Paper vs Plastic? Or Cotton vs Canvas?

By in Featured Stories, Green Talk on 18 April 2008

It’s now a trend: the reusable grocery bag. I am beginning to see grocery stores selling canvas bags for $1 a piece. I fathom that those prices will increase when (or if the “pay a quarter per plastic bag” law passes).

WholeFoods has already taken a step towards this “banning plastic at the checkout” concept. By Earth Day, April 22, 2008 their 270 U.S., Canadian, and British based stores will be officially asking their customers “What type of reusable bag do you have today?” instead of “Paper or plastic?”

But before many of us jump on the bandwagon, why not look at a few statistics on plastic first? According to the American Chemistry Council:

  1. 2,000 plasic bags weigh 30 pounds vs 2,000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds. Therefore, plastic bags take up less landfill.
  2. Delivery of paper bags vs plastic bags: seven trucks vs only truck to deliver the same amount of plastic bags. This means less energy and less emissions into the environment.
  3. The manufacture of paper bags uses 70% more air emissions than plastic bags.
  4. Plastic bags generate 80% less waste than paper bags.
  5. 815 Million pounds of plastic and film was recycled in 2006 – an increase of 24% from 2005.

So what’s all this hype on banning plastic bags in grocery stores about? Even retailers such as Walmart offer plastic bag collection bins at the front of the store. The problem is, we as a society in general do not recycle enough. Don’t you see all those poor beat up plastic bags hanging from the tree branches? No, they are budding flowers. In the US alone, approximately 100 Billion bags are used per year, of which most ends up sitting in our landfills for 1,000 years.

And I haven’t even said my prayers for all those innocent marine animals that choked and died from eating pieces of plastic. You would think that they would know the difference between jellyfish and plastic but apparently, they don’t.

So what’s the catch-all solution? BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag (Sorry party animals. In this case, the acronym does not mean bring your own beer).

If you want to jump on the BYOB bandwagon, and don’t want to spend a lot of money on buying one or want to bring a trendy looking one, here are some places where you can find great patterns on creating your own reusable shopping bags. But you may need to know how to sew, knit or crochet. – Keep a wallet-sized fold-up shopping bag with you at all times.
Creative Kismet – Shows you how to turn your old pillowcases into a cute shopping bag. – Download easy to follow instruction on how to sew your own cloth bag. – A knitted grocery bag for a cottony shopping experience.

Bring Your Own Bag. What an excellent concept.

Enjoyed reading this article? Click here for other Earth Friendly articles.

3 Comments For This Post

  1. Nadine says:

    BYOB indeed. Here in Luxembourg (Europe) they made it practically mandatory: the government gave each household one reusable bag, and after that, any reusable bag is 80c or a non-reusable 3c (of course they’re a lot smaller). This is in supermarkets, smaller shops don’t have to charge for the plastic bags, which now are also distributed by the government and have an embarrassing message on them (sth like ‘yes, I forgot my bag’).

    My mother (and I) were using the reusables before anyhow, but the government campaign worked: the number of people using the reusables has quadrupled. The richest nation in the world is extremely stingy and does not like paying 3c for something they used to get for free. Now non-reusables are the exception, it’s typically someone going in for a few items. But anyone doing the weekly shop has the reusables with them.

    Well done government (for once)…

  2. juicyfruit says:

    I love the “yes, I forgot my bag” idea. I think those organic/natural stores such as Whole Foods should implement this idea since folks that go to these stores tend to be more Earth friendly.

    I am definitely seeing a lot more canvas bags for sale, even at our biggest wholesale stores such as Costco. It’s great.

    The thing that I don’t understand about some major corporations, who can probably afford to pay for a few recycling bins to be strategically placed through out the facility, is that they won’t allow some of the cleaning crew keep the recyclables. See my blog:

    We celebrate Earth day, but they spend lots of money on printing out flyers and buying little knick knacks as gifts to their employees. Why not spend that money on recycling bins so we can put our soda cans and bottles in there? I just don’t get it.

  3. Cotton Bags says:

    eco friendly cotton bags. save your nature and enviroments.


Low Cost Green Halloween Costume Ideas

When you’re searching for green costume ideas for Halloween, there are a couple of different approaches you can take.  You can choose a green, or earth friendly theme.  Or you can choose organic or eco-friendly materials to make your costume from.  Here are a few ideas from each category. Some of the most obvious green themes […]

Go Green Without Breaking Your Piggy Bank

What are some of the ways in which you can go “greener” without breaking your budget? Here are a few suggestions. […]

4 Tips On How You Can Get Your Kids To Go Green

The attitude of kids towards the environment is largely influenced by how they are taught to value nature’s diminishing resources. In getting them to go green, you really don’t have to discuss greenhouse gases and climate change by the book because it will never get them genuinely interested. Here are a few tips on how […]

How to Enjoy Earth Hour With Your Family

Earth Hour is an international awareness campaign advocated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Households and businesses are encouraged to turn their lights off for one hour – the Earth Hour – to raise awareness and show support towards combating global climate change. The Earth Hour concept started in Australia in 2007, and […]

Finding Cool Back-to-School Clothing on a Budget

Shopping for school clothes can get expensive quickly; that is, unless you know where to shop for bargains. Children, especially teens, are into brand-name clothing that can be quite pricey. Shopping at outlet stores can ease up on your budget without sacrificing your teen’s wants. There is also the opportunity to make your children’s clothing if […]

Advertise Here