Wednesday, June 18, 2008

what's it all for?

While rambling on about my latest plastic bag adventures, a fellow method luster posted this comment, which I thought would make for an interesting back and forth on everyone's thoughts here; as well as a little more insight from myself.

"ok... not to sound too naive. i understand why plastic bags are so bad for the environment... i get that. here's my question... is the hope that by not taking plastic bags, we will show the plastic bag makers that people don't use them and therefore there is no need to make them anymore? because obviously by not taking one you're not really saving one from being made (i mean the bag is still there). i know this is all obvious observation. and what about paper bags? are they ok? and if they are, then how come retailers aren't replacing plastic with paper. or are we now getting into the cutting down trees issue? well then they could make paper bags out of recycled paper. what if in 10 years they realize these tote bags are causing land-fill problems... what then? i'm just saying. really though, i am in support of reusable totes because i am so sick of ALL the flippin' plastic bags under my sink... even though i do reuse them (but that still means they eventually end up in the trash). but, like kristin, i forget to take the totes with me... boo!
- anonymous"

I wonder if it's someone from method? It's all written in lowercase! Ha ha! Here's my seven and a half cents. (Inflation, you know. Two cents gets you nothing these days.)

Uhm, I'm a bit of a shopper. Like crazy. Anyone know of a good Shoppers Anonymous meeting in the North Carolina area? Email me. SO, anyway, I used to have lots of plastic bags. I read this post last night, and starting trying to figure out a number of how many plastic bags I probably accumulated in a month. I really have no idea. But I'm gonna go with like, fifty. Just think, if you just purchased one item each day, that's one bag. And we all know how many plastic bags you might walk out with in just one grocery store trip; or the three things you buy, and the cashier puts each one in a separate bag (I wanna hit those people, really badly.) And one bag a day is already thirty bags. So it adds up quickly. If you keep that in mind, it's June; I would have, by now, accumulated around 275 bags! And that's just ME! Now, take 275, and multiply that by the current American population: 304,025,506. (Whew!) That's 83,607,014,150 plastic bags! And that's just in the US!

Ok, this is NATHAN making-a-point math, so don't take it literally (though that is the US population as of May, 2008.) But just think, if everyone in the US carried three or so reusable totes instead, we would have kept 83,607,014,150 plastic bags from possibly ending up in landfills. By buying three Baggu bag totes this year (or your own favorite tote! I just love the Baggu! And don't forget, even method has their own Plastic Bag Rehab tote!), I just reduced my bag usage from 275, to 3! And at the end of the year, it'll be around 600, to 3. Crazy! Yes, plastic bags get recycled; but unlike plastic bottles and such, people have to actually TAKE them to a recycling box (at your local grocer and such) instead of just putting them into the recycling bin that gets picked up each week by your waste collector. And people are LAZY. My friends don't do this, for the most part. They just throw them away, or use them for litter; but it all ends up in the landfill.

I'm not sure if not using plastic bags would show the manufacturers that there was no need for them, and they'd stop making them. But it might help. (Think gas, if we all stopped driving, boy would gas prices drop!) If everyone used totes, and suddenly all the plastic bags that were made were just sitting around gathering dust, well, the manufacturers would have to stop making them, there would be no demand. I think there are just better solutions, and human beings don't always follow better solutions. They follow the mighty green dollar. So we have to take a stand at times, to improve things that might otherwise just keep on going.

Paper bags are, in my opinion, a better solution. You can get all into the details of how much energy, water, etc. one takes to make/recycle over the other, but I still think it's better than plastic. And you can ask for paper at your grocer, and they'll have it for you. I always smile happily when someone does that, even if they don't have a tote. And YES, I do already seriously think the reusable tote thing is going a bit crazy. Every store you walk into now has a reusable tote for sale; and people are like "I have thirty different totes! They're so cool!" Uh, but that's not the point. If everyone starts collecting that next cool tote, we're not really helping things out. Buy as many as you think you'll need (3-9?) and use them into the ground. I really think my Baggu bag will last a LONG time, and they are SO great! Yes, they are made from ripcord nylon. No, it's not the best for the environment; BUT it's better (to me) to use 3 ripcord nylon bags over the 600 plastic bags I would have picked up this year.

