I’ll be the first to admit that between my multiple jobs and busy family life I often find it difficult to lead a completely healthy and sustainable lifestyle despite my altruistic intentions. I have learned however that in spite of my active barely-have-time-to-eat-lunch lifestyle, there are hassle-free actions that I can integrate into my daily life that will reduce my carbon footprint and improve the quality of Mother Earth. One such action is to eliminate (or at least decrease) plastic bag usage.
If you’re on the fence about eliminating plastic bags from your life, take into account that Americans use approximately 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps per year. That comes out to about 1,200 bags per resident in any given year. Typically, plastic is made from oil, which is a non-renewable energy source. In order to produce this staggering number of plastic bags, approximately 12 million barrels of oil is needed for production. In addition to plastic bags contributing to energy consumption and air pollution, they are detrimental to our wildlife. Because plastic bags are not biodegradable (they are made from polyethylene, a non-biodegradable product), they often find their way into our eco-system and into the stomachs and entangled in the bodies of wild animals.
In recent years, city governments have taken the steps to pass laws that impose taxes on plastic bags or eliminate them altogether in order to significantly decrease plastic bag usage. In Washington D.C., the city government imposes a five cent tax on plastic bags. In one month alone in January 2010, plastic bag distribution dropped from an average of 22.5 million bags a month to 3 million bags a month. The $150,000 derived from the plastic bag tax was used to fund the clean up of the Anacostia River. Across the pond in Ireland, the government saw a 90% reduction (over 1 billion bags) between 2001 and 2011 after imposing a plastic bag tax of thirty-seven cents.
A great alternative to the plastic bag is the reusable shopping bag, which is available to purchase at many grocery outlets and drug stores. Reusable bags can be made from hemp, cotton (ideally recycled cotton) and recycled polyethylene terephthalate, a long-lasting and durable recycled plastic. Keep the shopping bags in the trunk of your car, in a visible place in the garage or near the front door. Just remember to periodically wash the reusable bags to eliminate any mold or bacteria that may grow inside.
While I’m certainly guilty of using my fair share of plastic shopping bags, I’ve come to realize that eliminating them from my life was surprisingly easy. Doing away with plastic bags is an effortless, yet foolproof action that will allow you to maintain a more eco-friendly existence.
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