Tag Archives | plastic

Beyond Reusable Grocery Bags


Beyond Reusable Grocery Bags {The Greening of Westford}


Many of us have made (or are making) the switch to reusable grocery bags.  We do this for many reasons – to reduce waste, reduce our exposure to toxins, and, yes, to make our lives easier.  Many people think that it is a hassle to bring your own bags or containers, but I find them so much easier to deal with than plastic bags.  They are easier to carry, they fit more so you are managing fewer bags, and with containers for bulk items, you can be sure you are getting enough but not too much.

Can you expand your reusables while shopping?  Here are some ideas:

Reusable Shopping Bags at the Mall or drugstore, or anywhere else.  I keep one of those small reusable bags that folds up in my purse at all times to use at stores other than the grocery store.  When shopping at the mall, I always make sure I bring a bag or 2.  My fingers thank me.  Don’t you hate carrying those plastic bags?!  Reusables come in cute styles and you can carry them on your shoulder.

 
Reusable produce bags   Ditch the plastic bag for produce.  Many items do not need a bag.  But for those that do, try reusable ones.   or you could make your own if you are handy. Look for mesh or something see-through to make it easier on the cashier looking for the produce code.  I found mesh, drawstring laundry bags that are the perfect size.

Bring your own bags or containers for bulk items   Many stores will let you bring your own container to fill with bulk items.  You will often need to have it weighed first so the cashier can deduct that weight at the register (called the TAR weight).  If you buy new sheets, take a look at how they are packaged.  Mine came in a great cotton drawstring bag, perfect for bulk purchases!
 
 
Can you adopt one of these?  If you already do them, do you have more to add?
 
This post was shared at Simply Natural Saturdays

0

Starbucks $1 Reusable Cup: Is it Right For You?

Starbucks $1 Reusable Cup:  Is It Right For You?  {The Greening Of Westford}
In January Starbucks introduced their $1 reusable cup.   In an effort to encourage more customers to bring their own mug instead of using a disposable cup each time.  Starbucks feels that this low price will make it an affordable alternative.  Their goal is to serve 5% of their beverages in reusable cups by 2015.  Currently, that number is only 1.9% (2011).
 
 I had to try it out for myself.  My local Starbucks sold out quickly.  The manager told me that they were only given 75 to start, but she ordered more.   So I went back a few days later and purchased one along with the man in front of me.
 
 
My Initial Impressions
 
Pros
 
  • Inexpensive, at this price customers might be able to have a few to make sure there is one in the car at all times
  • Saves 10 cents each time it is used paying for itself in 10 uses.
  • They are recyclable in most areas once they wear out 
 
Cons
 
  • It is HOT!  Like too hot to hold without a sleeve.  Both the man in front of me and I commented on this.
  • It is plastic.  Although it is BPA-free #5 plastic, the question among those concerned about plastics is “What is replacing the BPA?”  And in the end it is still plastic.
  • The top was difficult to remove and put back on.  I was afraid I was going to spill the entire mug.  It loosened after a couple of uses and isn’t a problem anymore.
  • Only good for 30 uses.  
  • I still wondered if I’d remember to bring this mug.
 
Results
 
Since I now have a “spare” reusable travel mug, it actually stays in my car!  I have used it a couple of times.  Only a few because I don’t get coffee out that often.
 
To fix the temperature issue, I used an old sock.  I cut off the top of one of my husband’s old socks (had a hole in it and happened to get washed with something red turning it slightly pink).  It’s not the prettiest thing but it works and the barista commented on how cute it was!
 
 
I’m still concerned about it being plastic and that is meant to carry a hot liquid.  Plastics are more likely to leach toxins when heated.  That is why I never put plastic in the dishwasher or microwave.
 
I wasn’t pleased to discover that this cup is only expected to last 30 uses.  When this cup wears out, I will invest in a stainless steel one to keep in the car – along with my reusable grocery bags.  I think I’ve proven to myself, that if I have an extra mug designated for the car, I will leave it there.  
 
