Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Further Thoughts on Conservation  1

Posted on January 10th, 2009. About Conservation.

I will continue my list here regarding action items for better conservation. Please refer to this post for the initial conception of this series.

  • Reusable bags: When Evan and I moved to Seattle, as we were packing up the old house in the Carolinas, we had, literally, hundreds of plastic grocery bags stuffed into a “bag holder.” It had honestly never occurred to me to: A) reuse any of these hundreds of bags at the grocery store, or B) obtain a cloth, reusable bag for shopping. We are a society of consumption and disposal, and until recently most did not give much thought to what happened to non-biodegradable waste. About a year-plus ago, we purchased ($0.99/each) “green bags.” It started with two, and then of course we forgot them the next time we shopped because we were not used to bringing our own bags to the store. Eventually, we ended up with six of them, and over 2008 it is a habit to bring two bags with us to the store. It’s finally second nature. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that Americans use approximately 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. Some estimates suggest an energy requirement of 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million bags. In addition, while some places are able to recycle them (it is possible, but difficult to do so because of the surface filmy texture), less than 20% actually get recycled, while the rest end up in landfills. Some would argue that paper bags do not carry these problems, but the deforestation would be a concern here. For more information, this is an interesting site, which cites helpful numbers; and here is an article about San Francisco’s efforts to ban plastic bags. Seattle made an attempt recently to begin taxing plastic bags, but some thought it was an undue financial burden on lower-income folks. I suppose I don’t think $0.99/bag for a few bags is a huge expense or burden. The bags we purchased a year ago are still in good shape. If it really is such a hardship, perhaps the city could provide them with their first two bags, and from there out the tax applies.
    • Here’s another thought: for those already bringing their reusable bags to the grocery store, why not bring them to the mall as well?
  • Use reusable coffee cups: Along the same lines, why not cut back on waste in this way too? I’ve read arguments over whether the amount of energy required to make a reusable cup really offsets the energy that goes into a paper of foam cup. I suppose my concern is cutting down on the amount of waste. Plus, it keeps those disposable plastic lids from accumulating so quickly in our landfills. Another benefit: Starbucks will give you a $0.10 “cup discount” for using your own cup.
  • Try cloth napkins: Keeping with the theme of cutting down on waste, not to mention cutting back on tree usage, try giving cloth napkins a go. Reusable, and usually not dirty enough to warrant washing them more than once each week (for those about to protest – how many times do you use a towel before washing it?). I found this blog post interesting in pondering which napkin is the correct one.
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