Stewardship of Life

Ban-the-bag, save the turtles! (and oh yeah, the earth)

Posted in It's Personal by Robert Blezard on February 3, 2010

Some habits die hard, which is why a lot of people still don’t use those canvas reusable grocery bags you get at the supermarket.

But they have really transformed my life! I used to have a kitchen drawer full of those filmy plastic disposable bags. Every shopping trip I’d have to stuff a few more into the drawer. No more!

But the change wasn’t exactly the one I expected. I’ll clue you in, but first, some background on me, and the ban-the-disposable–bag movement.

As much as I can without slipping into eco-kooky land, I’m pretty much a me-first environmentalist. It’s personal — saving the planet, cleaning up the landscape and conserving non-renewable resources. When I was a kid I picked up litter on the road.

I still don’t mind doing my part, even knowing full well know that my efforts are more than cancelled out by the lout down the road who drives a Hummer and illuminates the outside of his house with enough incandescent candlepower to energize the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

Plastic bags are bad for a lot of reasons – they don’t decay, they use non-renewable fuel to produce, they add to the waste stream, etc. — but what got to me was the sea turtles. Mistaking the bags dumped at sea for tasty floating jellyfish, the turtles choke to death on them.

Americans use billions of the bags every year, just for the single purpose of carrying everyday purchases from store to home. What a waste! And they pollute!

Concerned about the Anacostia River, which was choking with plastic shopping bags, this year the District of Columbia became the first city in the country to impose a 5-cent charge on each supermarket bag. Sure, consumers fuss and fume, but the Washington Post reports that already use of disposable bags has been about cut in half. And the money raised will clean up the Anacostia and other areas.

Even Walmart has jumped on the ban-the-bag bandwagon. The world’s biggest chain wants to reduce its plastic-bag waste by one third by 2013. (Click here to read the fact sheet.) Just for Walmart, a reduction of one third would reap these benefits:  keep 9 billion bags out of the waste stream; save 290,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, save the equivalent of 678,000 barrels of oil.

As for me, I switched two years ago, when the supermarkets started selling them for 99 cents on the racks right next to the cash register. They’re nice! Big! Durable! Handy for other things! And my local grocer offered a 5 cent discount on groceries every time I used one! I got in the habit of buying reusable bags whenever I shopped.  They’re great!

Problem is, I never seem to be able to remember to take them with me when I shop. So I no longer have a drawer full of plastic disposable bags, but I have a drawer full of reusable bags! I guess that’s progress. Some habits die hard!



5 Responses to 'Ban-the-bag, save the turtles! (and oh yeah, the earth)'

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  1. kkw said,

    1. Hang one on your hanger with your coat as a reminder to go to the drawer for more.


    2. Leave half of your stash in the car, instead of the drawer, if you use the car for shopping. You’ll have some with you, at least until you run out of them and have to put more into the car.

  2. You can also find some bags (mesh or very light fiber) that will fold into a purse, coat pocket, backpack, or glove box. I find that I do a whole lot better job of remembering if I keep one or two in my purse!

  3. MarthaSue Moll said,

    I also find it helpful to keep some in my trunk. The trick then is to remember to take them into the store! In addition, one can recycle the plastic bags by returning them to the store or lining wastebaskets with them instead of buying liners.

  4. Lisa Schuster said,

    In addition to recycling any plastic bags we get, my husband and I often ask cashiers to “skip the bag.” While this might not be practical when grocery shopping, in other situations where we’re buying one or two items, it is a good way to cut down on plastic bag usage. Naturally, we pocket (or purse) the item(s) keeping the receipt handy.

    • Good idea, Lisa!

      Just hold on to the receipt in case store security sees you sauntering out of the store with an unwrapped item.

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