Personally, I would love a see a borrowing type of system.  Maybe you join a club for a small fee, or leave a deposit, and you get a travel mug – a stainless steel one.  Next time you bring that back for them to clean and get another one.
 
I’m curious to find out if this new cup is bringing Starbucks closer to their 5% goal. 
 
Have you bought one of these cups?  Do you bring your own mug?

4

Tomatoes, Trader Joe’s and BPA

trader joes tomatoes


Recently I posted an article titled 7 Foods Even Food Safety Experts Won’t Eat.  Item #1 is canned tomatoes.  The linings of cans contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) which has received a lot of attention in recent years.  It sparked a discussion on the Facebook page about which tomato cans were now BPA-free.  Tomatoes are especially concerning because the acidic nature of the tomatoes can increase the likelihood of toxins leaching from the can.  

There was some confusion about Trader Joe’s, so I emailed the company.  Here is their response to me on Feb. 19, 2013:

Dear Ms. Greene,
 
Thank you for contacting us.  Here is the deal with BPA.  First, regarding Tetra, all Tetra Pak is BPA-free.
 
Second, every glass jar item has a metal lid. All metal lids do have a layer of BPA coating. However, there is another coating put on after that. There is no direct contact of BPA to food. We have multiple supplier testing results showing there is no BPA detected from metal lids.
 
All our canned fish (and our canned chicken and beef too) are now in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Sardines, Crab, Cherrystone Clams & Oysters (our suppliers are working for a solution next year).
 
All our canned fruits, beans and vegetables (including tomatoes, and the Organic Canned Pumpkin) are in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Mandarins, Hatch Chilies, Artichokes, Organic Baked Beans (expecting transition this Fall).
 
All of our canned Soups and Stews (and including Joe’s Os) are in cans that DO have BPA. Some of our suppliers are expecting they will be able to make transition next year.
 
Lastly, Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream is in a BPA-free can.
 
I hope this helps!
 
Regards,
Nikki
Customer Relations 


While I am glad they are making strides to rid BPA from their cans, I wonder what it is being replaced with.  Some replacements may not be any safer than BPA.  And Consumer Reports recommends choosing fresh over canned when possible after finding BPA in many canned products.

Ideally, I avoid canned foods when possible, like cooking my own beans.  Tomatoes are difficult.  I want to can or freeze my own, but we’ll see how that goes this summer.  I have heard the Eden has tomatoes in amber glass jars, but I haven’t found them around here yet.  Anyone know where they can be purchased?

 Do you avoid  BPA where you can?  If so, how?


Top Photo by St0rmz used under Creative Commons license

This post has been shared at Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

10

Ditch The Plastic Bags


The little plastic grocery bag.  It has become quite the hot topic.  Plastic bag bans and fees are popping up around the world.  Just last week, Brookline, MA became the second Massachusetts town to ban plastic bags.  The first in Massachusetts was Nantucket in 1990!  But what is the big deal with plastic bags?  Why are they so bad?  

I wrote about The Problems with Plastics in Greene Westford column in May 2011.  Here are the reasons stated in that article.

BIG PICTURE REASONS 

Plastic never goes away!  Yes these bags can be recycled (at grocery stores NOT curbside).  However, this is only possible a few times. Each time plastics are recycled, they are degraded.  Eventually, recycling is no longer possible and they must get thrown away.  In a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.  Even then, plastics actually photo degrade which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water.  Ironic that plastics are long lasting, yet they are mostly used for disposable items like water bottles and ziptop baggies

Recycling Rates are very low.  Many people don’t know or take the time to recycle the bags so the recycling rate is very low.  Numbers varied, but it is less than 5%.

Plastic pollutes the oceans.  Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch?).  In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food.  Not such a healthy meal for them.  Or us!  Guess who is eating those fish?  

