Bacteria and your reusable bags…

Did I just sense some of you cringing?  Yes, I’ll admit… the latest news reports had me a little squeamish too, but let’s keep it in perspective and DO NOT let ourselves be led to think that reusable bags aren’t the right choice (it still IS absolutely the right choice!).

If you haven’t heard the buzz:  “A study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California found that most people who bring their own bags to the grocery store don’t wash or clean them regularly – and the researchers also discovered a large number of bacteria present in the reusable bags.”  Take a look at the study but you can also read more about the topic at Earth 911.

Admittedly, I’m not a frequent-reusable-bag-washer either. But I do have a fairly simple plan for combatting these cooties!  First of all, I have a set of bags dedicated to grocery shopping.  I tied a red ribbon on the handle of the bag meant for only meat products.  On the handle of the produce-dedicated bag, you guested it… a green ribbon.  It’s easy to just let the cashier know where you need your items placed (sure, sometimes they aren’t thrilled, but oh well!).

I have a whole second set of bags especially for all of my non-grocery purchases.  That absolutely eliminates the concern since there isn’t anything that goes inside to cause the contamination.

If this still leaves you a bit unsettled, well, there’s another simple way to ease your mind… (hold onto your hats!)… wash… your… bags. 🙂 

And in all reality, even the EPA admits that most of the bacteria doesn’t even pose a health threat.  Afterall, there’s more bacteria on the handle of the gas pump you just used to fill-up your car!

So, my green friends, do NOT be deterred.  Reusable bags are, and always will be, the way to go. (The harm plastic bags create is much greater!)  Just periodically let them go for a little swim in your washing machine and, I promise you, all will be well.

Reuse, recycle or…. just GIVE IT BACK!

hangrzHow often are you given something you want to give back or never even asked for? (Well, I can think of about a dozen things when I think back to my wedding gifts.  Of course, my thoughts then were something like “my god, WHAT were they thinking!” ) But now I’m thinking more about the things that come our way from purchases or services.

Think about wire hangers from the dry cleaner, packing peanuts from shipments we receive, plastic bags that always seem to slip by us when we aren’t paying attention and burned out CFLs.

Well, they don’t need to become needless trash. Consider this the next time one of these things slip your way:

  • Wire hangers – (hopefully you’re using an eco-friendly dry cleaner!… but) take them BACK to your dry cleaner the next time you make a drop-off.  Most will accept them and reuse them.
  • Packing peanuts – even if they didn’t come from a UPS shipment, they will accept them with a smile and reuse them too.  Check here to find a location.packn peanutz
  • Plastic bags – if I’m not vigilant and paying attention, a cashier always seems to manage to slip one in on me.  Save them at home and many stores have collection bins at their entrance if your curbside recycling does not accept them.  And don’t forget about all of those “other bags” too (like bread bags, plastic wrappers, etc.)
  • CFLs – so many people get hung up on the mercury content in CFLs, but keep in mind that most still contain only enough mercury to fit on the head of a pin and each new generation of CFLs has even less.  However, when they finally do burn out, remember to dispose of them properly at your local Home Depot through their CFL Recycling Program.  They’ll take them off your hands for proper disposal, free of charge.

Now, as for those hideous items I received for wedding gifts, well those were “given” too… in the way of donation. They do say “one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure!”

Plastic bags + animals = heartbreak

Some of the first things everyone says to do in a “mission to go green” is to switch to CFLs, or eat organic, or switch all of your products to eco-friendly formulas, or buy a reusable water bottle. To these things I say: yes, yes, yes and yes.

But I STILL cannot get over how many of us haven’t switched to reusable bagsI… hate… plastic… bags. And when it’s obvious that you can buy a reusable bag just about anywhere (for 99 cents, I might add), I wonder why so many of us hesitate to use them.

I ran across some images that, although they show only a portion of the problem, to me this problem is heartbreaking.

Some you may have seen before, some may be new. But I think they speak for themselves…

plastic bag & sea turtle

plastic bag & bird

plastic & sea turtle

ottr w bag

(Sea otter mother & baby photo by photographer, Terry McCormac)

dolph w bg

(The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil is considered a wildlife sanctuary but today, even in this isolated archipelago, dolphins are victims of the bad habits of consumption. Photo and caption by João Vianna)

If you don’t already use them (and after seeing these images), would you please consider buying (and using) some reusable bags instead?

‘Tis the season to remember your reusables!

no plastic bagsAs I’ve spent the last week doing some major shopping for the holidays, I’ve armed myself with my own reusable bags at every stop and in every store.

But one thing has certainly gotten my attention… where are all of my “reusable bag comrades”?!?! I’m shocked that I sometimes look around and can’t find a single other soul toting their totes, yet I DO see a sea of plastic! It’s so disheartening. It’s no wonder statistics place the worldwide usage of plastic bags somewhere around one TRILLION annually!

Please, please… if you haven’t already done it, make a small investment in reusable bags and make them a part of every shopping trip you make, no matter how big or small.  I could go on and on about the disastrous effects of plastic bags, including the heartbreak of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but I think we all “know”… they’re simply bad news. And once you have them, REMEMBER THEM! That is the other half of the equation.  Buying them is not enough. They need to be USED! Come’on… you can do it!

Plastic bags are a serious topic, but sometimes serious topics also deserve a little levity too… are YOU stuck in a “Plastic State of Mind”???

It’s time to change the habit! Ban single-use bags made of plastic!

So… what happens to your “other” plastic bags?

If you’re like me, you never shop without first being armed with your own reusable bags I never take plastic bags… yes, I mean never… well, almost never!

There abrd bg plasticre times when we’re forced to take plastic bags… not the kind that hold our purchases, but the kind that hold the food and products we buy.  I’m talking about bread bags, the plastic wrappers on our toilet paper and paper towels, the bags holding packaged produce, and even the plastic bags around the newspaper on our doorstep (I wish our newspaper-guy would stop doing that on sunny days!).

So, what do YOU do with those bags? While most curbside recycling doesn’t take them (ours doesn’t either), they ARE recyclable… and you don’t need curbside recycling to make it happen.

Now here’s the answer… you may have found yourself ignoring the plastic bag collection containers in your local grocery store or major retailers.  You might also assume that they’re only for the bags that come from the store… well, surprise!  THAT is the answer!plst bg bin

You can actually collect all of these extra bags and wraps at home and deposit them in this receptacle.  Most are made of the same materials as the grocery or retail bags – either high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – so they can easily be added to this batch of recycle-bound bags!

The next time you have one of these bags or wrappers destine for the trash can, turn it into your collection bag…  stuff all the others inside and take them on a little trip to one of these bag bins.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly they accumulate and you’ll feel much better when they DON’T go into the trash!