Bag Me

Last November for my birthday my dear friend Lisa mailed me a shopping bag for a gift. An odd choice for a gift, I know, but it has turned out to be one of the most-used gifts I’ve ever received (thanks Lisa!).

The bag wasn’t just any old shopping bag. She sent me a reusable shopping bag from Granite Gear. To be honest, when I first opened the gift I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. I’ve been taking my own bags to the grocery store for years so didn’t think I had a need for another reusable shopping bag.

Boy was I wrong. This bag is amazing.

First of all, it’s super lightweight. I weighed it on my postal scale and it came up at a measly 1.7 ounces, less than my cell phone. Secondly it is incredibly compact. It stuffs into its own attached mini-sack at about 4×4 inches but it can be crushed even smaller in the corners of your purse or even your pocket. The best thing about it is how incredibly strong it is. It’s made of something called “sil-nylon,” which they might want to consider using on the next space shuttle it’s so sturdy. When fully open the bag is a little bigger than your typical grocery store plastic bag but it holds the contents of 3-4 plastic grocery bags simply because it’s so tough. I keep it in my purse all the time and I no longer take plastic bags from anywhere – not Target, not the grocery store, nowhere. I even had the rare opportunity to go clothes shopping yesterday and bought items from 5 different stores. Everything fit into the one Granite Gear bag, saving five plastic bags just in the one trip.

According to the site www.reusablebags.com, 1 million plastic shopping bags are used per minute, which translates to 500 billion per year. Almost all are used once and thrown away. Ireland, Denmark, China and South Africa already have policies requiring retailers to charge shoppers for single-use plastic bags and Britian and Australia are moving in that direction. San Francisco has banned them city-wide altogether. These landmark legislative moves save countless barrels of oil (the bags are made from petroleum) plus cut back on litter, reduce pressure on landfills, and improve air quality (see below).

So we all agree plastic bags aren’t good for the environment. But what does cutting out plastic bags have to do with Everyday Just Living? When the planet is harmed, inevitably people are harmed, and that is definitely the case with the billions of plastic bags floating around our planet. You may have seen big bins in your grocery store collecting plastic bags to “recycle.” If you’re one of the few people who actually take your bags back to be recycled, you should know the truth: most of these bags do not get recycled. According to reusablebags.com, they are shipped to developing countries with more relaxed environmental laws, like India or China, where they are incinerated, adding to the already tremendous problem of air pollution in these countries. It is unjust that my need for a one-time use bag would contribute to pollution on the other side of the planet.

I did some unscientific calculations and I estimate that, by taking my own bags to the grocery store and using my Granite Gear bag for everything else (Target, clothes shopping, the farmers’ market), I reduce my consumption by a whopping 624 plastic bags per year. This has been an incredibly easy change for me to make for such a tremendous impact.

Join Me To Quit Cold Turkey

I am committing today to end my plastic bag use completely and I’d like to get blog readers to commit to do the same! If you’ll join me in this quest, post a comment here with your commitment. I’ll write another post on the topic soon and welcome your experiences with the challenge. If you’ve already made this commitment, post that here and tell us about your experience. Bah bye plastic…

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9 Comments

  1. Lisa Snow said,

    March 17, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Beth, I’m so glad you are using that bag! I love mine too–I keep it in my diaper bag so I have it anywhere I go. Some stores even give $.05 rebates for bags, so I figure (though I haven’t done the math) that eventually the bag will pay for itself. That’s literally, though—your post shows how reusable bags like this one are worth way more than just their upfront cost.

    I’m very sad to hear about the “recycle” stations for plastic bags not always recycling! I’m one of the few who collects those bags and DOES bring them back. All the more motivation to use my own reusable bag.

    Another thing that you didn’t mention is choosing paper over plastic. Not as good as bringing my canvas or nylon bag, but better than plastic, right? I’ll admit I don’t know statistics about paper bag use (i.e. how many trees are consumed), but I do feel better using them when I’m grocery shopping, knowing that I’ll be reusing them and then recycling them along with the rest of my paper. Your thoughts?

    Thanks for the post, and I’m glad you like your birthday present!

    Lisa

  2. KarenP said,

    March 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I’m excited about the blog, Beth! Thanks for inviting me to stop by! Since seeing your Granite Gear bag, I’ve been inspired to reduce my bag usage even further. I’ve always reused and recycled both paper and plastic bags, and have been using the canvas totes for groceries for a while now, but I’m still finding myself taking bags more often than I’d like. My biggest problem is that I forget to take my canvas ones in with me, or if I’m shopping somewhere without a cart, I don’t take them in and haul them around. I don’t carry a big purse, but I think even I could squeeze in one of these ultra-compact bags.

    I was shopping around some online this week, and found these Envirosax sets that I kind of like. They’re cute (check out all the different sets), reasonably priced, and pack into a little package that I can throw in my glove box. I can also stick a single one in my purse.
    This site has free shipping: http://www.brightandbold.com/enmiba.html

    I emailed Envirosax to see if they carry them anywhere locally, and they said they have them at the Legacy Good Samaritan hospital gift shop (go figure!) and at Imp on NE Alberta.