Plastic contains toxic chemicals.  Plastics contain 2 chemicals that are of particular interest – bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.  These chemicals can leach into foods where they are then ingested.  Both of these chemicals mimic estrogen and can disrupt our own hormones.   Effects of exposure to these hormone disruptors include immune dysfunction, metabolic disorders (diabetes) and reproductive problems. Infants and small children are most vulnerable to BPA.   

Plastics are made from oil.  The same oil that is used to produce gasoline.  Oil, as we know, is not going to last indefinitely.  It is estimated that 10% of the world’s oil supply is used for creating plastics. 

So those are the big picture reasons.  Let’s make this a little more personal.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME

Plastic bags are a pain to deal with  Reusable bags are so much easier to carry.  You can sling them on your shoulder and they don’t dig into your fingers cutting off the circulation.

Save Money.   Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital.   Make sure to ask at Target, they often forget.

Oh I can hear it now.  “Yes but those reusable bags are full of bacteria!  And what if my meat leaks in them.”  Um, you wash your clothes right?  You wash your counter after meat juice leaks all over the place, right?  WASH THE BAGS!


I was recently told about this Plastic Bag Ban Map.  It shows what is going on worldwide with plastic bag bans and fee programs.


               

I had a lot of fun looking around.  A few things struck me:

  • Notice that MANY island nations and those bordering the ocean have instituted some sort of reduction measures.  They see the destruction first hand.
  • Many countries, The. Entire. Country, has a bag ban in place: Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Taiwan, and China are among them.
  • The red pins represent the failures.  I was saddened to see that most of the red pins are in the US.


There are opportunities here.  Opportunities = Jobs, Money, Growth.  Washington DC instituted a bag fee.  All of the money collected would go toward cleaning up the Anacostia river. Plastic bags made up 21% of the trash is this river and 40% in its tributaries.   Guess what happened?  People brought their own bags and the fee generated only half the revenue expected!

If you live in Massachusetts, you might be forced to consider this switch soon.   State Rep. Lori Ehrlich will be co-sponsoring a bill to ban the bags in Massachusetts.  She will bring this bill to session this January.

I hope this gains momentum.  I am afraid that an outright ban will most likely fail in Massachusetts.  As I looked around at articles online about Brookline’s ban, I kept seeing comments to the tune of “I don’t want big government telling me what to do.”  “I reuse my bags!”  Not that people want more fees in “Taxachusetts”, but I think it might be less of a sting to people.  Well, maybe a different sting.

Do You Use Reusable Bags?

This post is shared at Small Footprints Friday

12

Plastic Planet {Friday Film Fest}

Plastic Planet film review

Plastic Planet’s director and producer Werner Boote shows us his journey across the globe to discover answers to his plastics questions.  As a young boy, he was introduced to plastics earlier than most.  His grandfather was one of the early manufacturers of plastic in Germany.  Werner now wonders what exactly is in plastic and is it harmful.  These are questions he poses to many world experts and lay people around the world.

What is in plastic?  No one knows.  It’s proprietary.  I didn’t know that. Even the manufacturer of a beverage cannot know exactly what the bottle of their beverage contains.

In an eye-opening exercise, he asks several people to empty their houses of everything that contains plastic.  Although the amounts vary, every person is surprised at the amount of plastic in their homes.  Even the hut in India contains plastic.

Werner interviews several people from Europe.  It was interesting for me to see that Europe deals with the plastic problem just as America does.   It was very interesting and disturbing at the same time to see mostly non-US citizens, companies and the like talk about  (or deny as the case may be) the problems with plastics.  I am so used to seeing US companies driving the “you don’t need to know, it’s OK trust us” train.  I am not sure if I feel better or worse knowing it’s happening in Europe too.

Honestly, I found Bag It more interesting and relate-able.  And, I dislike admitting this, but the subtitles and heavy accents of some of the interviewees made it a little difficult for me to follow the film in certain spots.  I had to concentrate on understanding the words that I might have missed the meaning.  I sound like an entitled American.  Certainly not what I mean, but that is how I felt.

Have you seen Plastic Planet?

