"We do not inherit the earth ~ we borrow it from our children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
Paper or Plastic? That is the question circulating around Houston lately. The answer is NEITHER. Starting in January 2009, Houston will be following San Francisco's example and will begin charging twenty cents for the conventional grocery plastic bag. This "disposable plastic bag tax" will not just be enforced at grocery stores, our local pharmacies and gas stations will also be included.
There are many who are upset about the new "tax". I guess the convenience of plastic bags is foremost in their minds. Also, it's hard to accept the idea of being taxed for an item that has been free to us since they were introduced. It can be expensive to acquire enough reusable, earth friendly, bags to carry a week's worth of groceries. (The average family shops for a week's supply of groceries.) But in the long run, reusable bags are better and their benefits outweigh the convenience of plastic bags.
One study estimates that it will take 1,000 years for a single bag to biodegrade, possibly even longer. Not to mention that the majority of conventional plastic bags do not make it to our landfills. They end up as litter on our streets, in our neighborhoods, and in our waterways. If you take a look at your surroundings when you're outside the likelihood that you'll see a plastic bag floating around is rather high.
Our wildlife is suffering from the conventional plastic grocery bags. Birds can eat pieces of the plastic and over time, after consuming enough of it, will literally starve to death. Their stomachs will be filled with the plastic and therefore they don't eat the food they need to survive. The same is true with our marine life. Sea turtles feast on jelly fish and often mistake a plastic bag for their meal of choice. Fish get caught in the bags that float in their habitat and will actually drown. This creates a cycle that affects the balance of the whole. Jelly fish survive on fish, sea turtles survive on the jelly fish, and so on. You hurt one, you end up hurting them all.
It is encouraged that if you choose to use plastic bags that you would reuse them as much as possible. Some of the most common reuses for plastic bags are...
* trash can liners.
* for pet waste.
* packaging filler for when you mail items.
* book covers for school books (this takes some effort to do but there are those who use them for this purpose).
* and finally, recycling them at your local grocery store. (I'm sure there are other ways to reuse the bags but I can't think of them.)
I bought a great set of reusable grocery bags online when we moved to Katy. They are wonderful and can hold up to 40 pounds of groceries, per bag. I have a canvas tote bag that I carry on a regular basis and I love it. I personally feel that the canvas is sturdier and is easier to carry. I save the Lehman's bags for when I'm shopping for a week's worth of groceries and for holiday meals (a holiday meal can rack up enough items that you could have bought groceries for a week!). I found some great canvas bags online that I've got my eye on. They're just like the one I carry on a regular basis but look much more fashionable. (Hint, hint.)
It has taken me a while to get in the habit of using my reusable grocery bags. I would often forget them and then remember the bags after I was already at the store. I now leave them folded in a corner by our front door so I won't forget to take them with me. I even keep a few in the car for when we end up making a last minute stop at the grocery store. Gregg and I are terrible about forgetting something on our grocery list and have to stop by the store while we are out at another time. We are just now using our reusable bags consistently.
It feels good knowing I'm doing my part to help the environment. You don't have to be a "granola hippie" to take this simple step of living a greener lifestyle. Although, there's nothing wrong with being a "granola hippie". As I become more aware of what I can do to make this a better world for my daughter, and her future children, I become more "granola". I consider myself to be more "preppy" than anything but that doesn't mean I can't make a conscious effort to be more green in how my family and I live. All it takes is a few simple changes in our daily lifestyles to impact how things will look in the future.
[Photo courtesy of Bring Your Own Bag]