Coming to a city near you, if it hasn’t already, is new legislation or taxes against disposable shopping bags – both throwing them away, and using them altogether. Many cities around the United States are going for all all-out ban on plastic bags, so you might as well get ready! Or use our tips to get more in the habit of using reusable shopping bags.
It’s Kind Of a Pain. What’s In It For Me?
The US goes through approximately 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year which costs $4 billion in higher fees at the register since stores must absorb the costs of providing us their bags. Likewise, it costs us approximately 17 cents per bag in taxes for plastic bag pollution clean-up. To give you a better idea, in a state as large as California, that’s $25 million annually in taxes to clean shorelines and river sides.
So it seems like a great idea to get over using plastic bags and get a jump on reusable bags ahead of everyone else. They are nothing new and many “green” living people have used them for well over a decade or two instead. But changing over to reusable from plastic is often easier said than done! If they have made it into your car, at least, they probably are left there and not in the store with you when you reach the checkout. Why is it so hard to get into the habit of actually using your reusable shopping bags? It takes a bit of mindfulness and preparation to change a lifelong habit.
6 Tips For Getting Away From Plastic Bags
You’re going to find yourself in some sticky situations a few times until you get in the habit and get used to shopping with reusable bags. Hopefully we can help!
- Have at LEAST 5 of your favorite bags
You’ll soon find out which bags work the best for you, then get five of them, for each car. Most of us run errand days where we stop at the grocery store, the Pharmacy, the Big Box stores, and more. So the average best bet for being prepared is five. Something to keep in mind: You will want separate bags for meats because they tend to leak and can spread bacteria. You might line with plastic that is reused a few times and occasionally replaced, or you can wash your tote bags. You might soak them and hand wash, or instead of the lighter-weight fabrics, you might choose a cotton reusable tote bag for meats that will stand up to repeated washings.
- Have 5 bags in each car
You don’t want to get stuck in your spouse’s car without the bags that are in your trunk.
- Decide where to keep them
If they’re in your trunk, they’ll probably stay there. Try putting them in the side panel of your door, or getting in the habit of putting them on the front seat the moment you’re getting in your car to run errands.
- Write BAGS on your list
Literally, put your bags at the top of your shopping list so you see it when you enter the store and can turn back to your car. Yes, this is another habit to form, but a helpful one.
- Put them back in the car as soon as possible
Once emptied, put them back in your car immediately, put them in your purse, or hang them on your door so you can’t escape your house without seeing them.
- Get educated to stay motivated to be bag free
And finally on our list, finding out why plastic bags are not only costly to you but costly to the environment can help you stay mindful and motivated. Here’s a breakdown of why paper and plastic bags are not suited for today’s world:
Some areas now offer paper bags for 10-cents at the checkout, but when you look at the cost that has on the environment, it’s clear that paper is not better than plastic. In fact, it could be worse in some ways.
— 14 million trees are cut down for paper bags each year in the US.
— 70% more air pollution comes from paper vs plastic.
— Paper bags generate 50 times more water pollution too.
— Four times the amount of energy is used to manufacture paper bags in comparison to plastic.
— 98% more energy is used to recycle them.
— In order to recycle paper bags, they must be turned into recycling plants. However, less than 15% make it there, and very little of the recycled materials are actually used to make new ones.
— Paper does not compost like it does in our backyard if sent to a landfill because it’s covered and there’s no air circulation to help them decompose. Just like food waste in landfills, it will take decades to decompose just one bag.
— And finally, the irony of greenhouse gasses should not be lost on you. Forests of trees (before cutting) are needed to absorb greenhouse gasses, but then manufacturing paper bags produces more greenhouse gasses, and yet we have fewer trees to absorb them.
It may then seem that plastic bags have been unjustly vilified, but that’s not true either. Plastic shopping bags ae not sustainable nor a better solution:
— Less than 1% of plastic shopping bags are recycled.
— Aside from cigarette butts, plastic bags are the largest form of preventable litter. Over 4 billion bags each year are clogging storm drains and littering our forests, rivers, lakes, beaches and oceans.
— Plastic kills and tortures all types of birds and sea creatures by causing slow starvation after ingestion, causing lack of flight and/or drowning from getting wrapped up in them, etc. Over a million birds die annually and hundreds of thousands of other marine creatures, large and small.
— They may take 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill, but as they break down, their toxins leach out continually and enter our food chain through the soil.
— And finally, a whopping $500,000,000 and 12-million barrels of oil is used annually to make these petroleum-based polyethylene plastic bags. To break that down for you in smaller bites, oil is non-renewable, causes us to be continually more dependent on procuring foreign oil, increases greenhouse gasses, and takes $500,000,000 away from investing in green energy and jobs.