One obvious and painless way to make your lifestyle a little greener is to reuse shopping bags. Obviously, this saves energy and resources because you aren’t using up any more raw materials. The benefits go a bit further, though. So long as you remember to take your reusable bags with you on shopping trips, you’ll be helping the environment in several different ways.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
One plastic shopping bag has a carbon footprint of several times its own weight, as do paper ones. The manufacture of five such bags produces about 1 kilogram of carbon dioxide. This might not seem like much, but it adds up, and for something that you don’t really need in the first place. Earth 911 calculates that, in the United States alone, plastic bags and film contribute hundreds of millions of kilograms of greenhouse gases to the Earth’s atmosphere every year.
Aside from the fossil fuels burned in the production and transport of bags, some actually go to make the bags themselves. For example, grocery bags usually consist of HDPE (high density polyethylene), a petroleum derivative. The extraction of fossil fuels, as you are probably aware, involves considerable habitat destruction and sometimes leads to devastating pollution, as in the case of oil spills.
Reducing Landfill Space
Bags can be recycled, but often they are not and simply add to the ever-growing number of landfills. This uses up land that could be employed for something more productive, such as agriculture or natural habitat, and sometimes causes pollution in its own right.
Saving Sea Turtles
Not all the bags that are not recycled end up secured in landfill sites. Many end up in the oceans, where they can be deadly. Ocean creatures, including leatherback sea turtles, mistake the bags for jellyfish and swallow them. Others become entangled in the bags, unable to swim away from predators, keep afloat or find food. The result is sea creatures dying slow deaths as a direct result of plastic waste.
Reuse your bags until they wear out. When they do, recycle them and get few canvas or fabric bags instead. The reusable plastic bags are a moderate improvement on single-use bags but, as many people have noticed, they don’t last all that long either, meaning that you are still consuming resources. They are also difficult to clean. Fabric bags, on the other hand, can just go in with your laundry when they need a wash. Place a couple in your purse and the rest in the trunk of your car or your backpack, if you are prone to forgetting them when you go shopping.