bring the bags from the car to the store. Write a note where you typically keep your keys or by the front door. In the car, write a note on the dashboard. If you bike, then this is easy—you most likely will already have the bags on you.

  3. Alternatively, you can just put the bags in your purse or place your grocery or shopping list in your bags so you will have to remember.
Wash your bag
Just because you’re being “green” (whatever that means), doesn’t mean you have to be dirty. Wash your bags once a week or whenever they just give you a squeamish feeling. Some bags can be thrown in with the laundry, while others will have to be washed by hand.

Tell a friend
Let’s be honest. You switching to reusable bags is not going to change the world. But if you can convince your friends, and they can convince their friends, then we’re talking. You don’t have to patronize, but just being optimistic and high spirited about using the bags sends subtle signals that it’s easy for them to use them too!


Browse all Greeniacs Guides Browse all Greeniacs Guides        Browse all Greeniacs Articles
_______________________________________________________________________________

1 http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Consumer-Products/Plastic-Bag-Facts.html
2 http://www.chicobag.com/




Add your comment
RSS comments

Only registered users can write comments.
Please login or register.

Click here to Register.  Click here to login.

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 April 2012 )

SEARCH GREENIACS.COM

Green Facts

  • For every 38,000 bills consumers pay online instead of by mail, 5,058 pounds of greenhouse gases are avoided and two tons of trees are preserved.

  • A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70%.

  • Recycling 1 million laptop computers can save the amount of energy used by 3,657 homes in the U.S. over the course of a year.

  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch.

  • In the United States, automobiles produce over 20 percent of total carbon emissions. Walk or bike and you'll save one pound of carbon for every mile you travel.

  • You’ll save two pounds of carbon for every 20 glass bottles that you recycle.

  • American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year.

  • An aluminum can that is thrown away instead of recycled will still be a can 500 years from now!

  • A tree that provides a home with shade from the sun can reduce the energy required to run the air conditioner and save an additional 200 to 2,000 pounds of carbon over its lifetime.

  • States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.

  • Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.

  • One recycled aluminum can will save enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours.

  • Americans throw away more than 120 million cell phones each year, which contribute 60,000 tons of waste to landfills annually.

  • Current sea ice levels are at least 47% lower than they were in 1979.

  • Glass can be recycled over and over again without ever wearing down.

  • Washing your clothes in cold or warm instead of hot water saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and drying your clothes on a clothesline six months out of the year would save another 700 pounds.

  • A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.

  • Due to tiger poaching, habitat destruction, and other human-tiger conflicts, tigers now number around 3,200—a decrease in population by about 70% from 100 years ago.

  • In California homes, about 10% of energy usage is related to TVs, DVRs, cable and satellite boxes, and DVD players.

  • It takes 6,000,000 trees to make 1 year's worth of tissues for the world.

  • A laptop consumes five times less electricity than a desktop computer.

  • Refrigerators built in 1975 used 4 times more energy than current models.

  • 77% of people who commute to work by car drive alone.

  • Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every 3 months

  • Bamboo absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than equivalent stands of trees.

  • If every U.S. household turned the thermostat down by 10 degrees for seven hours each night during the cold months, and seven hours each weekday, it would prevent nearly gas emissions.

  • 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from burning fossil fuels.

  • Every week about 20 species of plants and animals become extinct.

  • Nudge your thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down two degrees in the winter to prevent 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

  • Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute.

  • Turning off the tap when brushing your teeth can save as much as 10 gallons a day per person.

  • Shaving 10 miles off of your weekly driving pattern can eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

  • You will save 100 pounds of carbon for each incandescent bulb that you replace with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), over the life of the bulb.

  • Recycling 100 million cell phones can save enough energy to power 18,500 homes in the U.S. for a year.

  • You will save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide for every 10,000 miles you drive if you always keep your car’s tires fully inflated.

  • Less than 1% of electricity in the United States is generated from solar power.

  • Recycling for one year at Stanford University saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone.

  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year.

  • The World Health Organization estimates that 2 million people die prematurely worldwide every year due to air pollution.