    The Container Store has some reusable bags too (not sure if they’re in the local store, but they are on the website). These are cool because they have a belt clip, which is handy if, like me, you don’t carry a big purse.
    http://www.containerstore.com/browse/Product.jhtml?CATID=255&PRODID=74341&FEEDCNT=3
    or
    http://www.containerstore.com/browse/Product.jhtml?CATID=255&PRODID=74341&FEEDCNT=3

    The Granite Gear website says they carry their bags at REI, but that may not include the compact shopping bags.

    The next thing I want to try is reusable produce bags. It’s always weird to me that I throw all these single-use produce bags into my environmentally friendly canvas grocery bags. These ones sound really cool, because they actually keep your produce fresh longer. They come in three sizes and are very inexpensive.
    http://www.reusablebags.com/store/evertfresh-green-bags-pack-medium-p-27.html

    The last product I found that I think is adorable and really cool is this alternative to sandwich bags. I actually saw one of the kids at my son’s preschool using one of these today. They come in different colors (I like the red gingham check one!) and fold out into a placemat. No more sandwiches on the nasty lunchroom tables!
    http://www.reusablebags.com/store/wrapnmat-p-2.html

    Thanks, Beth, for inspiring me to think differently! I’ll let you know how these products turn out! :^)

  3. Beth said,

    March 17, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for commenting! There seems to be a lot of debate about whether paper is better than plastic, but many environmentalists say paper is just as bad or even worse because it uses far more energy to create one paper bag than to create one plastic bag. The environmentalist conclusion seems to be that neither is a good option and the only good solution is reusable bags. So thanks for doing that yourself, and for kickstarting me to do it as well!

    Here are a few sources I consulted:
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/01/qa_retail_carry.php
    http://www.greenfeet.net/newsletter/debate.shtml

  4. Beth said,

    March 17, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Karen,

    I really like the Wrap-n-mat link you posted. That looks like a great thing for packing sandwiches in. I use reusable plastic containers (like Rubbermaid) for sandwiches, which keeps them from getting squished and is reusable.

    In my next blog post I’ll show what I’ve been using for reusable produce bags, also from the reusablebags.com site you referenced.

    We do carry one tote bag at Bambootique (www.shopbambootique.com) that makes a cool reusable shopping bag. They are made from recycled burlap coffee bags from Guatemala so the bags practically tell a story themselves. And of course they are fair trade, so you know the women who make them were paid a good wage. They are $29 and come in black or brown. They can also be used as a purse or book bag as they are lined with cotton and are really durable. Here’s a link: http://www.shopbambootique.com/store/coffeebag-tote-p-160.html

    Keep me posted on other discoveries you make! It’s amazing to me how easy it really is to eliminate one-time bags altogether, once you put your mind to it.

  5. KarenP said,

    March 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    MSNBC has an interactive feature about “Paper vs. Plastic” right now that is kind of fun to explore. As Beth said, the bottom line is, NEITHER. They come to the conclusion that a reusable bag is by far the best option. They then asked an expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council what she does if she gets caught without one of her reusable bags. I liked her ideas:
    1. Go without a bag. If you carried it around the store, can’t you carry it home ?
    2. If that’s not practical, which bag am I most likely to reuse?
    3. Which bag is most recyclable in my community?
    4. Are these bags made with recycled content to help close the recycling loop?

  6. KarenP said,

    March 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Oops! Here’s the link to the interactive feature, Battle of the Bags:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23358591

  7. Angie R said,

    April 1, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Why am I just finding out about the great granite bag on your blog? I hate plastic bags but its pretty uncommon for anyone in the non-metro Midwest to bring their own bags. I do recycle my plastic bags too but am sad to hear they may not really be getting recycled.

    (Lisa if you’re reading the comments – remember my birthday is in August! :))

  8. Lorie Dolo said,

    April 9, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Beth,

    This is an are where I am in process. I have several reuseable bags, but often forget them, so I like your granite bag idea of carrying it in your purse. I often will tell the checker that I don’t need a beg if its just a couple of things. They sometimes look at me strange, but that’s okay.

    What are your thoughts on plastic drinking containers and food containers. Have you seen the Sigg water bottles? Or the Brunton flasks?

    Another way I am trying to cut out plastic in my life is not using plastic utensils at work when I bring my lunch.

    You’ve inspired me to apply myself more in this area. Thank you.

    Lorie

  9. Beth said,

    April 9, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Lorie,
    I’m all for resuable food containers and drinking containers, as well as silverware. I usually carry my own refillable water bottle with me and store leftovers in the fridge in tupperware (rather than in ziplocs). When we have parties we use real dishes and silverware instead of throw-away. It’s really not that hard to run a load through the dishwasher after the party! Thanks for your thoughts and for visiting my blog!

    Beth


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