Soup Everywhere :(
Today I have been doing this no-plastic-bag thing for two weeks. I have learned some things online about the implications of not using plastic bags. There have been a lot of sites fighting against or for plastic bag bans in some cities such as San Francisco. Also in my research I found that using paper bags is actually worse than plastic! Sure they may take less long to degrade in the environment whether in a land fill or as litter, but they in fact take 4 times the energy to create because of the amount used to turn trees into paper. A large amount of water is also used in their production. By bringing my own reusable bags to stores like grocery stores I am not contributing to the use of these paper bags.
When it comes to plastic bags, apparently it only takes using a reusable bag 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than using 11 plastic disposable bags. A reusable bag can replace 1000 disposables over its lifetime. Disposable bags also do not get recycled as much as people might think (1% worldwide according to the Wall Street Journal), except when used again as garbage bags. Their production and persistence in the environment both lead to toxins being released into the atmosphere.
By not using any plastic bags for 5.5 weeks, if I averaged my initial week total of 23 bags a week, I am saving 126.5 bags from being created or entering the environment. If I continued this behavior I would save 1196 bags per year from being used. This is still nothing compared to the total plastic bags used every year which is estimated at 100 billion in the US alone, but it helps to prevent toxins from getting into the environment, uses less oil in bag production, creates less waste, and reduces pollution from the burning or transportation of plastic bags to landfills.
With all that being said, I must get to the title of my post that relates to my elimination of plastic bag use and the struggles I faced therein so far. The first problem I have had is that I find I need to cue myself to bring the bags into the store with me everywhere I go, or else I have to use my purse (which I accidentally spilled soup in the other day because I forgot a bag) and hands. This hasn’t been a problem at grocery stores because my mother has taught me over the past few years to think about that before I leave my car. The problem is pharmacies and convenience stores. Suddenly they are not the convenient one stop shops they once were to be because I have to get into the stop (which is the store) and then go back out to my car (another stop) and go back into the store again with the bags (another stop). I envy all of the care-free shoppers, entering empty-handed and exited loaded to the gills with bags they will soon discard and forget about. Due to researching the above facts, I will never look at a disposable plastic bag the same way ever again. As predicted, I have also faced external pressures to give up on the assignment. My boyfriend is embarrassed to be with me when I walk into Wawa looking like I’m about to stock up for a snowpocalypse. He is getting used to it though and many congratulate me for my responsible and forward-thinking behavior.
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