The following is an article I wrote for Pinpoint Publications. It appears in this month's Zip Code Magazine in Las Vegas. You can also read it, as well as other articles I've written, online at zipcodemagazines.com
Going Green: Plastic No More – Committing to Re-Usable BagsBy Hana Haatainen Caye
Excuse #1: “What About Contamination?”
Fears over contamination have kept many consumers from adopting re-usable bags. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University noted a rise in food borne illness following a plastic bag ban in San Francisco, which had many shoppers clinging to plastic for dear life. While the presence of bacteria is always a concern, these fears may be a bit misguided. If you already have reusable shopping totes, such as the ones you pick up at the grocery store, you can protect them from bacteria by not using them for raw meats and produce, and also by cleaning them with a damp cloth soaked in half distilled white vinegar and half hot water.
Washable cloth bags are a simple way to stay green. By washing your bags after each trip to the store, you help lessen the risk of food borne illness. Envirosax® (www.envirosax.com) manufactures
bags made of organic cotton, hemp, linen and polyester. While polyester is a plastic, these bags are designed to last for years, as opposed to the single use plastic variety. Lightweight yet strong, they can be rolled up and carried in your pocket or your purse. EasyFoldBag™ (www.easyfoldbag.com) also offers machine washable totes made out of nylon.
Excuse #2: “I’m Too Forgetful!”
Habits can be hard to break, and remembering to use plastic bags is no exception, but when you make a concerted effort to carry your own, it should eventually become second nature. Also, with foldable bags, it’s not difficult at all to carry them with you. Keep a selection of bags in your car for impromptu trips to the store. That way, you will never find yourself in need of a plastic bag when you approach the register. “No bag, please, I have my own,” will become your new mantra. Some stores such as Target will even reward you for it with a discount on your bill.
And don’t forget to recycle those plastic bags sitting around at home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, less than ten percent of plastic bags are recycled, with other estimates at less than one percent. Still, nearly every grocery store has a bin for collecting plastic bags. Use it! Gather up all the bags filling up space in your pantry and drop them off the next time you go shopping. Encourage your friends, co-workers and family members to do the same.
Excuse #3: “Plastic Makes My Home Life Easier!”
You can fight the green fight on the home front as well. Many people use plastic grocery bags to line their wastebaskets; however, there are many non-plastic ways to keep your trash bins clean. Round coffee filters fit nicely into the bottom of bathroom wastebaskets and can be replaced as needed. Additionally, wastebaskets can be wiped out weekly with the same white vinegar and hot water solution recommended for cleaning your re-usable bags. Ditching the plastic bin liners may seem like an inconvenience at first, but it’s one more small step toward living a greener life.
For packing lunches, reusable snack and sandwich bags can take the place of plastic and can be found at www.reusies.com. Children love the fun fabrics and they can be hand washed or tossed in the washing machine or dishwasher. Storing food in your refrigerator and freezer in BPA-free plastic or glass containers can also prevent piling up plastic in the landfills. Of course, if there is a reason you simply must use a plastic bag, opt for a biodegradable and/or compostable option.
As people become more aware of the need to conserve, it’s good to know that alternatives exist to the traditional plastic bag. These options will not only help you green up your life but will also keep needless waste to a minimum and keep the planet spinning toward a better future for all.