Green Tip – Bring Your Own Bag

by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When you go shopping make it a priority to bring your own bag!Bring Your Own Bag

Anytime you plan to make a purchase, bring your own bag.

  • Grocery store
  • To the mall
  • To the farmers market

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re at the checkout counter and they ask “paper or plastic.”

PLASTIC BAGS: plastic bags don’t biodegrade – that’s the process of breaking down completely into organic material which is then assimilated back into the soil. Most plastic will photo-degrade. This means, over time and when exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight, the plastic material’s chemical “chain” starts to break down resulting in microscopic particles that mix in with the soil. How long that process takes is not clear.

  • Every single piece of plastic ever manufactured is still on the planet.
  • It is in use, intact in landfills, as windblown litter, and also contaminating global river systems and oceans.
  • There is an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic in each square mile of ocean. Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • Each reusable bag used has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime.

Introduced just over 30 years ago in 1977, the ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that society’s consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.

  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually.
  • An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident, per year.
  • Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.
  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
  • There are over 3,300 deaths of children each year in the US alone who die from asphyxiation from plastic bags.
  • The simple act of saying NO to plastic bags is something everyone can do.

PAPER BAGS: The production of a paper bag consumes 1 gallon of water (PER BAG) – which equals 50 times that of plastic bags.

A lot of resources are used to make the paper:

  • Trees
  • Chemicals
  • Electricity
  • Fossil fuels

Add to that the chemicals, electricity, and fossil fuels used in the shipment of this raw material and in the production and shipment of a finished paper bag.

Wendy’s web pick of the week:

Fake Plastic Fish

Fake Plastic Fish has wonderful tips for living with less plastic.

I had the honor of interviewing the founder, Beth Terry, and she is an amazing woman who is on a mission to educate the world about the evils of plastic.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at

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  1. graceonline’s avatar

    Superb reminder to us all. I’ve been caught out twice this week without my customary Chico bag hanging off my zipper. Rather than running home three blocks to get the reusable, I opted for paper. It’s easy sometimes to feel like a zealot who overdoes it, until I see the stats again and remember why carrying cloth bags is so important. Thank you!

  2. Alison Kerr’s avatar

    It’s hard to believe that I’m still working on this one. It got a whole lot easier after I reached bag saturation point – so many reusable bags that I see one every time I turn around and they are littered all over my car!

    Unfortunately I need to get some plastic and paper bags from the store sometimes, not because I forget reusable bags, but because I need them as follows. Paper for recycling in my neighborhood needs to be put out either in a cardboard box or in a paper bag. Sometimes I need a paper bag to be able to recycle. I use the plastic bags as small kitchen trash bags (about one per week). The ones from the store use less resources than the ones I’d have to buy. In Ireland when they banned plastic grocery sacks it worsened the plastic situation as people had to buy kitchen bags instead.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish’s avatar

    Wendy, thank you for choosing Fake Plastic Fish as your web site of the week!

    I just wanted to jump in and respond to Alison’s comment above. I hear the argument for using plastic grocery bags as trash bags, and we used to do it all the time. But really, this dilemma is an argument for composting programs. Since we compost all our food waste, we don’t need trash can liners at all. I actually wrote a blog post about garbage liners and how we don’t use them:

  4. ConservingNow’s avatar

    At ConservingNow, we hear from our readers that they totally support the concept of reusable bags but frequently forget them, hence the accumulation of so many bags in their homes or cars. We have come up with a very helpful reminder system: a FREE car window static cling that accomplishes two things – 1) it helps you remember to bring your bag into the store for every shopping trip (it is the last thing you see when you leave the car) and 2) it demonstrates to the world your commitment to a sustainable environment. Go to to get yours today!!

    Together we can make a difference….


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