2

Bag It {Friday Film Fest}



Bag It film review

Bag It film review

The Movie Bag It is the first in the Friday Film Fest Series.  I hope you were able to watch it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I watched Bag It at my computer, streaming it from Netflix.  The documentary style film features Jeb Berrier, who I personally found humorous and lovable!  Even though it is a documentary, it is very entertaining in an educational, eye-opening, jaw dropping way.

The film starts with Jeb trying to reduce his plastic grocery bag use.  He is prompted to look into plastics bags when a near by town challenges his town to see who can reduce their plastic bag use the most.   He goes on a journey delving deeper and deeper into plastics as he realizes they are everywhere!  Along the way, he interviews an amazing array of “plastics experts” – ordinary people turned activist, scientists, and politicians.

His journey leads him to noticed how much plastic there is in the world.  Every time there was a scene from a grocery store, I couldn’t help but noticed that EVERYTHING was wrapped in plastic. There is so much disposable packaging – water bottles, plastic bags, and individual packaging.


I come in contact with it A LOT of single-use disposable packaging.  This is a picture of the granola wrappers Upcycle It! collected in ONE WEEK, from one town with a little over 20,000 residents.  It’s difficult to say how many people contributed to this pile.  But think about it.  How many granola bar wrappers could you go through?  We used to buy them by the case!  I rationed them out and still we ( a family of five) would go through a box of 90 or so bars in a month.  I now make my own.

The film then goes on to question whether plastic is OK for humans.  He learns about the dangerous chemicals contained in plastics – BPA and phthlates.

My stomach turned as I watched the list of ailments and diseases BPA and phthlates have been linked to – allergies, autism, ADHD, diabetes, infertility.  Even in the short time since this film came out, autism has risen again from 1 in 250 (in the film) to 1 in 88 children!  I cringed as I watched that baby put the rubber ducky in her mouth as one of the scientists called it a “phthlate lollipop”.

During the film, Jeb’s partner becomes pregnant.  This “freaks” him out.  What will the plastics do to his child?  Many people are often jolted into action when they start having children.  I was!

When my children were young, I started on the green journey – reducing our waste, switching out single-use items for reusables, reducing plastic.  I even got my mother into the act.  She and I designed and sold reusable snack bags.  We stuck to selling at our local farmers market and craft fairs.  I have many of these and my kids happily used them for years.

But it finally happened.  My 10 year old rolled her eyes at using the reusable snack bag.  “Ugh, why can’t I use a plastic bag?”  She did use the reusable one in the end.  When I dropped her off at dance class, most other kids had a disposable water bottle and a plastic bag with their snack or a single size snack package.  When did plastic become so cool?  Why does my daughter WANT to use a plastic bag? Is it just because most other kids are doing it.  She wants to fit in?  OK, I get that.  I don’t have to like it but I remember being young.  I do!  So how do we make it cool to bring your water bottle and reusable bag.  Maybe over time it happens?  Reusable bottles seem to be more acceptable now.

Back to the film – I was, once again, saddened and angered by the realization that other countries are doing more to protect their citizens against corporate greed than the US.  the film shows a world map with the areas that have already banned plastic bags.  In the U.S., the American Chemistry Council (ACC) is hard at work throwing millions of dollars into campaigns against reducing plastic bag use, protecting the corporations they represent.  The ACC was able to get the California legislature to pass a law to prohibit the charging of fees for plastic bags!  This forced San Francisco to pursue an outright ban instead of a bag fee.  Guess what?  THEY WON!  Of course, this doesn’t happen everywhere.  Efforts were defeated in many other places – out spent by the corporations protecting their precious profits.

What confuses me the most is that these corporations are not faceless entities.  There are people behind the lobbying groups, corporations, their lawyers, etc.  People who, I’m sure, have children.  Does something happen when they walk through the door of their office?

