Going bagless probably sounds a little scary, but it is one of the main ways my family has gone green (the other main way being cloth diapering). Throughout the past 7 years (basically my entire adult/parenting life), I have had a different view on things. I want the Earth to be a great place for my children. I want there to be just as many species of animals roaming. These days, it is very hard to get away from plastic – which is harmful to the environment in many ways. It seems like everything is made of plastic: bottles, containers, bags, and utensils to name a few. I wanted to cut plastic out, even if only by a small percentage, of our lives.
In previous years, the trend went from paper bags, to plastic bags, back to paper bags… and then on to reusable bags. I, however, challenge you to go bagless. Why completely bagless? Well, I’m a busy mom and as great as reusable bags sounds, I always forget them. While I would intend on using them, I would often forget and just put my groceries in plastic. We go to the grocery store twice a month for our basics, meat, milk, cheeses, and other main ingredients that we will use all month. In addition to our large grocery store trips, we do make a few smaller trips for impulse desires and forgotten items. When making our large trip, we get all of our groceries into our cart. There is no rhyme or reason to what order we shop, we just get it done. When approaching the checkout lines, one of us will get an extra cart and meet at the end of the line. We let the cashier immediately know we would not like any bags at all, and one of us reloads the groceries into the new cart. Very rarely has this ever caused an issue for us, but once in a while a manager will get called to make sure its “okay”. Usually we just need to keep our receipt handy and all is well.
Once out of the store the next task is loading the groceries into our vehicle. We have a car with trunk space and a minivan with extra seats/floor space, so this is not an issue for us. We take our time and pack our groceries into the vehicle, making sure to keep colds and hots separated, as well as keeping breakables like eggs in a secure area. When we get home, one of us usually unloads the groceries while the other puts them away. While this change in our lives did take some getting used to, and while we do forget on smaller trips to decline bags, I’d like to think the 50-ish plastic bags a month we no longer use make a difference.
Facts about plastic bags
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
- The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags. This costs retailers about $4 billion a year
- Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
- The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
- When plastics break down, they don’t biodegrade; they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion.
- The solution is not a plastic bag ban, which is an emotional response which fails to strike at the heart of the issue; instead of a market-based solution, a ban shifts production to paper bags and compostable bags, both of which have heavy environmental consequences.