Reusable Bags

Plastic bags can be extremely convenient, but they are also very harmful to the environment.

Plastic bags are easy to get and are often times free. You can use them for lots of things, like for storage and transportation. Going to the beach and want to bring lunch? Throw it in a plastic bag from your last trip to the grocery store. Donating some clothes or unwanted items? Throw them in a plastic bag and let the donation place get rid of it.

I get it; plastic bags are readily available and low maintenance. But in the long run, they have more cons than pros.

I hated how much they broke on me, the bags could be carrying a single item and the handle would snap in my hands. The plastic in plastic bags is often so cheaply made that it becomes thin and flimsy. I often see people double bag their groceries, even single item purchases, because the handles would break. The worst is when the bag would tear in the bottom and spill stuff everywhere!

Not only are they poorly made and really meant for single use, but they are horrible for the environment. A plastic bag in the ocean often looks like a jellyfish to many sea creatures, including sea turtles! Plastic doesn’t digest, not in humans and definitely not in sea creatures. Often times when scientists biopsy a whale they find several pounds of plastic bags in its stomach alone. Sea turtles have starved to death because their stomachs are full of plastic bags and they don’t have room for actual food.

But we can recycle plastic bags, right? There are still places that take plastic bags to be recycled, but that may no longer be an option in the coming future. In my area, you can no longer recycle plastic bags with the local government—they will refuse to take your recycling if they see a single plastic bag in the bin. To get around that, our local grocery stores have offered to recycle the bags for us, but even that might not last. In an effort to be more green, our local government is trying to pass laws that ban plastic bags all together, so any store that offers them will get a hefty fine.

The new laws and regulations don’t really bother me; I think a ban on plastic bags wouldn’t be a terrible thing. However, I know how hard it can be for people to transition to new things.

Paper bags are still an option for many grocery stores and they are a bit sturdier than plastic bags. If I forget my reusable bags, I go for the paper bags because they are still recyclable and easier to use. Paper bags can also be used more than once, as long as you don’t get them wet, so you can get a few uses out of them before recycling them.

Reusable bags are the best alternatives. They are pretty sturdy and can hold more items than plastic bags. They are easy to store and they come in all shapes, designs, and sizes!

Personally, I’m a very forgetful person, so there are times when I leave the house without my reusable bags. What do you do then?

You can store some in your car to keep at all times. This is great especially if you make an unplanned trip to the store. BOOM! You have bags right there!

Some stores even offer them for free if you reach a certain price point when shopping. Or they are often available at check-out lanes if you don’t mind spending an extra few dollars.

You can also get them from donation-based organizations for helping out or donating. One year, my local aquarium offered them to anyone who volunteered for the day doing local clean-up and tree planting events. My grandfather used to get reusable bags in the mail when he donated to local organizations.

You can even make your own bags out of old linens and clothes. I’ve seen many old pairs of jeans get turned into fabric bags.

A few quick tips for reusable bags:
1. Keep a couple in your car.
2. Wash them every so often, especially if you use them at the grocery store.

If you can’t give up plastic bags just yet, that’s okay, just be extra vigilant about recycling them and keeping them from getting away. Plastic bags can travel far on a windy day, and if they don’t end up in the ocean then they end up as trash for someone else deal with.



Reusable Water Bottles

Reusable water bottles are a growing trend that is getting a lot of attention. Everywhere, companies and organizations are promoting their reusable water bottles, and they are becoming cheaper and easier to find. And with the growing popularity, more and more unique designs are being introduced to make them more versatile.

Your average name brand case of 24 16.9oz water bottles runs at about 10 dollars, or about 5 dollars if you go with a store brand. You’re looking at spending 5-10 dollars per 3 gallons. It’s suggested that you drink 64oz of water a day, so that’s about 4 bottles of water in a day. At the rate of consumption, your case will last about a week. For a single person, that’s about 20-40 dollars a month. If you can stretch out the case so that you use about one bottle a day, that’s 5-10 dollars in a month.

