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Reuse: Green Bags

Ok guys – this post is kind of a continuation of yesterday’s post on reducing plastic bag use. Yes, I know it’s lame and unoriginal, but when this post appears on the blog, I’ll be in Perth for work so I’ve had to write some posts ahead of time. This is the last one left, it’s nearly midnight at my flight leaves in less than 8 hours.

So seriously… let’s reuse our green bags.

Reusable green bag from HEB in Texas (we used to shop there... cos there was nowhere else to shop)

Reusable green bag from HEB in Texas (we used to shop there... cos there was nowhere else to shop)

Why? Cos it’s, you know, the right thing to do. See yesterday’s post for more detail on the why. Today, I’m more interested in the how. That is, how do you remember to bring them to the shop!?

The grocery stores have taken to putting up signs reminding us that green bags only work if you remember to bring them. The only thing that does is make me feel guilty that I’ve forgotten. A sign at the shop is a bit too little, too late, you know what I mean? As I mentioned yesterday though, before we switched to a mini-rubbish bin, I used to use way fewer plastic bags, and thus used green shopping bags all the time. I had some secret ways of remembering to bring them.

  1. Have quite a lot of bags so you can have bags in different places.
  2. Keep a bag in your work bag/backpack for emergency shopping on the way home from work. You only need one, as you don’t normally buy much on the way home from work when you have to carry things on the bus.
  3. Keep some bags in your car boot – we normally take the car when we’re going shopping for lots of stuff.
  4. Keep some bags inside the house in case you want to walk to the shops. Keep them out of reach of naughty cats who pee on things. Trust me on this one. Don’t think the top of the fridge is safe, either.
  5. Have spare bags so you can keep on using them while you’re mending the older bags that start ripping.
  6. Have at least one insulated bag so your cold stuff stays cold while you’re walking home from the shops – this is most important in hotter climates like Queensland. Yes, I know we’re not the ones having a heatwave this summer (sorry Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney), but normally it’s hotter up here. We also have an insulated backpack, which works better if you’re cycling, scootering or skating to the shop.
  7. Put your bags back where they go as part of your grocery-putting-away routine. For example, after a big shop, gather the bags up and put them back in the boot of the car. Otherwise, you’ll get to the shop next time and realise you left them on the kitchen bench. That sucks. Once it’s part of your routine it will seem normal.
  8. It’s ok to buy the odd new green bag, but don’t go crazy. That’s emergency times only, and only if you’re a bit low on green bags at home.
  9. You can use any old bag, not just a green bag, if your groceries will fit. I’ve carried lots of stuff home in my laptop backpack before. It also makes it easier to carry on the bus.
  10. Enlist other people to help you remember and help you put the bags away as part of your routine. If you’re too lazy tired old busy doing incredibly important things, you can always have the kids do it. 😉

How do you remember your green bags?

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Reduce: Plastic Bags

Plastic bags. Everyone loves to hate them. Me too. But I’ll let you in on a secret.

I still use them.

Plastic bags are the devil... right?

Plastic bags are the devil... right?

OMG OMG OMG! I know. Don’t scream at me, I know it’s bad and I want to change my ways. I mean, I used to use green bags really consistently so I know I can do it. But first, don’t you want to know why a staunch environmentalist doesn’t already always use green bags (which, mind you, are made from plastic anyway). I don’t always use calico bags either. C’mon… wanna know why?

I use plastic shopping bags for my rubbish bin. We make such a small amount of waste that the big bin with the big bags wasn’t working out for us. We switched to a much smaller bin, and why buy bags (with all the additional packaging) when I can get shopping bags for free?

I also use the bags as poo pick-up bags. We don’t walk Loodle much anymore; he’s old and his hips tend to protest if he walks around too much. When we do walk him though, the plastic bags are a definite must. There is, always, poo.

The last thing I regularly use the bags for is to carry my lunch to work. I pack my lunch in old takeaway containers and sometimes they leak. The plastic bags prevent my laptop bag from getting curry or stir-fry sauce all through it.

I must say though – I feel really uncomfortable getting plastic shopping bags at the grocery store, like I’m a bad environmentalist. Aside from the fact that everyone can see me being a bad environmentalist, I also know full well that plastic bags, even the biodegradable ones, don’t really biodegrade properly because landfill is too anaerobic to allow for proper decomposition. But I have these dilemmas, listed above… so what should I do? Here’s my thinking.

Avoid using bin bags altogether. I don’t use bin bags for my recycling bin, or any bin except the kitchen bin. With the introduction of a compost bin/worm farm (no, I don’t have one yet – we’re in a rental house on a very low budget, but it’s in the works) I should be able to prevent food scraps from being dumped. Then all I have to do is manage the plastic waste (pretty much everything else is biodegradable). At the very least, I can dramatically minimse the number of plastic bags we use in the bin.

Poo-pick up bags. I don’t know how this will work for everyone else, but Loodle is just about over going out walking anymore, so this isn’t a huge issue for us. He mostly poos in the backyard, which we clean up by doing a big poo-pick up every few weeks. The poo goes into one of his empty food bags and then into the wheelie bin. I wonder if you can compost dog poo… and if that would be nasty. Maybe nasty. Or maybe good like manure. I must research this. For people with dogs who are young and go for walks lots, you could try:

  • Taking a small bucket or container with a lid (and a little shovel?)
  • Getting a pooper-scooper
  • Going to dog parks (they have biodegradable bags available there, at least in Brisbane)
  • Using paper bags (not sure how well this would work – there may be seepage)
  • Using empty bags or packaging from other products.

The final thing I regularly use plastic bags for is to protect my bag from food leakage. I think this wouldn’t be an issue if I used proper lunch containers and lunch bag/box. There are lots of different kinds, but my current favourite is Harold the lunch monster!

Harold the Lunch Monster from Ones and Zeros Fashion

Harold the Lunch Monster from Ones and Zeros Fashion

A bit expensive, especially with the exchange rate, but awesomely cool. I’d still need to use lunch containers though… maybe that could be another use for jars, if I have something that might leak! Jars are pretty air/water-tight. I like that idea.

So I’m really going to make an effort to reduce my plastic bag usage. Before too long, we won’t have a choice anyway – shopping bags will be phased out as of 2011 or sooner here in Australia.

I just have to remember to take my reusable shopping bags with me!

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