Tag Archives: reusable bags

5 Simple Environmentally Conscious Steps You Can Make Today

Being aware of the impact your lifestyle has on the environment isn’t always as difficult as it sounds when you first consider the problem. It’s not all about sacrificing comfort and going off to live in a cave. Matter of fact, it’s not at all about living in a cave. If you want to be more environmentally conscious, try these simple steps to get things moving.

1. Be more aware of the resources you’re using.

Just take a little time and think about what you’re using when you do things in your daily life. How much electricity and water do you use in a day? How much gas do you use? How much stuff do you buy?

Awareness may not sound like much, but it’s the first step in taking action to decrease your use of resources, especially the ones that aren’t renewable.

2. Find ways to cut back on the resources you use.

Once you’ve become more aware of the resources you use, you can also consider ways to cut back on what you use. Not only is this likely to be better for the environment, using fewer resources usually saves you money in the long run and often the short run.

It’s not all about getting off the grid or things like that. Such things are beyond what many can afford, although if you can make it, it’s not a bad choice. It’s about looking at what works for you, such as replacing light bulbs with more efficient bulbs, turning lights and electronics off when they’re not in use, carpooling or using public transportation, shopping less, taking shorter showers, things like that. Things that fit into your budget.

3. Reuse.

Reducing is the most important step, but after that comes the reuse of the resources you already have. This can be as simple as finding a new use for that glass jar the spaghetti sauce came in or using an empty gallon jug for watering plants in the garden. You could even make a reusable shopping bag out of an old pair of jeans.

The point to reusing things is to remember that just because something has served its original purpose doesn’t mean it’s garbage already. Think about other ways you could reuse things before you throw them out or even send them for recycling.

Consider buying some products specifically because they can be reused, rather than buying single use products over and over again. Water bottles are a great example of this. Drinking water is a great, healthy habit, but buying bottled water is not. Not only are the bottles wasteful, bottled water is less regulated than your tap water in most places, and may not be as good for you as you think. Get a water filter if you really need filtered water, and carry a reusable water bottle with you. A good quality one will save you money over the cost of buying bottled water.

Also consider a good quality reusable shopping bag. This won’t save you money if you aren’t charged for paper or plastic bags by the store, but just think about how fast bags add up in your home. That’s a lot of waste you can prevent.

4. Recycle.

Reducing and reusing your use of resources is important, but we all have to use some resources. There’s no way around that as long as we’re alive. What you need to consider is how to allow resources to be reused when possible.

Recycling is much easier now in many communities than it was even a few years ago. Large recycling bins are more common now, and you often no longer even need to sort your recyclables to have them picked up. Pay attention to what can be recycled in your community, as not every one has the same rules.

If recycling isn’t easy in your community, find out what it takes to get the job done. If you have to drive to a recycling facility, decide how often it’s worth it to you, and how you can store recyclable materials until that time.

Particularly important is to pay attention to how you dispose of electronic waste and hazardous waste such as old paint, certain types of batteries and so forth. It cannot just be disposed of in the trash. Many communities have particular places or particular days where they will allow you to bring in electronic waste such as old computers, televisions and so forth, or for the disposal of hazardous wastes. Some of these can be recycled in this way, while others need more careful disposal.

5. Get outside.

You won’t completely appreciate the environment if you don’t get out into it. Go for a hike, head out to the beach, even walk around your own neighborhood. Get out and enjoy yourself outdoors.

This is especially important to do as a family when you have kids. If you’re trying to be more environmentally conscious, then you’re probably trying to teach them the same, and how are they going to understand what they’re protecting if they don’t see enough of it?

Are You Wasting Reusable Bags?

eusable shopping bags are a great idea in theory. You buy a bag, and bring it back every time you go shopping, no more need for paper or plastic bags.

The only problem is that many people don’t do it like that. They keep getting new reusable bags because they forget the old. The rate of reuse is so low that some grocery stores no longer offer a small discount for bringing your own bags because too few people do it.

I’ll admit the discounts are a nice thing when you can get them, but they shouldn’t be your only reason for bringing your own bags.

It’s easy to forget to bring your reusable bags to the store, if they aren’t right there when you head out. Most of us need it to be really convenient to remember the bags or it’s just not going to happen. Some people keep them by the door, others in the car, still others buy reusable bags that can be folded up small enough to fit into a purse.

Reusable bag quality matters too. You can get cheap ones many places, but some of those only last a few uses. They really aren’t as beneficial as better quality reusable bags that last far longer. My canvas bag, for example, puts up with quite a bit of abuse. I also have some old jeans that need to be made into shopping bags – far better than buying more reusable bags. Now I just need to make the time to get the job done.

