It is so easy to get caught up in the fast-paced world that we live in, and because of this, we often opt for the quickest and most convenient way to get things done. I know I am guilty of this from time to time. But, there comes a point where we must stop choosing our own convenience over the protection and improvement of the environment. One of the simplest ways to start moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle is by bringing your own reusable bags and saying no single-use plastic bags!
It is estimated that over 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used in the U.S. annually. As mentioned in my previous post Which Plastics Can Be Recycled?, single-use plastic bags are hardly ever recycled. In addition, as hinted in the name, these bags have an extremely short life, lasting from the checkout point to the time they reach our homes. Because of their lightweight material, they often end up on the sides of highways, sidewalks, and even beaches.
My hometown of Dana Point, California passed a ban on the distribution of “single-use plastic carry-out bags at the point of sale” in local retail shops on February 21, 2012. This means that businesses in the city cannot distribute single-use bags at checkout. They can, however, sell paper bags and reusable plastic bags for a minimum of $.10 each. Being a coastal city, Dana Point passed this ban as an effort to protect the marine life and its beautiful beaches. The state of California shortly followed this ban in November of 2016 with Prop 67. Seven more states—Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont—have since then all passed a similar ban on single-use plastic bags. While there have been efforts from cities and states to pass these bans, they have not gone into effect everywhere, and it is up to us individually to make a change!
Some great reusable alternatives to single-use plastic bags are canvas/cotton tote bags, jute bags (made from vegetable fibers), compostable bags, and net/mesh bags for produce. If you forget to bring a bag (because we all do), paper bags that are offered at grocery stores are a much better option than single-use plastic bags and reusable plastic bags. Remember: you are encouraged to bring your own bags to do other kinds of shopping other than grocery shopping!
You can really use any bag lying around your house to bring on your next shopping trip. I had these two cotton tote bags lying around my house, but I thought they were a bit boring on their own, so I decided to add my own touch to them. I embroidered flowers on the bags, knowing that I would be more inclined to use them that way. Now, I take them with me whenever I’m shopping! Sustainability doesn’t have to only be about changing our routines or sacrificing the conveniences we are used to, it can be a fun way to incorporate creativity and personality into our everyday lives!