Reducing and reusing

Written by hootenannie on September 12th, 2008

We need to stop using plastic bags.

Now, before you start thinking that I’m a damn “hippie liberal from Seattle” (as I was recently called), let me just say that – as much as I wish it wasn’t true – I am not what you might call an “environmentally conscious” person. I don’t have a compost bin. I don’t drive a hybrid car; I don’t even own a bike. I like the idea of walking to work – but it’s just too hot. I don’t wear organic cotton t-shirts, or jeans made from bamboo. I love hamburgers. I avoid those people outside the grocery store raising money for the baby seals. I don’t always buy organic. One time, instead of recycling it, I threw my old car stereo in the dumpster. For shame.

But I am not a complete lost cause. I never leave the lights on when I don’t need them. I use my heat and AC sparingly (but yes, that’s also because I’m a cheapskate). I do not litter. I cut up the plastic rings from 6-packs before disposing of them. And I am a dedicated recycler. Faithful. Unwavering. Staunch. Even when it means risking my life by driving down to the Kroger on Nolensville Rd. late at night to drop off my recycling, since my apartment doesn’t have curbside pick-up.

Recently, I’ve read several articles about plastic bags and the horrible havoc they are wreaking on our environment. I am not going to preach at you, because I am the least qualified person in the world to tell people to change their habits for the good of the planet. But just some quick facts:

1) 500 BILLION plastic bags are used each year. It costs more to recycle these bags than it does to produce new ones, so they just keep cranking them out.
2) It takes 300 years for a plastic bag to break down – and when it does, it’s into toxic particles that contaminate the soil and the water, and therefore, wildlife.
3) Plastic bags make up a large part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the mass of trash the size of Texas floating somewhere between Hawaii and San Francisco.

I am not going to be one of those squawking voices that says that we must radically change the way that we live – although I do believe that if we want to see any kind of improvement in the health of our planet, it IS going to take some radical changes.

But today, I just want to encourage you to reuse your plastic bags.

Go a month without picking up a new plastic bag.

I have a canvas grocery sack that I sometimes use, sometimes don’t. I want to start using it every time. And I know that I, for one, have enough plastic bags stuffed under my kitchen sink to last me at least a month. This is my challenge to myself. And I hope that maybe you’ll think about trying it, too.

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