...because we all have our motley moments!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Inconvenient Bag: It Ain't Easy Going Green

So I probably have about 12 of those reuseable shopping bags. Some say Walmart on them, some say Publix. I have storage issues in my home, so they get stowed on the back porch (our family entry and exit) where I can grab them and go.

Except, I keep forgetting to grab them. I go to the store and don't realize I've forgotten them until I'm in the checkout lane and the bagger asks me, "Paper or plastic, ma'am?"

Defeated voice: "Plastic, please." Crap.

Once I actually did remember to bring them in with me, but they were stowed underneath the cart - out of sight, out of mind. I felt like such an idiot when I loaded my trunk with plastic grocery bags and then had to lay my reuseables on top...argh!

And the times when I do remember to use them, I'm a bit embarrassed because my bags get mildewed out on the back porch from all the moisture in this sub-tropical air. I've washed them, but mildew just doesn't come out. So they look nasty. So I bought a few more.

But now I don't know what to do with the nasty mildewy ones, cause I certainly don't want to use them. And I can't throw them away...the Green Police might find out and arrest me.

Okay, I realize the "Green Police" are only in my head, but throwing away these bags is like a sin against the environment. I have guilt issues.

Then I read "An Inconvenient Bag" at the Wall Street Journal yesterday, which really did nothing to assuage my guilty conscience. The first line is a good example: "It's manufactured in China, shipped thousands of miles overseas, made with plastic and could take years to decompose." And further down, "Many of the cheap, reusable bags that retailers favor are produced in Chinese factories and made from nonwoven polypropylene, a form of plastic that requires about 28 times as much energy to produce as the plastic used in standard disposable bags and eight times as much as a paper sack."

The good news is, you can make up for this energy consumption during production if you consistently use your reuseable bags. They say if you use them once a week, 4 or 5 reuseable bags can replace 520 plastic disposables in a year.

The bad news is, you actually have to remember to take them with you and bring them all the way into the store...they can't help you if they're still in the trunk of your car when you reach the checkout.

Or the bottom of your loaded cart when you return to your car.


Rachel said...

I haven't made the change to reusable bags yet for this very reason--I'm lucky if I get out of the door and remember to take myself and my child to the store, much less the grocery bags! I have one "green bag" that I use like a tote bag for transporting my teaching materials, and that is as far as I have gone. Thanks for the info on how they are made! Very interesting...

Karly said...


I feel your pain. I also purchased several of these "Inconvenient bags" in an effort to go green. Then I started using the grocery delivery service, in an effort to conserve gas and my sanity. They bring all the food to my house, DOUBLE-BAGGED in the non-reusable plastic bags. Now I have bags coming out of my ears!! I haven't even used the "Inconvenient bags" once.

There is a landfill somewhere with my name on it.

Donna said...

The "Green Police" are definitely coming for you!

See, I really think there is just not ONE right way to be green. Your delivery service is awesome. It saves you time, it saves them the cost of a brick and mortar establishment with cashiers and all the niceties we expect when we walk into a grocery store. And they deliver the goods, more than likely using a system that helps them map the best route from one customer home to the next, thus saving gas. How great!
There is probably a pros and cons list for every "earth-saving" trend. Another that comes to mind is the cloth vs. disposable diaper debate. Both ways use energy and water, one in production, the other in the cleaning. I do feel pretty good about our choice to cloth diaper when we can. I think we're saving on fuel (those disposables have to be shipped) and we're keeping more diapers out of the landfill. The downside: I wash and then do a second rinse for each load. Granted, I use the smallest load setting, so the water use is less than a full load of laundry, but it's still a form of consumption of natural resources.
We do what we can! In the meantime, I will really try to remember those $#@! bags.

Anonymous said...


I'm also guilty of this. I can't tell you how many last minute trips to the trunk we've made after we've made it to the checkout line. I also made the mistake of buying the white Publix bags. What was I thinking? I don't want to see the dirt on the bag my food goes in. There are some things I'd rather not know.

Donna said...

I agree! I hardly ever use the light beige bags, for that very reason!

Maria said...

I haven't made the switch yet. Shoot me, but I really like the free ones that I can reuse as garbage bags, lunch bags, cleanup bags, etc... I guess that's my version of re-cycle for now.

Have you tried the cooler type bags? I like them especially in Florida because they keep my ice cream cold while I make another stop before I get home. I try to keep them in the car, forget to take them into the store, but at least I transfer them before I leave the parking lot.

Tara said...

I have 2 reusable bags I always forget them even when they are in the truck. I now use them to lug things around such as library books, school, returnables. And at the store I say paper please. Paper bags are now made of recycled paper and they have many uses. EX :Catch grease dripping from frying, trash, coloring on and to fill with out grown items to go to the consignment shop.