Is this film suitable for children?  For the most part yes.  It might be a little long for them and the final scenes showing the birth of Jeb and Anne’s child might be a little much.  I tried to get my kids (ages 10, 8 and 8) to watch it.  They lasted about 20 minutes, thought is was boring and left the room.  They came back later and watched another 10 mins or so.  While they certainly didn’t get what I got out of it, I know they listened to some of it based on their comments and questions.  I think this is just how it goes with children.  We teach them over and over and over again, and, hopefully, eventually it sinks in.  I’ll try again when they are a bit older.

Not much of the information in this film was news to me.  I thought the way it was presented was excellent.  It might be a lot for the beginner to take in.  Any beginners out there feel this way?

Where do we go from here?

I was inspired by Jeb collecting signatures at the end of the film in support of a plastic bag fee.  Could we do that here in Westford?  Here are a few things I am going to do:

  1. I am participating in National Zero Waste Week 2012.  During the week of Sept 3, people committed to this challenge will try to reduce or recycle ‘One more thing’. This actually started in the UK but has hopped the pond.  Join in with me!
  2. My husband and I get coffee out every Sunday morning.  Up until now, we take the disposable cup from the shop.  Not anymore!
  3. I am going to figure out how to encourage more people to use reusable grocery bags. Just not sure how.  Any suggestions?
 
 
What did you think of the film?  
 
Please leave you comments or if you are a blogger feel free to link up a post.

If you’d like to join the Friday Film Fest, take a look at the complete list of films.
Up next week is Forks Over Knives.

 

This post is shared at Your Green ResourceMonday ManiaTiny Tip Tuesday and Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.

15

Making the Switch to Glass Storage


As you might know, as convenient as plastic is, it is harmful to us and the environment.  If you aren’t already convinced of this, take a look here.

Reduce Footprints current challenge is

This week refuse to use plastic wrap (aka cling film, cling wrap, glad wrap, etc). Instead, choose Eco-friendly, safe ways to store food. And, as always, we’d like to hear all about your efforts.
Or …

If you’ve already banned plastic wrap from your life, please review your food storage methods to see if there’s any room for improvement. For example, if you’re reusing plastic containers to store food consider glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers instead (old plastic containers may leach harmful toxins into your food). If you use aluminum foil to cover your food, consider covering food with an inverted plate, a lid from a casserole or pan, etc. And, please tell us about your efforts.

But replacing all the plastic storage items you have collected over the years could be daunting and expensive!  It doesn’t have to be!

I stopped buying plastic wrap a few years ago.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.  But as I think back, I took this step several years into my green journey.  I was LOOKING for things to reduce and change.  So, depending on where you are, this may be easy or difficult.
 

Before I made this step, I made sure to set myself up for success.  I stocked up on plenty of other storage containers (with lids) so I wouldn’t be looking for the plastic wrap.  At first I used my stand-by plastic containers.  Then I slowly converted to glass. I watched for sales and bought 2 sets of  Pyrex glass storage containers with lids (affiliate link).  I still kept foil in the house for those rare occasions.  Foil is expensive!  So I reached for it sparingly.


Inexpensive Glass Options

 CheapGlassFoodStorage
 
 
Reuse glass jars you buy food in!!!! My best discovery.  Total light bulb moment.  Like spaghetti sauce, salsa, pickles, applesauce.  They are free and come in so many shapes and sizes.  I figured I would do this until I stocked up enough on “real” containers from sales or yard sales.  After a while, I didn’t want to give up my free jars!  Why should I?  They worked great and they were “free”.  I learned from my trip to the recycling plant, that glass gets crushed and sits for a long time before it can be reused.  So, to reuse it at my home was a much better option.  I keep them all in the basement.  I save them ALL! At some point or another I am looking for a particular size and there is it.

 

 
Where to find cheap glass storage for food
 
 

Where Else To Find Them  Yard sales and thrift stores are great places to look.  I found these babies at our thrift store Savers for about $2 each.  Don’t pass them up because the rubber ring is dried out or missing.  You can buy replacement rubber rings at kitchen stores and hardware stores (during canning season) for about $3 for 4.  I even saw them 4 for $1 at The Christmas Tree Shop this past spring.

