Do you remember how smart that sounded in The Graduate? Plastic. It was new and exciting. Sexy even. And, now look at us, just 46 years later we’re drowning in it. Literally.
Plastic is very hard to avoid. Just remember every time you accept a plastic bag, container or product, you are creating demand for another one to be produced, shipped, sold, and in many cases thrown out within in minutes of its use. As the movie Bag It eloquently puts it: “Just because plastic is disposable doesn’t mean it just goes away. After all where is away?”
Before you go into a depression spiral about all of the shorebirds, marine mammals, fish and the like dying from eating and being trapped in plastic, let’s quickly look at some steps we can take to alleviate the situation in one area of our lives: grocery shopping.
Many cities are taking action to reduce plastics. Concord, MA has banned single-serving plastic water bottles, and even our City of Bainbridge Island recently banned plastic bags (ordinance 2012-06). Now, single-use plastic carry out bags are prohibited. This includes all plastic bags less than 2.25 milimeters thick provided at check out or point of sale. But, that doesn’t really end the plastic issue, does it? There are still a ton of plastic bags available in grocery stores for fruit and vegetables.
Good news is when you cut back on plastic, or any form of packaging, you’re often eating healthier, plus, saving money as well as the environment. Here are some quick tips:
- Reduce your meat consumption. Eat a vegetarian meal a couple times a week (or better yet, go vegan!). Watch Forks Over Knives if you’re on the fence.
- Put fruit and veggies loose in your cart or bring more recyclable bags with you. Lightweight stuff sacks are good for this. If you’re not a camper (you probably don’t live in the NW) you can purchase reusable mesh produce bags.
- Avoid ready-made solutions. I know it’s more time consuming to prepare food from scratch but its better for you. If you’re stuck on what to make, check out FoodGawker, PunchFork or Feast of Joy.
Ideas to Reduce Plastic/Stuff/Trash
Trash Backwards is a new web application (still in beta, but usable), which allows you to enter the type of trash you have then see a list of ways to reuse and/or get rid of it responsibly.
For instance, I typed wine corks in the Name Your Trash field and clicked Reuse it and saw ideas for cork stamps, key floats and cork birdhouses – great for the Do-It-Yourself-er, crafty set. Then I saw listings for recycling (Whole Foods takes corks – good to know).
If you’re local, Sustainable Bainbridge has put together a list of places to recycle just about everything from clothing to yard waste.
Another idea is just to own less, share more. I know, not an entirely American idea, but in a small community, does everyone need their own lawn mower, for instance? Sharing can seem too time consuming to bother with but here’s an idea that can be easily reproduced in other communities: a lending website. To see an example, check out IsLenders Library: “Helping Bainbridge Island Neighbors Share Their Stuff.”
Carbon Emissions to Create a Plastic Bag
In case you were curious, plastic bags generate about 3-50grams of carbon emissions per bag to produce. Paper bags are even worse (12-80 grams of carbon emission). So, bring your bags to the store including: drug store, clothing store….