Perhaps you have heard rumors of how bad plastic bags are for our environment, but they left you wondering why. Well my suspicion is that if we only used plastic bags ONCE in a while, and reused them as long as we could, they wouldn’t actually be that bad. But the truth of the matter is that we use anywhere from an estimated 100 to 380 billion of them in the US alone each year.
Now just imagine what that means worldwide! And while these plastic bags that we use on a daily basis are reusable in SO many ways, very few people actually find ways to reuse them. So after one use the bag ends up in the landfill. But because of the lightweight nature of the bags, they very easily get liberated from landfills, garbage cans and backyards by the wind. They then either become an eyesore hanging from trees, or find themselves in places like the ocean in which numerous animals think that they are a food item.
Seeing a picture of a sea turtle that has a plastic shopping bag stuck in its mouth might be incentive enough for you to make the move to reusable bags, but there are so many other ways in which it is simply not a practical item to manufacture any longer. It takes an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to make the yearly supply of plastic bags for the US. During a time in which we are wondering just how long the oil under the crust of the earth is going to last us, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to find practical ways to cut back on our consumption of it?
Then why don’t we just switch to paper bags? Well on the surface level this is a step in the right direction. At least the paper will biodegrade in a relatively short amount of time compared to the estimated 1,000 years it will take a plastic bag to break down. But then we would be putting an even greater strain on our forests, as more trees would need to be cut down to keep up with our demand on bag use.
So What Can I Do About It?
Use reusable shopping bags! They are a strong, attractive, and sustainable option for our shopping needs. Often when we hear of shopping bags, we only picture walking into a grocery store with them, but we can take reusable bags with us when we go to the mall, or the hardware store. Take a few moments to reflect on how many places you go give you some type of a bag. Now think of how many bags you have used this month, year, decade, or your lifetime! Wow! You can make a big difference with a small change!
Isn’t it a pain to always have to remember your own bags when you go shopping? In my opinion if you are passionate about making a difference in the world around you, nothing is a pain. You simply set the intention to take one step at a time towards the lifestyle you want to live. It might take you a month or two to always remember your bags when you go into the store, but each time it will become more of your routine. I find it easiest to remember if I take my bags right back to my car after unloading the groceries. This way when you pull into the parking lot at the store, they will be in your car instead of hanging next to your front door.
As the demand for them grow, they are available in all kinds of patterns, materials and sizes. You can get them at your local grocery store, find someone making them locally or online, and even make them yourself! There are free patterns available online, or mainstream patterns available at your local fabric shop.
Because reusable bags can be made out of so many different materials, they can fit your specific needs. You can make one out of the toughest material that will stand up to all kinds of abuse, or you can find some beautiful fabric that brings joy to your day. If they get dirty you can simply hand wash them, or throw them in the washing machine (this depends on what material they are made from).
You can even find ways to re-purpose other items into bags. A great example of this is illustrated here in the photos I have included in this post of an animal feed bag turned into shopping bag. This is an easy craft, all you need is a plastic coated feed bag, some strapping (which can be bought at your local hardware store), and a sewing machine! If there is enough interest, I can put together a Feed Tote Tutorial. They are incredibly strong bags, and you can load way more into them than you can a conventional plastic bag. This is of course because the feed bag is designed to hold 50 lbs of animal food!
So no matter what style, material or size you choose, enjoy collecting your new stock of reusable shopping bags. Nature will appreciate the change that you are making, and you will look extra stylish next time you head into the grocery store for some produce and milk!
I am offering one of my handmade Feedbag Shopping bags as a giveaway! It is the one in the pictures above. Made from a black sunflower seed bag, it features a Cardinal, Goldfinch and Chickadee. There is nothing like a shopping bag that makes you smile to help you to remember to take them with you when you go to the store. And I promise that people will compliment you on your cool bag!