Here’s a question: Is it morally or socially acceptable to use a product for just 20 minutes but have it linger for a thousand years in our environment? Most of us would agree: NO! However, this is the situation we face with our dependence upon single-use plastic bags.
Just how dependent are we? Across America, we toss out a hundred billion polyethylene bags EVERY YEAR. Only a very small percentage of plastic bags are recycled; the remaining bags enter our landfills or clog up our waterways and oceans, where they irreversibly alter ecosystems and marine life.
Why should you bring your own bag every time you shop? If the stats in the first paragraph were not scary enough, how about these? Renowned 5 Gyres Institute estimates that there are currently 268,000 tons of plastic floating in our oceans made up of plastic bags and single use water bottles. While many of us have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the gigantic plastic patch found between Hawaii and California), there are actually four other plastic gyres swirling in our oceans, and all are growing rapidly.
A host of states and many countries have made progressive change towards banning single-use bags. To find out more about plastic ban legislation in your state, go to Ban the Bag for current information. To get excited about the progress being made for plastic bag bans around the world, check out this cool interactive map.
Committing to reusing bags is not just a quick fix. Instead, it is indicative of a larger behavioral shift towards thinking beyond our immediate needs and being conscious of the long-term effects of our daily actions. So, how can you make this shift? Make it easy for yourself and keep a few reusable bags handy at all times: in your purse, your car (not your trunk), a backpack, or wherever fits your lifestyle. If you need to purchase reusable bags, check out your local thrift store to find reused ones, or check with your favorite local stores to see if they offer a free bag to customers. If you need to buy some bags as a gift or just need to feel fancy, Chico Bags, Eco Bags, and Project Green Bag offer great products. You can find more tips here about shopping without plastic bags.
Want to get even crazier? Take your BYOBag commitment one step further and find alternatives to other types of plastic bags too: reusable lunch bags, produce bags, and bulk bags are all available. Solutions like this are a clean, green way to reduce your plastic impact and shift your habits. Also, how cute are these lunch bags?
If you’re like us, you probably have a collection of plastic bags under the kitchen sink or in the pantry just waiting to be recycled, reused or… crafted? For some innovative DIY projects, check out Saved by Love Creations and Pinterest: Reuse Plastic Bags. Who knew you could do so much with plastic bags?