Somedays I think we're just screwed no matter. Paper = killing trees, forests, jungles, I hate that. Plastic kills everything, degrades into tiny molecules forever, birds, animals, it's sad. Biodegradable totes are the best way to go; but you know, do what you can, and try to make a difference. Just TRY (and DO) is the point. Instead of just saying "I want to, but..." You'd be surprised by how easy it becomes. (Even if you gotta beat down a few flea market ladies!)

What are your thoughts? Speak up, be heard! Do you use a tote?


Quill said...

I use a couple of those totes that squish up small, when I can, though I also use plastic bags to dispose of cat litter and the paper ones in my bathroom trash can. But I've cut my intake of plastic bags way down with the totes. I get weird looks from grocery stores a lot of the time, and one bagger pointed out that they're a great idea but they're kind of small... I do like the fact that stores are selling their own branded totes--whatever it takes to get people to use them--but those don't squish well. I don't have a car; whatever I use has to go in my backpack, and those are just too big to haul around every day.

BTW, not every grocery store has paper bags, nor will they all provide them if asked. My main grocery store simply doesn't carry them.

Nathan Aaron said...

That's insane that your grocery store doesn't have paper bags! Usually the ones around here have them tucked away under the counter that they bag at; and if you ask (because they usually don't ask you) they'll use them. It's crazy if they don't carry them at all.

My Baggu bags carry two to three plastic bag's worth of groceries in EACH. I bought $100. in groceries (a lot of groceries for me!) and they ALL fit in my three Baggu bags. So I was impressed. They weighed a pretty penny, but it was worth it. And not a single rip or tear.

Quill said...

Eh, it's a low-income area. I have enough trouble getting them to pay attention when I find something expired still on the shelf. Ordering paper bags for one weirdo customer is not within their range.

I bookmarked the Baggu site, though, thanks!

Rachel said...

Dear Nate,

Great name by the way! I saw your intriguing post on "Not Martha" (some how I got to her bacon bowls post?).... but I digress.

I saw a tote someone brought to a vegetarian pot luck (I know what you're thinking... "BACON BOWLS!", but I see vegetarian cooking much like Chinese or Mexican, more of a "cultural food" of the neurotics, one that I don't get enough of in my life, which I really enjoy, so I joined a vegetarian/vegan meet up group).... but I digress yet again!

The tote said "I used to be a plastic bag", which I thought was quite humorous because it is still a plastic bag, and since it was recycled probably three or four previous plastic bags..... However, the thought did occur to me, since I crochet, to use old plastic bags as material for grocery totes.

Since I know I'm not a genius and surely not the first to think of it, I googled "crochet trash bags" and found a how to two ways::

Even hints on using plastic "yarn":

Another site that had 10 ways (9 other than crocheting a grocery bag) to Re-use and Re-cycle plastic bags... One additional one was to crochet a pair of kids sandals out of them (nightmare jellies in my book! Unless of course you're into torturing children.. you can pretty much make them wear anything?)

There were also UTube videos showing how to do it as well as instructions on how to crochet for those people who might not know how. Nothing beats being taught by a relative though for life long emotional scars... LOL

It seemed to me, since the plastic tends to be really rough on a person's hands, the circular loom "knitting" would be the way to go to make a bag. When I was really little one of my neighbors gave me a wooden thread spool (boy an I dating myself!) with some finishing nails hammered into the top around the hole, and showed me how to make cording. The circular looms are just like it, only bigger, so if I could do it as a kid, pretty much anyone should be able to. (I wasn't necessarily gifted in the small motor coordination department. My sister who was a year younger than me, learned how to tie her shoes from watching me try to do it).

Someone really creative and talented might be able to figure out a stylish way to make a rain coat out of old plastic bags... but they'd be a better (wo)man than me! Grocery Tote bags seem to be a semi-fashionable way of letting people know you're not only doing your part, saving the earth, you're crafty at it too!

Thanks for letting me rant... Nate your Great!

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