What if you are a family of 2 or 4? The money starts to add up, and you’re spending a lot of money on water that you can get at home.

In 2018, I put my foot down and stopped buying cases of water. While I personally used a refillable bottle, I was buying water for guests and family. But I got tired of throwing away my money just to see half empty bottles of water lying around with no one remembering who they belonged to. I convinced my household to get refillable water bottles, and since 2018, I believe only one case of water has been purchased, and that was for an emergency.

You never realize how much plastic you’re using until you stop. No more half empty water bottles around the house. We take a lot less recycling to the road now, because there’s less plastic to recycle. And there’s more money in our pockets.

I understand not everyone is in the position to stop buying bottled water. There are places all over the world, even in the United States, that don’t have clean public drinking water, and that’s a problem. So if you can’t ditch the plastic for health reasons, I completely understand!

You can try getting a filter to put on your sink or a filter for a pitcher of water, but those cost money, especially in the up keep. However, there are some organizations that are trying to get their own filters to people who need them.

If you can’t stop buying cases of water, I understand, and please don’t feel guilty. These changes are slow and are hard for everyone to follow right away; it’s up to the rest of us to make it easier for those who can’t at first. If you’re aware of areas in your community that lack clean drinking water, bring it to the attention of your local government. Write letters, shout it from the roof tops, blast it on social media, be loud and obnoxious until you are heard and the problem is solved. Clean drinking water shouldn’t be a privilege; it’s a necessity for life.

For those of us who do have access to clean drinking water—ditch the plastic, please.

Reusable water bottles come in all shapes. My personal bottle has a straw attachment and a clip that allows me to attach it to my belt, pants, or a bag, and it’s perfect for me at work. Reusable bottles range in price; obviously, the ones with more functionality will be more expensive. But a simple, cheap water bottle will work just as well.

Even if you do recycle your bottles, plastic can only be recycled so many times before the material begins to break down and can’t be reshaped anymore and gets thrown away. Every time you refill your water bottle, that’s one less piece of plastic that ends up in the trash or in the stomach of a whale.

Plastic-Free July 2020

Hellllllloooo, and welcome to July!

I know I’m a bit late, but hopefully I can make up for that later. Anyways, July is the month when a lot of companies participate in Plastic-Free challenges.

You can check out the month long event here on the ecochallenge website!

During the month of July, you can participate in the challenges either by yourself or with a team. This year, I joined up with my aquarium! If you want to be part of a team, you can make one for your work, friends, or family. All you have to do is create a team and send email invites to everyone you want to participate.

Once you got yourself set up, you can take a look at all the different challenges the website has for the event. The challenges are divided into different categories and are rated based on difficulty. Some of the challenges are really easy, like switching to bamboo toothbrushes. Others are more difficult, like promising to prepare one meal a day or week that doesn’t involve any kind of plastic–like at all. You can even make your own challenges that will apply specifically to you!

Each challenge has an option to “learn more” where the website provides you with more information. If you want to switch to bamboo toothbrushes, then they provide some links to help you buy the best one for you. Some challenges also provide links to videos or blogs explaining more about one topic or another. There’s even some how-to links if you want to, say, make your own deodorant.

This month, the challenges are divided into 6 categories: food, personal care, community, lifestyle, pets, and family. So there’s a wide variety of activities to choose from!

Each activity rewards you points. You can see how many points you have earned and how many your team has earned. To my knowledge, there are no “prizes” for having the most points. The point system is there to help make you feel good and to give your team the opportunity to come up with their own rewards.

Now, please remember, that these activities are voluntary and are no way a reflection on you as a person. If you can’t do some of the activities for one reason or another, that it completely OK. There should be no shame or guilt if you can’t do something. Remember, it’s all the little things that count!

Please check out the plastic-free ecochallenge! I will be participating this month and hope to have some plastic-related posts for you guys as well. If we all work together, then we can accomplish amazing things!