Simplicity circles often recommend assessing how much electricity, gasoline, money, fast food .... you use over a certain period, so that you can:
1) be accurate and acountable
2) gauge how far you want to go, and later how far you've come.
So, go count how many plastic bags you have stashed under the sink. Or if you've tossed them already, start a tally for next week on a pad of paper in your purse or car. The folks at Reusable Bags did this and counted 323! That's what drove them to start their company.
Here are seven tips for living without plastic bags:
1. Use reusable shopping bags
Buy some at www.reusablebags.com, www.ecobags.com, or www.enviro-tote.com
If you are crafty make one yourself. Here are some patterns:
tote bag http://www.make-it-easy.com/opentot2.html
string bags http://www.wampumkeeper.com/netstringbag.html
How about a tote bag crocheted out of plastic bags, like the one in the picture above?! http://www.marloscrochetcorner.com/round%20plastic%20bag%20tote.html free Here are sewing patterns for all kinds of bags: a wheelchair tote bag, a roomy round bottom hobo bag, backpacks etc.
I recommend making or buying some thin lightweight bags that are small enough to fold up and stash in your purse, jacket, backpack, car, etc. so one is always handy. Baskets with handles are nice too.
2. Refuse a plastic bag
Cashiers are programmed to keep the line moving and don’t always stop to ask if you need a bag, they just stuff your stuff in one. Hand back the bag and then explain why you don't want it. if you want to spread the word about the impact of plastics on our environment, hand them one of my "No Plastic Bag cards" (http://www.jmurphyart.com/noplasticbagscard.pdf)
3. Recycle them
If you live in a city that collects them, put them in your recycling bin. Even if your city doesn't take them yet, most large grocery stores have bag recycling bins. When your bag of bags is full hang it on the front doorknob so you don't forget it. But don't be lulled into thinking recycling the bags gets us off the hook. The recovered plastic is not going to be converted into new packaging. Most recovered plastic packaging is made into things like textiles, parking lot bumpers and plastic lumber – all unrecyclable products. Recycling plastic bags does not reduce the use of virgin materials and it only temporarily keeps it out of the landfill.
4. Reuse them
Lots of people use them as garbage can liners and dog poop scoopers, but Pat Veretto of Frugal Living has put together a FIVE PAGE list of other creative reuses (including ideas for bread bags): http://frugalliving.about.com/cs/tips/a/blplasticbag.htm
A few of the suggestions:
-- packing material
-- pillow stuffing
-- tape to your counter as a non-stick surface for rolling pastry
-- create faux finishes by using as you would a sponge, crinkling and dipping in paint
-- tie up your leftovers for the fridge instead of buying more plastic in the form of ziplock bags
-- make ghost wind-socks for halloween
-- a salad spinner - line a bag with a dish towel. Place your washed lettuce/greens inside and spin the bag around. When it's wound up, let it dangle and spin the other direction to loosen, then spin again.
-- seedling protector
-- Cut bags into strips and crochet, knit, weave, or needlepoint a door mat, or a tub or shower mat.
My friend Edith Abeyta worked on a community art project involving recycled bags - participants crocheted a large shade structure out of them: http://www.emanate.org/shade.htm
Here are some tips on crocheting/knitting with plastic bags http://frugalliving.about.com/cs/craftshobbies/a/blpcrochet.htm
5. Get stores to offer cash credits if you bring in your own bags. Here's a sample letter to send to stores you frequent: http://www.reusablebags.com/action.php?id=6 Many Trader Joes' have a monthly raffle for reusable bag users. Ask for a ticket when you check out.
6. Lobby for a PlasTax. Send a letter to your representative asking that Congress implement a plastax. Sample letter here: http://www.reusablebags.com/action.php?id=5 . Congressional contact info here: http://www.house.gov/
What is a Plastax?
In March of 2002, Republic of Ireland became the first country to introduce a plastic bag tax, or PlasTax. Designed to rein in their consumption of 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags per year, the tax resulted in a 90% drop in consumption. The approximately $9.6 million raised from the tax in the first year, was earmarked for a green fund established to benefit the environment. Several other countries and cities around the world are now considering implementing a similar tax, including UK, Australia, New York City and San Francisco
How does it work?
The purpose is to change consumer behavior, not to generate revenue. It's a simple market-based solution in the form of a consumption tax - individuals pay a tax of $.15 per plastic bag consumed at check out. Retailers save money since they only have to stock a smaller quantity of bags (in Ireland, on average they were spending $50 million a year on single-use plastic bags before the tax). Many retailers are also now benefiting from selling reusable bags.
What are the results?
In Ireland, consumption has dropped approximately 90%, from 1.2 billion to 230 million per year. Litter has been dramatically reduced and approximately 18,000,000 liters of oil have been saved due to reduced production of bags.
7. Educate yourself about the greater risks to our health, both personal and national, from plastic. Jan Lundberg of Culture Change has been campaigning against plastic for many years. He says:
"About 250 billion pounds of raw plastic pellets are produced annually worldwide and turned into a tremendous variety of products, from cars and computers to packaging and pens." (Wired News, June 5, 2004). People think of oil mainly as the strategic fuel for their cars, and some Americans justify a foreign policy that kills for oil. If they knew how dependent they were on massive amounts of plastic from oil and natural gas for other basic modern products, the war cry could be louder. However, health-worries during the rising cancer epidemic could counter the demand for endless plastic."
Read the rest here (and take a look at the photos of the Albatross body full of plastic garbage): http://www.culturechange.org/e-letter-plastics_enemy.html
My friend Hathor the Cow Goddess (http://www.thecowgoddess.com/) reports that she used one of the Sea Turtle cards at Trader Joes. Hathor said "Well, the cool thing about the card was that she thanked me and said she hates using plastic bags, but so many people expect them!"
Let me know of other experiences with the cards or your plastic bag free life.
ps - I just created my first lens. It's about backyard chickens, based on the workshop and recent blog entry. More links and info than the original. Check it out at: http://www.squidoo.com/BackyardChickens/