As I promised earlier in the month, it’s my hope that our family will grow greener every day.
In between my normal research, I’ve been perusing websites via Stumble Upon (I highly recommend for reading fanatics and Internets/blog enthusiasts alike) to do my part in going green. In my opinion, part of the importance of going green is knowledge. As with any topic you might care about, the more you know, the more you can implement and hopefully, one day go on to influence others.
I’m over the whole, “I don’t have time for that,” or “I’m too busy to bother” mentality. Yes, we’re all busy carting children, paying bills and commuting to work. But realistically, making small, simple adjustments in your day-to-day routine makes a big green difference. And appropriately enough, the Today Show did a segment on this exact topic this morning.

Did you know that some countries are banning and limiting the usage of plastic bags? Specifically, China has banned plastic bags which goes into effect on June 1, right before the Beijing Summer Olympics. More locally, New York recently approved a bill requiring large stores to provide bins for recycling plastic bags.

Before I gifted myself with a bigger totebag for Christmas, I was lugging my pump, work papers and daily supplies in my ratty old canvas Whole Foods bag. I’ve had this thing for probably 4 years and its functionality alone was worth every penny of its $8 pricetag. By carrying this bag on a regular basis, I probably avoided the unnecessary usage of a few hundred paper or plastic bags from my various shopping trips and on my commute home. In fact, I read just this week that Whole Foods is going to stop offering plastic bags all together. According to the chain, by eliminating their bags, that would mean roughly 100 million plastic bags will be kept out of the environment by the end of 2008. Go Whole Foods! byob_long.jpg

Most recently, over the weekend at a different grocery store, in addition to my canvas bag, I brought along 12 plastic bags from my Christmas shopping adventures to re-use at the grocery store. When the cashier leaned over to grab one of the bright yellow bags to start bagging my groceries, I held up my canvas bag full of used bags to tell her I brought my own. Sure, reusing the bags meant that I had to remember to bring them along, as well as pull them out before all my bread was smushed by the cans, all while I made sure my drooling baby stayed asleep during the whole process. With a few extra minutes of effort, I sacrificed convenience and slightly diminished my carbon footprint for that particular day.

And wouldn’t you know it? My grocery store even “rewards” you with an $.11 refund for each recycled bag. Apparently, many groceries stores are going green, too. It’d behoove you to see if your store does something similar. If not, pull out those old plastic bags you’ve been saving and bring them with you the next time you go grocery shopping.

Last year, when the U.S. IKEA stores started to charge for bags, my immediate reaction was frustration for having to buy a resuable bag to lug our picture frames and shelves to the car. But now, I love my very handy bright blue reusable IKEA tote for carrying detergent to the laundromat and groceries up and down the stairs. It definitely beats having to use those annoying plastic bags that create more harm than convenience.

What it comes down to is this: well over a billion single-use plastic bags are given out for free each day. Those free bags, in turn, add to our landfills take up to 1,000 years to degrade. 1,000 years! When plastic bags breakdown, small plastic particles can pose threats to marine life and contaminate the food web. According to reusablebags.com, a 2001 paper by Japanese researchers reported that plastic debris acts like a sponge for toxic chemicals, soaking up a million fold greater concentration of such deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the notorious insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater. These turn into toxic gut bombs for marine animals which frequently mistake these bits for food.

So, the next time you hear paper or plastic, the greenest answer would be neither. Reuse, reuse, reuse.

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