If you’re developing a stack of reusable bags because you keep buying new ones when you forget, you need to build a new habit. Too many reusable bags are not good for the environment. Excess bags are a waste, especially if they’re just some sort of thicker plastic rather than fabric.

If you find yourself with a lot of extra reusable bags, a good start is to find people to give them to. Family members and friends who might use them are a pretty good place to start. They can make a nice sort of gift wrap, depending on style. Not quite as nice if they have store logos on them, but if you know people who won’t mind, not a bad gift either.

The main thing to remember is that any activity you do with the intent of being environmentally friendly only has a chance of actually being so if you do it correctly. Do it wrong and it becomes a feel good gesture that doesn’t actually accomplish anything and may even have more of negative effect than what you were trying to avoid.

Are Reusable Bags a Bad Idea After All?

I’ve seen a few stories on the news lately about many types of reusable bags having a high lead content. This is an issue because the lead can rub off and contaminate your food. Not immediately, as the bags tested used materials that would not leech lead too easily. But as it wears down, maybe a problem.

Does this mean buying reusable bags is a bad idea?

Not in my book. What it means is that you need to think about the type of reusable bags you get. The cheapies from the grocery store are likely not such a good idea.

Not that I’ve generally liked the cheap reusables anyhow. From what I’ve read, they don’t last well anyhow. I prefer to buy things that last. Better to buy once than over and over.

I love my cotton bag, for example. It’s sturdy, and even if it develops a hole or tear, odds are good that I can patch it. I have no worries about lead with it. I don’t have to worry that in the someday future that it needs to be disposed of, that it will leech horrid nasties into the landfill. Cotton bags are also more easily washable, which is great for getting rid of germs.

Of course, it also pays to remember that the media can hype these things up quite a bit. If you’re worried about lead getting onto your food from your reusable bags, make sure you rinse the food off before eating it. At the very least, you’ll cut it down.

Have You Added the 4th R to Your Thinking?

Anyone concerned about the environment knows the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But there’s a 4th R, and it goes in front of the rest.  It’s related to Reducing, but may be a stronger reminder that you should be cutting back on what you buy.

It’s Refuse.

Refuse that plastic bag to carry your purchases. Refuse single use containers. Refuse unnecessary packaging whenever possible.

This isn’t easy to do in some ways. Packaging isn’t something you have much control over in some ways. Dodging that plastic bag when you shop by bringing your own reusable bags is easy, drinking water from a reusable bottle is easy once you build the habit, but actual product packaging you have only a little control over.

Even if you just do the easy things, you’re making a difference. Millions of water bottles are thrown out every year by Americans. Use your reusable bottle and help others to see how much fun it is to have your own bottle. It’s not all that inconvenient, after all, and the savings versus buying single serve, single use bottles comes quickly.

Pack your reusable bags in your trunk or someplace else where you’ll actually remember to bring them every time you go shopping, not just at the grocery store, but anywhere you shop.

The most challenging part is refusing to buy things that are overpackaged. It’s the area you have the least control over.

Some things you can buy online with less packaging, such as those products available with Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging. The selection is limited, but better than when it started. You can also seek out products locally that aren’t as heavily packaged, but you still face the challenge of getting something that isn’t heavily packaged.

When you’re stuck with packaging, think about what can be done to reuse it before you send it for recycling. Anything biodegradable can go in the compost pile. Some packaging materials can be used in crafts or to store other things you already own.

You can also avoid excess packaging by buying in bulk when possible. Buy concentrates and refills when they’re available. This is a habit that can save you money as well as reduce waste.

In general, we need to think when we shop. It’s not just what we buy, it’s how we buy it. Think about what you really need, consider the packaging, consider how you’re going to bring it home and try to make the best decision for your situation. You can make a difference by showing that you care how things are packaged and using less single use packaging whenever possible.

Should You Worry About Dirty Reusable Bags?

There was a report in the news the other day about the bacteria that are found in most reusable shopping bags. It seems that 97% of users never wash their reusable bags, and so coliform bacteria are found in most of them.

Sounds bad, right?  You don’t want dangerous bacteria growing on your food. The solution, at least, is simple.

Wash your reusable bags!

That’s it. Problem solved.

If you aren’t certain that your reusable bags will be safe in the dryer, just line dry them. Inside out in the sunlight is probably a good choice.

It’s a small addition to your laundry routine, and worth the trouble to ensure that you don’t get a problematic level of bacteria growing in your bags or contaminating your food.

Once they’re clean, put them back in your car, your purse, by the door or wherever helps you to remember to bring your own bags.

And don’t worry too much about the germs. The presence of bacteria doesn’t mean that there are enough to make you sick. The main time you should think about it is if you carry raw meat or poultry in your bag. Wash it after, and you should be fine.