Going Baggy

| 11/6/2008 3:41:21 PM

totebagsUsing reusable bags gave me a powerful feeling. OK, so maybe powerful is a tad eccentric, but I don’t own a hybrid car, consistently eat organic food, or wear organic clothing, so I thought by decreasing my carbon footprint with the bags, I could boost my eco-ego just a tad.

I guesstimate that I buy about two to three reusable bags worth of groceries and items a week, which equal to about eight to 10 plastic bags. That comes to about 470 plastic bags saved a year, a miniscule dent in the 100 billion plastic bags Americans throw away every year, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

I occasionally forget the bags when running quick errands to the store, though. Remembering the bags is like another imminent check on a to-do list. It really is simpler to just stuff the plastic bags under the sink when returning from the store and only having to remember my wallet and grocery list when I go to the store.

Still, I thought I was doing the right thing, even if I remembered to use them most of the time. I then discovered a New York Times article that delved into how green reusable bags really are.

It is obvious to me that the reusable bags would sit in landfills longer than disposable bags. The reusable bags should be usable anywhere from two to five years, but many people don’t use the bags in an effective manner and the bags just end up sitting in pantries, closets and trunks.

A number of reusable bags, such bags as ones from big box store are made from non-woven polypropylene, which is a byproduct of oil refining. Bags made of non-organic cotton or canvas aren’t much better because they can require large amounts of water and energy to produce and may contain harsh chemical dyes. Paper bags also require the destruction of trees and are made in factories that contribute to air and water pollution.