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I’m always on the lookout for ways to be a little greener, more Earth Friendly, a little wiser… a fan of true innovation, of thinking outside of the box, of looking for a better way. What do I do when I stumble across something new and exciting? Why, I share it with you.
We have seen examples of corporate innovation over and over again, with products like Preserve (personal products, tableware and kitchen essentials made from recycled yogurt cups) and Greenware (plastic ware made from corn). Every time I stumble across something, I get a little tingle of excitement.
I’m the lady waltzing through high end malls, where the median household income is 85k annually while carrying a bright green minus one reusable bag from Whole Foods. I’ve shamed cashiers who start to throw the bag away when they are quicker than I and we have to unbag my goods and transfer them to the tote. The purpose of leaving the bag behind is to save it for someone else, not to send it to an early death in the landfill. When I forget my tote, I have been known to carry out my goodies at the grocery by the armful, waving my receipt at the employee posted to monitor the door. Innovation or just crazy? You decide.
This past weekend, we had a discussion at a gathering of friends, people were complaining about the possibility of implementing a bag tax locally and how hard it is to remember their reusable totes. I heard comments about how much they HATE the bottle deposit (which increased recycling rates in Oregon to 90% versus the non-deposit states average of 28%). The reasoning was that these people ALWAYS recycled their bottles/cans/bags/etc… I explained that while a few of us do recycle regardless of deposits and taxes to provide the incentive, the mass doesn’t and that’s why we need these regulations. Seriously, how hard is it to carry a reusable tote around? I often forget mine in the car, which simply means a little extra exercise while we (meaning Oregon Dad) dash out for it prior to checking out. It’s a simple matter to get a couple of those tiny totes that fold up into mini pouches, carry them in your pockets or handbags. I think if we start getting taxed for the bags we take out of the store, more people will get in the habit of bringing their totes and will realize its not hard.
During this conversation, I brought up this nifty little plastic bag used at The Body Shop.
This tote is unique because it decomposes, that is returns to, well, DIRT within 12 months. Plastic takes 700 years to begin to decompose in the landfill. 700 years to 12 months? Now, that’s innovation.
Of course, bringing up this tote brought a new twist to the bag conversation. If The Body Shop can do it, why can’t EVERY store? I pointed out the cost factor (every one of the people in this conversation have college degrees, many post-graduate degrees and work with costing every.single.day, so I shouldn’t have to go there.), stores do not want to absorb the cost of producing a more expensive bag, and of course, if stores did provide these kind of bags the cost would be passed on to the consumer in other ways. Why would most corporations go to that expense when they can pass the buck by pushing their reusable totes. I would LOVE to see more biodegradable bags in malls, shopping centers, grocers and quick marts. Plastic bags often litter our seashores and pose a real threat to animals and the beauty of our planet. However, I do not feel that is a realistic theory.
What can you do? Think outside of the box (or the bag). Carry reusable totes EVERYWHERE. I have started grabbing a canvas tote or grocery tote no matter what errand I’m on, even if I don’t plan to purchase anything. They are great for carrying my library books, kids snacks, beach toys, things to drop at the donation center, etc… for an everyday outing, I will toss my handbag and Klean Kanteen inside along with a granola bar and fruit leather.
One grocery tote can hold as many groceries as 3-4 plastic baggies, and you don’t have to worry about the tears and spills. They sit nicely in the trunk or on the floor board, so you don’t have to go fishing under the seats for lost items.
When you do bring home store bags, reuse and recycle them. Plastic bags clog the standard recycling systems, so take them back to the stores to be recycled or simply use them again and again until they wear out, then recycle them. Do NOT throw plastic bags in the trash or in your curbside recycling (unless your recycling program specifically states it is okay.) Paper is NOT better than plastic, it has a whole different set of issues… so select the bag that you are most likely to be able to use and use and use some more.
For large shopping trips, consider a reusable box-type tote. These can also be left in the back of your car to hold your grocery totes in an orderly manner. I love having a large tote in my car that I can use for groceries, fill up with yard sale finds or fill with my drop off donations.
Shop at stores who are doing something to make a difference. The Body Shop, while far from perfect, goes beyond these nifty plastic bags. They are against animal testing and have introduced a line of paraben/preservative free products. You will often also find products that benefit a specific issue, such as AIDS.
Now, you might be wondering how I (of all people) ended up with a plastic tote from The Body Shop. Well, that’s quite simple. I was chatting with the sales lady about the new paraben free products and purchasing a couple of lip balms for AIDS benefit, while indicating that I wouldn’t need a bag. The cool saleslady then whips out her bag and proceeds to tell me all about it. I was like, “oh, cool… well, I will take a bag today then so I can blog about it.” And that my friends, is the story of how I ended up with a plastic store bag.
If you are looking for fun, unique bags that compliment your personality here are some ideas: