Monday, June 21, 2010

Bring Your Own Bag!!!

This entry has been a good month or so in the making with research, numbers, and my own little project. Thanks for waiting my readers =)

So in all honesty, when you go grocery shopping, what bags do you use? Do you use reusable bags when you go grocery shopping, or even shopping in general? Most of the world doesn't. My family has been transitioning to recycling and composting and reusuable bags, attempting to be "green." And this movement of "green" can get old real fast when growing up in the "e" generation. (The "e" generation standing for electronical, economical, environmental, educational, etc.) It didn't really hit me how important the green movement is until I was a witness to the amount of waste from a start up lab, grocery business, and educational system can produce in a given year. And I am going to start my green rant here, with shopping bags.

The Plastic Bag
This is the easiest for us to put our finger on in terms of an ungreen lifestyle. In a given year, 1 million birds, 100,000+ whales, seals, and turtles, and much more marine life are killed because of plastic bag litter. And just because you may reuse your shopping bag as a garbage liner, does not guarantee the bag will make it to a landfill. Due to poor handling, and simply wind, it can still make its way into (whats left) of nature. Also on the animals-being-killed rant, no matter how big or small these pieces of plastic bag there is, it is still indigestible.
Secondly, plastic bags take between 20 to 1000 years to break down, and they are in no way biodegradable. As they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, it becomes easier for animals to mistake for food, or it becomes "plastic dust," eventually polluting our air.
Also, natural resources. It takes 3 million barrels of oil to create 19 billion shopping bags. That is how many bags California uses annually. Lets not even consider the amount for the US, or even for the globe.

The Paper Bag
Paper isn't that great of a product either. Yes, paper bags are better for marine and animal life, but are not a solution to the environmental problem. Plastic bags actually take 40% less energy and less fossil fuels to produce. Paper bags also generate 70% more emissions and 50x more water pollutants than plastic bags. So its honestly your pick on which is worse.

Your Own Bag
Bringing your own bag will save you the trouble of trying to rid of both the plastic and paper bag. Neither one is good for the environment, and that can be explained because of the landfills. The landfills that your garbage is sent to will most probably be underground, cold, solid, and dry. To be honest with you, nothing can really decompose in a landfill today. A study actually had a newspaper from the 1960s from a landfill removed, and it showed that the paper was still intact and readable. So before the world can figure out how to properly dispose of garbage, it is your job to reduce the waste going into these failures of landfills.
It will also be a benefit to you as a shopper, because it can help declutter your living space. It can also help you budget your spending and food supply. If you bring two shopping bags with you, that is how many groceries you will get and won't leave much wiggle room for spontaneous spending. If you also don't bring more then one bag, you can manage the way you eat. A healthy lifestyle is more attainable.

My Experiment
As some of you know, I work at a small, locally owned grocery near the highschool. Since I was disgusted by how many bags was used, I took a tally. This tally was taken on Saturday, June 19th, from 4 to 9pm. I only included my register too. There are three categories, plastic, paper, and neither. These are the results.

Plastic Bags: 113
Paper Bags: 57
Brought Own / Did not Use: 65

I don't know if this disgusts, excites, or doesn't phase you. But to me it was more the percentages, which is more relevant in the pie graph.

I was rather impressed actually that a little bit over a quarter brought their own or simply did not use a bag. But really, the world needs that to be at least 50%. I was also disgusted with that Plastic Bags were that much as well. It should also be noted that I wasn't the only register, so one could assume we used 240 plastic bags in those 5 hours. These are numbers from a local grocer as well, just imagine the amounts on 10 registers at Shaws or Cub Foods. On the business side of things, I am a large supporter of being charged 15 cents per bag. Or giving a 5% discount if they did not use a bag. In terms of individuals, just bring your own bag. Help make that 28% a 50%. It'll do the world and yourself a favor.


  1. Plus you did the count in Cambridge, which one presumes is a bit more environmentally conscious than, say, Somerville or other suburbs ... I am told that in Italy in the villages everyone uses a string bag or other bag and "grocery bags" are simply not available in the markets. So perhaps the rest of the developed world is not as bad as we are. -- Donna

  2. I work at Rainbow Foods and we offer, as do some Target stores, a 5 cent per reuseable bag discount. If more retailers did this, more people would probably take advantage of the "green" bags.