Earth Day Tip #8: Paper or Plastic?

Ah, the big question everyone gets at the check-out counter: “Paper or plastic?” What’s a green-savvy consumer to do?

I did some research on paper versus plastic and found that there really isn’t a clear-cut answer. Although plastic is pretty horrible for the environment and doesn’t recycle easily, it doesn’t necessarily mean that paper is the better environmental choice. Paper bags are made from paper, which still comes from trees. Even paper bags made from recycled paper at one point came from trees. The process to turn trees or recycled paper into paper bags is long and riddled with chemicals, energy use and spent resources, as is producing and recycling plastic.

Environmentally, bringing your own reusable bags to the grocery store is the best option out there.

For those of you who can drive to your grocery store, just keep some reusable grocery bags in the trunk. Don’t forget to bring them into the store with you! For those living in the big city and no access to a car, you can use reusable bags that can be folded down and easily stored in your purse or backpack. I like Chico Bag for their ultra-portable and super cute designs, but there are plenty of good options out there, like the ones Cheryl, Kristin and Demetri are using.


**Extra green points:
Make your own recyclable bags! It’s so easy! Just take an old t-shirt, cut off the sleeves leaving the shoulder area intact, cut a small amount off around the neck to create a good-sized opening, turn it inside out before sealing off the bottom of the shirt, turn the shirt right-side out and voila! Your very own reusable bag! I’d also advise you to hem the edges to prevent fraying.

What if you forget your reusable bag the next time you buy groceries? It’s okay to take the paper or plastic offered by the store, just remember to use the paper bag again (here’s that other type of recycling we talked about) before throwing it out. They’re good for gift wrapping or dry waste around the house (like in your office). If you opt for plastic, tie it in a knot and recycle it. Lots of stores are now accepting plastic bags for recycling.

Just a note: As the green movement has picked up steam over the last few years, more and more grocery stores are opting to charge consumers for plastic bags or ban them all together. That’s extra encouragement for you to remember your reusable bag next time!

Read the full article on paper versus plastic.

© Connie Hum 2009

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