Living without or trying to use less plastic is an admirable goal. You can reduce the need for single use plastic bags and it’s a great effort for the planet. Few simple steps how to ditch plastic in your life at the grocery store!
A few years ago we had been using brown paper bags at the store. Then we reused it over and over again for awhile. We collected our recyclable paper materials in it and finally recycled them when they got tattered. No matter it’s a better solution, because you can compost it compared to plastic bags. Enormous amount of energy is used to produce it.
After realising the cost of our shopping habits a real shift happened in our lives. We decided to make conscious purchases and go to the store with our reusable bags. Let me explain you why it’s a great attribute on your journey to the grocery store.
Choking on Plastic
Plastic bags are known to kill over a million birds and hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales, seals, and other marine mammals every year. They are often mistakenly ingested by animals, clogging their intestines, which results in a very painful death by starvation. Other animals or birds become entangled in plastic bags and drown or can’t fly as a result.
Plastic bags are made of petroleum-based polyethylene – a nonrenewable resource that creates more greenhouse gases.
Less than 1% of plastic shopping bags are recycled and they take a thousand years to decompose in a landfill. As polyethylene breaks down, toxic substances leach into the soil and enter the food chain.
So any of our small changes can make a difference in a big picture.
Reducing your footprint and becoming a conscious buyer is a lifestyle change. It requires a certain system to make sustainable living easy if not effortless. Thus after months of learning from our own mistakes we made the ultimate list how to adopt this new habit.
Here are some tips to make it easier for you to use reusable bags:
- Keep the bags in the car, not in the house! There were many times when we forgot to take our bags to the store. That’s when we took the decision to keep half of them in the car. Keeping them in the car helped us many times as you never know when you might need to make a quick run to the store. Although you not always plan all your groceries and go to the store from home, right?
- Find bags you love. If you like the function and fashion of something, you’re more likely to use it.
- Have bags that are for produce and other bags for ‘clean’ items like clothes, etc. Different colors or designs on each bag helps with telling which bag is for what purpose. We have mesh and extra light bags for food stores and heavier ones to pack other items. It’s extra helpful if you go on a picnic or go to the beach and you want to keep all those small items in one place. Believe me, after a while you will love your reusable bags!
- Don’t forget to wash your bags. You should wash the bags regularly. Reusable bags can get nasty bacteria in them after only a few trips to the store, so make sure to wash them in a mild detergent every week or two. We use natural soap nuts to do their job and I wash the rest of our things with it. Sometimes your bags can get really dirty when you buy carrots or other roots veggies then your bags will be all covered with mud. In this case, it’s convenient to have separate bags only for these veggies.
- Designate bags for other uses as well. We collect herbs every summer. So we use our bags instead of plastic ones. It’s better, because our bags are breathable and herb don’t get ‘sweaty’. It also handy to put your toiletries into the mesh bag if you don’t have a special bag for this purpose. Fink of other alternatives where you could use it!
After all these reasons do you still fink you need a bag from the store? Please don’t use the excuse to take the bags given out at the store. The plastic bags at the store are made from petroleum that takes centuries to degrade and the paper ones are made from trees that take decades to grow.
Another great thing we noticed when we made this change: carrying groceries to the car has never been easier, because the bag isn’t going to break. And we don’t need to go back and forth since more can fit in a reusable bag than it can in a plastic one.
Other Strategies to Avoid Plastic / Plastic Free Shopping
There are more clever facts how you can avoid plastic when you buy food. Firstly, buy at local markets and straight from farmers. We have learnt that you not only have a fresher product and avoid plastic packaged food, but also pay less.
Secondly, we found places where can buy fruits and veggies from distributors. All products are unpacked there and you will definitely get it in lower cost.
Thirdly, we started to buy goods in larger ‘family size’ containers, which require less packaging than small, ‘single serving’ packages. For this we have empty glass containers ready at home to fill it up and stack our pantry.
More Ugly Facts
In case you’re not convinced yet that plastic bags are a disaster for our environment, here are more facts:
- Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide.
- About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
- Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
- One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
- Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface
- Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
- Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
These facts are disgusting and that’s not all of them! The good thing is we can change it: with the strategies above for living and shopping consciously in plastic free ways with reusable bags.
You should also read our post ‘Sustainable Travel: How to Leave Less Waste guide’ where we explained what you need to take on a trip to use less plastic.
All words by Eisve Treciakauskaite and all images by Justinas Lekavicius, unless otherwise noted.