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Reusable Shopping Bags: Going Green Means USING THEM

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
By Christa

Commenter Nora Charles brought up an extremely good point in a recent post, namely that those supposedly eco-friendly reusable grocery bags pitched by stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes are made from petrochemicals. Not to mention that they don’t always last that long, and it’s so easy to forget them in the car. Advertised as a green option, reusable shopping bags can be a good alternative to paper or plastic, provided that you actually remember to bring them into the store every time you shop.

But are they green? As WSJ described the reusable grocery bag that supermarket chains frequently display by the checkout:

It’s manufactured in China, shipped thousands of miles overseas, made with plastic and could take years to decompose. It’s also the hot “green” giveaway of the moment: the reusable shopping bag… Home Depot distributed 500,000 free reusable shopping bags last April on Earth Day, and Wal-Mart gave away one million. One line of bags features tags that read, “Saving the World One Bag at a Time.”

You could say, okay, I’ll opt for a nice new set of cotton grocery totes, but that’s not necessarily the best choice, either. Even non-recycled plastic grocery totes may be more eco-friendly to manufacture than ones made from cotton or canvas, both of which can use large amounts of water and energy to produce, not to mention harsh chemical dyes. And even that plastic grocery tote may have taken 28 times more energy to produce than a plastic bag and eight times more energy than a paper bag. Huh.

So what, exactly, makes a reusable grocery bag green? The short answer? Using them. Four or five reusable shopping bags can apparently replace 520 plastic or paper bags each year. Unless you’re one of the (relatively rare, according to surveys) people who recycles your plastic bags, that means a whole lot of bags that won’t go into landfills. So remember to grab those bags!

What, that’s not green enough for you? You’re still worried about those petrochemicals and all that production energy? Great, I have yet another solution for you, and this one is even greener than buying new reusable shopping bags and actually using them. You could, if you have a sewing machine/serger or can borrow one, make your own reusable grocery bags using:

I think the first and the last DIYs are my favorite, even though I don’t have the patience (or the bags) necessary to actually make the first ones. The last one, though, I’m itching to try, and not just for reusable grocery bags, either. (The Beard has apparently lost all the lunch bags in the house.) Have you tried making your own reusable shopping bags? How’d it work out?

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How Green Is Too Green?

Thursday, November 11th, 2010
By Christa

For those who don’t immediately know what they were looking at, those are Sckoon Organics washable menstrual pads. Yes, you read that right. Washable, reusable menstrual pads. Think cloth diapers for the grownup lady set, but sleeker and prettier (most of the time).

I’ll admit that I have no issues with cloth diapers (especially BumGenius one-size, which we use with our daughter) but I still get a little squicked out by washable menstrual pads. Isn’t that weird? I know that women use approximately 11,000-13,000 pads or tampons between the pre-teen and menopausal years, and all those feminine products are ending up somewhere. In landfills? Wherever sewage ends up? Logically, my anti-pad stance makes no sense, but I guess reusable menstrual pads are my eco threshold.

What’s yours?

Maybe it’s using your gray water to hydrate your plants? Slapping skull-and-crossbones bumper stickers on every car you pass as you make your way to work using pedal power? Bringing your own local and organic snacks to every birthday party your kids attend? Driving a grease car? Taking fewer showers? Using humanure? It could be anything – it’s just that place you do not want to go.

If you’re not sure where your eco threshold is, imagine how green you’d have to before your joie de vivre would all but disappear in the face of your ever-expanding environmental consciousness. Would taking your current already pretty green lifestyle to the next level make you profoundly unhappy? Or do you still have a ways to go before you reach your peak of green?

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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