Tag Archives | reusable bags

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


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.


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.


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


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.


        15 Ways to Save Green While Going Green

        15 Ways to Save Green While Going Green

        Since Earth Day this year, I have been trying to figure out what my next green step will be.  I decided that I need to concentrate more on my family’s health – eating more organic foods and less chemicals in our personal products to start.   Most of this will cost more money.  So, first I am taking another look at how going green can save me some green.

        Below are changes you can make with no impact on your budget.  Well, not exactly no impact – some of these ideas will save you money, time or both!  Even though they do not have an initial cost, they are a change from your normal routine.  Pick a few at a time.  When you have mastered those, pick a couple more.
        A note about the Average Annual Savings:  I tend to be on the conservative side with this.  
        1. Pay Bills Electronically  Minimally this saves you the stamp.  If you set up automatic payments, it will save you the time of paying the bill each month.  I found a few more I could switch.  Average Annual Savings: 12 * 0.44 = $5.28 per bill
        2. Switch to Simple Cleaners  Next time you need some all-purpose cleaner, refill the spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water and use that.  This will cost you about 30 cents per bottle instead of about $3-4  for the average all purpose cleaner.   Try some of these homemade cleaners for more savings.  Average Annual Savings: $7.40 
        3. Stop Buying Anti-Bacterial or Disinfecting cleaners  Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and place a spray top on a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  Spray one then the other on anything you wish to sanitize – counters, kitchen table, lunch bags, water bottles….  Do not use vinegar on granite counters.  Cost of 32 oz of vinegar =   40 cents, $1 for the hydrogen peroxide for a grand total of $1.40.  Average Annual Savings: $7.40
        4. Plan Your Meals for the Week  Make a menu for the week and your grocery list BEFORE you go shopping – will curb those impulse buys and help not waste food by buying only what you need.  Americans throw away a lot of food – that’s money in the trash.  Estimates were all over the place, but let’s assume a conservative $10 per week.  Average Annual Savings: $520
        5. Eat less Meat   Meat is expensive.  Learn a few meatless meals and cut your grocery budget and your fat intake!  If you can’t go completely meat free for a meal, reduce the meat and bulk up with more veggies or beans.  Let’s say you reduce your meat by 2 lbs a week at roughly $4 per pound and replace it with beans at $3.  Average Annual Savings: $250
        6. Buy Dried Beans  Want to save even more, buy dry beans and cook them yourself.    Dry beans cost about 1/3 the price of canned.  This could increase your savings in#5 by:  Average Annual Savings: $104
        7. Use Your Reusable Bags  They will save you 5 cents at Target (Make sure you ask, they tend to forget), Whole Foods, and you will be entered in a giveaway at Trader Joe’s.  Average Annual Savings: $1
        8. Turn Your Hot Water Heater Down to 120  You may need to play with how low you can set your hot water heater.  How much you save depends on the temperature and the method of heating.  My Average Annual Savings: $50
        9. Turn You hot Water Heater to VACATION when you are away   If you are going away for more than 3 days, turn your hot water heater to VACATION mode or way down.  Again, the savings will vary widely based on your hot water heater and how often you go away.  My Average Annual Savings: $20
        10. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water   Most of the energy used to wash your clothes goes into heating the water.  Take a look at this website to figure out how much you could save.  My Average Annual Savings: $70
        11. Use Both Sides of the Paper for Printing   I rarely buy paper for my printer.  When I do, I use both sides.  I mostly use the backs of my children’s school papers for my printer.  Better yet, print less!  Need to keep an online receipt – save the page electronically.  Average Annual Savings: $15
        12. Reduce Your Paper Towel Use   Try using reusable microfiber clothes or old towels or T-shirts instead.  They won’t take up much more room in your washing machine so you won’t be spending more on washing them.  Let’s say the average household uses 1 roll of paper towels per week.  If we cut that in half, Average Annual Savings: $24
        13. Use Cloth Napkins   This is one of the first things I did to go green.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  I had some cloth napkins from a wedding present so I pulled them out.  I have not bought paper napkins in 4 years.   Average Annual Savings: $20
        14. Buy Spices in Bulk at Whole Foods   I have mentioned this one several times.  I still can’t get over how inexpensive they are.  Obviously if you are making a special trip to Bedford or Andover for this, then the gas will negate any savings, but if you are in the area…. The spices cost pennies compared to $3-4 in a jar. Average Annual Savings: $20
        15. Consolidate Your Errands   If you are a mom, you probably already do this.  You need to be efficient with your time so it makes sense.  I use my “To Do” lists to organize where and when I need to run errands.  I can then look at my list and plan my route accordingly to reduce the driving and the possibility I might forget something.  If you saved 10 miles of driving per week, 20 mpg for your mini-van, at $3 per gallon (I’m being optimistic!), Average Annual Savings: $78
        How do you save money and the planet?

        This post was shared at The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways .  30 Days to Save Some Green


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