 Glass storage for food - CHEAP! Mason jars are another inexpensive glass storage option.  A case of pint jars are about $11 – less than $1 a piece.  I use them in the fridge and the freezer.  They come in a wide variety of sizes and are plentiful during spring and summer.  You can find them at hardware stores, Target, Walmart, or online (affiliate).  I saw them sold singly at The Christmas Tree Shops this past spring as well.  Update 7/20/12:  I was at Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday and they sell cases of mason jars at about the same price as elsewhere, BUT you will use your 20% off coupon to get them even cheaper!

 BigPickleJar

 

I saw this HUGE beauty of a  pickle jar at the grocery store.  It stands about 14 inches tall.   We like pickles, but not enough to eat almost 2 lbs of them.  I keep thinking of when I would possibly use all those pickles JUST so I can have the jar!  Anyone know any pickle recipes?

 

So Many Uses

I like to store as much of my food in glass as possible.  So I use these glass options for both cold and pantry storage.  They look so cute too!

In the freezer for stock, soup, homemade baked beans and cooked dried beans are just a few ideas.  Make sure you leave plenty of head room – I usually leave at least an inch to be on the safe side.  Just like the plastic storage, make sure you label them.

 

how to reuse glass jars
 
 
For the pantry, I put all of my dried fruits, homemade granola, various chocolate chips, dried beans….
 
how to reuse glass storage
 
 

Now I certainly have not cast plastic out of my house for good.  I still have plastic baggies for certain uses.  We do have reusable cloth bags that we use a lot, but there are certain things I just can’t seem to get away from.  So there’s my plastic confession.


What is your favorite non-plastic storage?  Do you still have some plastic?

 
 

35

Plastic Bags on the Decline at Market Basket

A Greene Westford column re-posted.

Plastic Bags on the Decline

Plastic Bags end up everywhere
[Photo Credit Lauren/Flickr]

 
 

Market Basket joined 11 other supermarket chains in a voluntary disposable bag reduction effort with MassDEP

How many plastic grocery bags do you have in your house right now?  Every time you buy anything, a plastic bag is most likely used.  There are lots of problems with plastic bags. They litter our streets, waste natural resources, and can expose us to toxins.
In 2007, the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and Massachusetts Food Association (MFA) recognized this problem.  Together they set a goal of a one-third reduction in the number of paper and plastic bags used by 2013.  Over 500 grocery stores are members of the MFA, including Market Basket.  This effort was voluntary in nature.  The idea was to encourage people to bring reusable bags.
From a flyer created by the two groups, the MFA members committed to:
  • Promoting the use of reusable bags 
  • Providing in store plastic bag recycling bins for customers 
  • Offering reusable shopping bags for sale made with recycled content
  • Using disposable bags with more recycled content
According to Keith Peters, a manager at Market Basket in Westford, they have seen a 40-50% increase in the number of shoppers bringing reusable bags.  Plastic and paper bag use has decreased approximately 20%.  Peters stated that signs were used to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags.   “Choose to Reuse” was the slogan, although the signs are not being used now.
Some stores, such as Stop and Shop and Hannaford, gave a 5 cent discount for each reusable bag.  Stop and Shop and Whole Foods still give 5 cents.
In November 2011, the MFA and MassDEP announced that the goal of a 33 % reduction in the use of disposable bags was reached 2 years ahead of schedule.  The groups will continue to work together to encourage this trend. 
Many cities around the country have implemented bag bans or charge for plastic or paper bags.  Washington D.C. instituted a 5 cent tax on plastic and paper bags in January 2010.  In one year, $2 million was collected to clean up the Anacostia River.  A study in 2008 found that plastic bags made up 21% of the trash in the river and 40% in its tributaries.  The law was estimated to generate closer to $4 million in the first year.  Obviously, people are not using disposable bags.  The ban is estimated to have created a 50% decrease and it is viewed as one of the most successful programs in the country.
For the bags that you still accumulate, stores have plastic bag recycling stations.  Every grocery store in and near Westford has one.  At Market Basket, look for a white barrel container near the far exit.  They accept more than just plastic store bags.  The list includes:
  • Grocery bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Retail shopping bags (with strings and rigid plastic handles removed)
  • Bread, cereal and produce bags
  • Plastic wrap from paper products and bulk items (think wrapping around toilet paper and paper towels)
  • All clean, clear bags labeled with a #2 or #4 recycling symbol
All plastic must be CLEAN AND DRY!
These bags should not be put in your curbside container.  They get caught in the sorting mechanisms at the recycling facility.
It takes a while to adopt new habits.  It took me almost a year to consistently remember my reusable bags.   I used quite a few helpful hints to do it.  Just keep at it.

