One of the easiest yet biggest impact steps to you can take toward greener living is to ditch the paper and plastic shopping bags and shop with reusable bags instead. Anywhere from 500 billion to one trillion plastic shopping bags are consumed around the world each year and they end up in our landfills, along our highways, and in our oceans. They have become a big environmental problem. Environmental clean-up crews site plastic bags as one of the 12 most common items polluting our earth. Plastic bags are also responsible for the deaths of thousands of marine animals each year as sea turtles and whales that eat plastic bags after mistaking them for food.
Plastic bags are also made using a non renewable, highly polluting resource…petroleum. Using plastic bags diminishes the availability of our natural resources and damages the environment as petroleum is extracted from the planet. Plastic bags can usually only be reused one or two times and they are seldom recycled. They may be touted as the cheapest, most convenient solution for touting your goods and products but their environmental impact is quite costly. Green consumers everywhere are seeking to ditch the plastic and start a BYOB campaign, “Bring Your Own Bag”. It is actually pretty easy. Just start bringing your own bags whenever you go shopping.
photo credit: thingermejig
Chances are you probably already have a good starter selection of reuseable bags in your home. Beach bags, backpacks, canvas bags, large purses, etc. can all be used to carry items home from a shopping expedition. If you don’t have very many bags you may have luck finding some at thrift stores and garage sales. You can also make your own with some sturdy fabric and thread. There are also dozens of online stores that carry reusable shopping bags in many of styles, colors, and material choices. You can buy bags made form sturdy canvas, stylish bamboo, or even recycled garbage. Some bags are made to be super compact so that they can be attached to a keychain, belt loop or backpack.
Major grocery stores and shopping chains are even encouraging customers to use reusable bags by offering them for purchase in their stores and by offering monetary discounts for each bag you use in their stores. Whole Foods and Ikea are two such stores that offer cash discounts and even Wal-Mart is selling them. They are so accessible and fashionable now that there are no excuses anymore NOT to use them.
One big reason why so many people still use plastic though is because they are free and they are given out by stores so you have no need to remember to bring your own bags. More and more cities and countries are beginning to impose bans or taxes on plastic bags to reduce their consumption so there is no time like the present to break your plastic bag habit. Reusable bags can easily be stored in your car trunk or glove compartment so that you always have some on hand. Attaching a compact bag to your purse will remind you to have your bags ready for shopping trips and soon it will be habit. Now you can visit a grocery store, department store, mall, or even a roadside market and be prepared to use your own bags.