7 Cents Per Bag? I’m Not Buying It: What Is the World Coming To?

jennifer-pallian-146555Urban Dictionary says “Granola” is an adjective used to describe people who are environmentally aware with an organic and natural emphasis on living, as well as limit consumption of what he or she does consume so as to not waste resources.

I am not a super crunchy Nature’s Valley granola, more like a little more refined Quaker Oats granola. I care about and support small businesses and recycling, but I also make my big box runs on the regular. Sometimes you just need a big box of some stuff. I recycle the box. The point is, being socially conscious and progressive is so important these days in a world that cannot tolerate our consumption and waste forever. That movie where everyone was loaded up on those massive indestructible boats at the brink of the world’s collapse (2012 was the movie’s name), could be a “thing” in the future if we don’t change our collective ways. I probably won’t get a ticket to board that movie boat, or space ship, or indestructible vessel of sorts. I need to protect what we have on this earth here and now because it’s where my kids and grandkids will prayerfully live, unless that sweet chariot swings low and carries all of us home. Here are a couple of environmental facts that may help us all be a little crunchier.

  • Surprisingly, the amount of energy wasted by leaving the lights on or leaving your cell phone charger plugged up is small. Leaving the AC or heat on high when you are at work, wastes substantially more energy. If your thermostat is programmable, program it. You can set the temperature based on the time of day and save a lot of energy. PROGRAM IT.
  • Recycling is so important because landfills cannot take over the world. But especially in Chicago, all efforts can be futile if you try to recycle the wrong thing. Certain mistakes will lead to your recyclables being transferred to regular trash, and possibly extra fines on your bill. No bags can be recycled. Not trash bags, not chip bags, no BAGs. Other non-recyclables include styrofoam, greasy cardboard (tear off the greasy part and recycle the rest), and disposable coffee cups (I know right?).

So what about the BAGs? Well, here are some bag facts that could make you get those reusable bags you have collected from random events throughout the years and actually use them for groceries, rather than pay 7 cents in Chicago. The following information is from CitizensCampaign.org:

Globally, there is now more plastic in our oceans than plankton, with 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.

According to the EPA, between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. These bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but they remain in our landfills, oceans, parks and beaches for thousands of years. Both plastic and paper disposable bags are costly, environmentally damaging, and completely unnecessary. Problems with disposable bags include:

Wasting Natural Resources

It requires vast amounts of natural resources, water, and energy to manufacture and ship disposable bags. Plastic bags are made from fossil fuels, and it requires 2.2 billion pounds of fossil fuel and 3.9 billion gallons of fresh water to produce the 100 billion plastic bags the US consumes each year. The manufacturing of these bags produces a billion pounds of solid waste and 2.7 million tons of CO2 per year. Manufacturing and shipping paper bags require even more energy and water, and create more pollution, than plastic bags. In addition, producing the paper bags used in the U.S. each year requires 14 million trees.

Causing Localized Flooding

Plastic bags never fully break down, and often clog storm drains and damage infrastructure on their way to become ocean pollution. In 1998, plastic bag pollution in Bangledesh clogged storm drains and was the primary cause of severe floods that submerged 2/3 of the country.

Negatively Impacting on Wildlife and Waterways

The mass consumption of plastic products has created a plastic wasteland in our oceans. Globally, there is now more plastic in our oceans than plankton, with 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean. Marine and avian are choked and strangled by discarded bags, and are killed by consuming partially broken-down plastic pieces. This plastic pollution negatively impacts 267 species of marine life.2013-02-10_11-37-36_939

Increasing Costs to Consumers and Taxpayers

Though plastic and paper bags are given out for free at check-out counters, U.S. retailers spend $4 billion per year on disposable bags, and that cost is passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Once bags are consumed, they are also expensive to clean up and dispose of. For example, New York City spends $10 million disposing of plastic bags.

Reusable is best, but what about Paper vs Plastic? According to the Film and Bag Federation, a trade group within the Society of the Plastics Industry based in Washington, D.C., the right choice between paper or plastic bags is clearly plastic. Compared to paper grocery bags, plastic grocery bags consume 40 percent less energy, generate 80 percent less solid waste, produce 70 percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and release up to 94 percent fewer waterborne wastes, according to the federation. You are not doing anyone any favors by choosing paper instead of bringing your tote.

What is the point? The point is that if we recycle, bring reusable bags to the grocery store, pack our kids lunches in reusable containers instead of sandwich bags, turn off stereos, and program thermostats, this world may last long enough for our great-grandkids to see it. Using a reusable coffee cup once a day will save 5 trees over 10 years. Some plastic bags can be recycled at grocery stores if your “bag drawer” is full. Given then choice of paper vs plastic, choose reusable. A little effort collectively can go a long way for this earth that, as far as we know, we only have one of.

Chicago Recycling Rules

Energy Use Facts

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Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald is a board certified OBGYN. She began practicing medicine in 2007 and now uses her extensive knowledge and growing following to increase health awareness in a fun and viral way. She is the founder of The Gyneco-blogic and an author of numerous books for adult and childhood health education and social growth. For more, check me, I mean her out at dreverywoman.com
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