Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Green Texas: How About One Less Plastic Bag?

A few weeks ago, in a post entitled “Green Texas”, I wrote about how disappointed I was to discover that recycling isn’t, at least from what I can tell, a priority for the city government and many of the people living in College Station. I asked for and received a couple of reader suggestions with regard to increasing/improving recycling in the comments section of that post, for which I’m very grateful. I haven’t yet had time to get the ball rolling, but come fall I plan to write letters to both the editor of the local newspaper and city government officials, as well as to investigate the recycling programs at the establishments where I spend considerable amounts of time (the kids’ school, our gym, etc.). I’ll keep you posted on my progress...

On a related note, I’m also a little disappointed that more people in College Station don’t use reusable shopping bags. I'll admit, they put more of a strain on the wallet than plastic bags provided by the grocery store. And I’ll also admit they’re a bit of a pain at times - reusable bags are something else to remember to bring out to the car from the house, and something else to carry into the store when already carrying a purse and a toddler and dragging a preschooler along by the hand.

But you know what? The cost and the "pain" ARE WORTH IT.

From http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/reusablebags.htm:
Plastic bags end up as litter that fouls the landscape, and every year (plastic bags) kill thousands of marine mammals that mistake the floating bags for food. Plastic bags that are buried in landfills may take up to 1,000 years to break down, and in the process they separate into smaller and smaller toxic particles that contaminate soil and water. Furthermore, the production of plastic bags consumes millions of gallons of oil that could be used for fuel and heating.

We've lived in Texas for seven months, and in that time I’ve seen only four shoppers – FOUR! – carry their purchases out of stores in reusable shopping bags. (And one of these shoppers sells bags for a living, so I’m not even sure she counts!)

It’s not that stores aren’t trying to push shoppers in the right direction – at HEB there are signs in the parking lot reminding shoppers to bring their reusable bags into the store, and there are reusable bags available for purchase at the entrance to nearly every checkout lane at both HEB and Kroger. (One of my favorite sets of reusable bags came from the checkout at HEB, and was purchased because I’d forgotten the bags I’d intended to use in my car and couldn’t bear taking my groceries home in plastic bags.) And it's not that people here (or at least I can't believe that people here) don't care about how awful plastic bags are for the environment.

I think it's that while the “Green Movement” - the community "push" to make choices that are earth-friendly - has taken over in many parts of the country, and in certain types of shopping establishments (I pity the fool who doesn’t bring reusable bags into Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, MI), it hasn’t made it here just yet.

It will make its way here, and when it does, I know I will start to see reusable bags besides my own in the checkout line at the grocery store. As people learn more about how such a small act can make such a big difference for our planet, they’ll jump on the bandwagon. Or maybe they’ll jump on the bandwagon because reusable bags can be just so darn pretty. Either reason is good enough for me.

In case you're interested and need a little push toward reusable bags, here are a few of my favorites:

I keep this one in my purse to pull out when I hadn’t planned on purchasing anything and therefore didn’t bring my sets of bags into the store.

I keep a set of these under the passenger seat in my car.

And I keep a set of these in my trunk, so that when I’ve taken the first set inside the house and forgotten to bring them back to the car I’m not without bags.

These are a little more expensive, but hold their shape better than the envirosax bags.

One of these sets (here, here, and here) will be my next bag purchase.

And here are a few tips on how to remember to bring your bags into the store with you!

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