Do you Use Reusable Bags? 

2

My Reusable Bags Are In My Car… Again!

Reduce Footprints is currently doing daily challenges.  Here is yesterday’s:

Reduce the number of plastic bags you use by getting a fabric or reusable bag for shopping. Although plastic bags use 70% less plastic than they did 20 years ago, most are still made from polyethylene, a non-degradable plastic. If you live near a brewery, you can obtain 15-20 gallon durable, synthetic grain bags which breweries usually throw away. These can either be used as garbage bags or rinsed out and re-used to take trash to the dump.
I think one of the biggest issues with reusable bags is forgetting them!  It took me almost a full year to remember to bring them into the store every time.  I am so glad I kept at it.  
Benefits To Using Reusable Bags

Plastic bags are not healthy for the environment.  The problem – plastic never goes away! If it ends up in a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Even then, it actually photo degrades which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water. Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch). In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food. Not such a healthy meal.

Save Money.   Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital.   Make sure to ask at Target, they often forget.

Easier to carry.  My 5 reusable bags are usually enough to hold groceries for my family of 5 for a week.  It is so much easier to carry in 5 sturdy bags from the car than the 10 floppy, wiggling all over the place, twisting around your fingers plastic ones.

    How To Remember

    Location, Location, Location.  Put the bags where you will see them.  Mine are right next to me in my car.  Maybe a convenient place for you is with your keys.

      Convenience.  A few years ago, I won this great Esse CarryAll Tote for my reusable bags.  All of the grocery bags and produce bags fit nice and neat inside and make it so easy to carry.  You don’t need to spend  a lot of money on something like this if you don’t want to.  Use another tote bag to store your reusables.  Think about buying ones that fold up compactly so they aren’t floating around your car.  Another idea is to use a carabiner clip like this to hold your bags together.  You can then clip the bags to your grocery cart.

      Esse CarryAll Tote
      Carabiner Clipped bag



      Always Have One.  I have a  compact reusable bag in my purse at all times.  Carry them in the car, purse, backpack, briefcase, whatever.


      Shop At Stores That Encourage Reusables.  When I first started bringing my reusables, my grocery store was giving 5 cents per bag.  It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough of a trigger for me to remember.  Now they have signs all over the parking lot “Did you remember your reusable bags?”

      Notes.  Place a note in the car, on your shopping list or as you leave your house.  Got Bags?

      There’s An App For That! As I was writing this post, I thought there must be someone out there writing an app for this.  And there is!   The Grab Your Bags app is coming soon for the iPhone according to their website.  I didn’t see it on iTunes though.  

      Just Keep At It!  Like I said, it took me almost a full year.  Just keep trying.  It will become second nature.  I never leave my car now without thinking – do I need a bag?

        There are other ways to reduce one-time bag use.
        Produce Bags
        1. Don’t take a bag.  You don’t always NEED a bag. Throw that lemon straight into your shopping cart. Carry your one or 2 items out of the store in your hands or another bag you are already carrying.
        2. Use reusable produce bags.  Many online and retail stores are now carrying produce bags. I purchased mesh draw-string bags at a dollar store at 4 for $1. Or reuse the same produce bag a few times.
        3. Reusable bags are good for more than just the grocery store.   Keep a compact one in your purse. Bring your reusable bags to the Mall, Target, any store!
        Did you remember your bags?


        Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation from Esse for this post.  The opinions expressed in this post are my very own.

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        15 Ways to Reduce Common Plastics

        15 Ways To Reduce Common Plastic

        We use plastic every day of our lives. You can’t go far without seeing some form of plastic. The problem – plastic never goes away! If it ends up in a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Even then, it actually photo degrades which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water. Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch). In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food. Not such a healthy meal.

        For us humans, plastics contain 2 chemicals that are of particular interest – bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Both of these chemicals mimic estrogen and can disrupt our hormones.

        Here are some ways to replace common plastics.
        1. Plastic water bottles => Buy a reusable BPA-free or stainless steel bottle. They are available online and in many stores at reasonable prices. If you are currently spending $2 per week on bottled water the savings are $104 per yr.

        2. Coffee cups => Carry a reusable mug with you for coffee. There is often a plastic lid or plastic lining the cup. If you are staying at Starbucks, ask for a ceramic mug.

        3. Plastic grocery bags => Reusable bags. Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital. If you currently don’t have enough, build up your supply slowly. When you forget your bag, consider buying one at the check out if it’s a quality bag you will use.

        4. Store bags => Reusable bags. They are not just for the grocery store. Keep a compact one in your purse. Bring your reusable bags to the Mall, Target, any store!

        5. Any plastic bag => Say “No Thanks”. You don’t always NEED a bag. Throw that lemon straight into your shopping cart. Carry your one or 2 items out of the store in your hands or another bag you are already carrying.

        6. Produce bags => Use reusable produce bags. Many online and retail stores are now carrying produce bags. I purchased mesh bags at the Dollar Tree at 4 for $1. Or reuse the same produce bag a few times.

        7. Plastic food storage containers => Reuse glass food jars. The spagetti jars are great for beans, grains, coffee beans, and soups. I love the shape and size of salsa jars. They are perfect for a small amount of leftovers since they have a wide opening.

        8. Plastic food containers #2 => Replace with glass ones. Use #3 above as much as you can, then look for sales or at yard sales this spring.

        9. Plastic shampoo bottles => Buy bar shampoo. I haven’t tried it myself but a friend swears by it and gets it at Whole Foods.

        10. Plastic milk bottles => Buy your milk from a local Dairy in glass bottles. Shaw Dairy is at the Winter Farmers Market until March 19 They also offer home delivery.

        11. Plastic wrap => Use aluminum foil or wax paper. I stopped buying plastic wrap a couple of years ago, opting for aluminum foil and natural wax paper instead. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.

        12. Bread bags => Buy bread from the bakery section or make your own. I am still experimenting with this one. We have gotten into the habit of having bagels with breakfast. I am testing out recipes with my bread maker to replace the store bought bagels for homemade bread. I’ll let you know when I succeed.

        13. Plastic bottles for cleaning products => Make your own cleaners, refilling the same bottles. See my post on Homemade cleaners.

        14. Plastic Straws => Purchase Stainless steel or glass straws. Did you know you could do that? I didn’t until recently, very cool!

        15. Zip top plastic bags for lunches => Reusable snack and sandwich containers. There are loads of reusable sandwich bags and containers out there. Take a look on Etsy for some really cute reusable snack bags. We use reusable fabric snack bags made my my Mom.

        While this Good Housekeeping test found that BPA and phthalates do not leach into foods when heated in the microwave, I still don’t. I’d rather not find out they were wrong, or didn’t test my particular form of plastic.

        I have not suggested that you stop buying/using anything that is wrapped in plastic. Some people will stop using something if they can’t get it without plastic. I am not ready to do that. My kids love bananas, if I am at a store that sells their bananas packaged in a plastic bag, I note how silly it is and buy them anyway. Of course I do recycle the plastic bag at Hannaford.

        Look around at the amount of plastic in your home. See what you can eliminate or replace.

        Need help? Search the internet or ask here. Please post any ideas you have.

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