Sunday, November 2, 2008

Paper or Plastic?

For some time now I have been learning about different sustainable choices that we can make in our everyday lives. Some are easier than others, but mostly I have found that sustainable choices often begin with simply taking a little time to think about your choices and plan a little bit ahead. Sustainability is a journey where there are always more challenges ahead, new options to choose from. As I make one life change, I am on to another and often forget that even though I may have made a certain choice years ago, not everyone is on the same page. The most poignant of examples is the question of paper or plastic. Which one is better, which one should you choose?

The answer is neither. Though paper bags can be and are recycled more than plastic bags, millions of trees must be cut down every year to produce them. The majority of paper bags are not recycled (only 10-15% of paper bags are recycled.) Plastic bags are made from oil and oil drilling has many negative environmental effects from habitat destruction to the release of pollutants. Litter is also a problem as millions and millions of plastic bags float around the earth and often end up in the ocean, where marine life often swallow them up, mistaking them for prey, and choke to death. Both paper and plastic bags must be transported from their respective factories to the stores that distribute them to carry groceries and other consumer products. And both options require tons and tons of resources to produce them in the first place. How do you avoid this grocery store dilemma?

Bring your own bags to the grocery store! Do you have any old canvas bags sitting around the house? Stick them you trunk and bring them with you to the store. Or if you ride your bike or walk to the store, fold 'em up and put them in the bottom of your regular bag or backpack so that you will always have them with you for that "Oh yeah, I need to stop by the grocery store" quick trip. If you don't have any bags around to use, you can easily make your own. Try and use materials that you already have around the house, rather than going out and purchasing new materials. An old pair of jeans works nicely, or you can even make a sturdy bag out of plastic bags that you may have saved over the years.

The hardest part about this plan is remembering to bring your bags into the grocery store with you. One way is to strategically place a sticker or note somewhere in your car or home where you will see it to help remind you. Or, at many of the grocery stores in my neighborhood the grocers have put signs up in the front windows reminding you to bring your bags in. If your grocer doesn't already do this, ask to speak with the manager and ask them if they wouldn't mind doing something like that as well. Chances are they will thank you for the idea.

For more information about the debate about paper, plastic, or bringing your own bags, for the photo credit, and for some hard facts about all this, please click here. Another great idea is to make reusable bags for gifts for friends and family. Last May I made two of these puppies for my mom on Mother's Day:

My mom loves her bags and has been using them religiously ever since. This is an inexpensive and great made-with-care way to start making some sustainable choices!

2nd bird photo credit.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I actually crocheted a plastic bag purse, and I loved it so much...and can you leieve someone broke into my car and stole it! I bought a new one from a crafter at ETSY.COM! Great post!!!