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Getting Off Oil, One Bag at a Time

By Larraine Roulston:

In the not too distant past, most North American shoppers entered stores empty handed. They were seen leaving supermarkets with carts overflowing with plastic bags, some often containing only a couple of items. If shoppers carried their own bags, using them was sometimes a battle.  “Take our bags. They’re free,” a cashier would say. Rarely would they receive a nod of approval for efforts to be environmentally sensitive.

Research reveals that plastic is polluting our oceans. Media coverage reports debates over plastic vs. paper and plastic or paper neitherpipelines vs. rail for the transport of oil.  Decisions to ban plastic bags from municipalities continue, as many areas cannot recycle them and they are a major source of litter on city streets and in parks. Today, customers sporting their own cloth bags when entering retail outlets is the norm. You will hear apologies from customers who forgot them and even see a salesclerk grimace if someone requests an unnecessary bag. Recently my bank manager presented me with its promotion: a reusable shopping bag complete with logo and environmental picture designed by a student.

Can green moms still do more? Of course! Why be “normal” when you can challenge yourself to change habits? When we notice all those small plastic bags on rolls available on the bulk and produce aisles, we realize there is more to be done on this front.

It’s easy to reuse the sturdier mesh onion bags or sew up a few cloth bags from fabric scraps. Since loose fruits and Plastic bag alternativevegetables are sold by weight, it is wise to look for the lightest material on hand. Loop the top for a drawstring or attach a ribbon for use as a tie.

For family gifts, my daughter, being more stylish than I, sewed small bags using colorful mushroom, tomato and carrot fabric materials. Loosely knit and crocheted bags are not only light but also allow the cashier to easily see their contents. They make a great church bazaar craft and could do well in gift stores. Think of the statement they make to those who glance at your shopping cart.

When visiting my local bulk store for nuts, raisins and such, I prefer to take empty jars. The store owner weighs each jar first (most now have the weight marked on them), then I proceed down the aisles to fill each one. I evenglass jars for food receive a discount, as he saves the expense and storage of plastic bags. A bonus for him is my not having the will power to leave with an extra empty jar, thus the urge to fill it with something I hadn’t planned on buying! Once home, it is quicker to place the jars on shelves. They look neater in the cupboard, are easier to locate and are more convenient to use than little plastic bags that often are hard to untie when knotted.

The next time a cashier says, “Why not use these? They’re free,” explain a plastic bag’s life cycle, which includes the carbon emissions to transport them and their ultimate disposal.

Free?  Hmmm, I think not.

Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost series that are fun and factual. Visit www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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  1. I was once mistakenly stopped for shoplifting after I stuffed peanut jars into my wool toque. I was 7. I was never allowed to take a store bag when I was a kid and had to be creative if I didn’t bring one. Today, I put Trader Joe’s bananas in the hood of my jacket.

    • Ha ha ha Heather that’s funny:) I can see that being a problem in some stores. Here in Sweden some places they look at me strange when I use my homemade produce bags. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love the glass jar storage idea! I use it them now for grains & looseleaf tea etc. Mason jars work well as well as the variety of sizes from washed out glass spaghetti jars, jam jars, honey jars.

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