The “green” apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Friday I had a proud moment.  Our daughter “showed her green side”.

I was at her school for a full-day event to celebrate her school’s students reading two million minutes this year!  (Bravo!)  Part of the day’s activities was a book fair and so, naturally, our daughter found plenty of “Mom, can I have these” items.

As we stood in line and she noticed the kids before her having their purchases placed in plastic bags she said “Mom, do you think I can tell them I don’t want a plastic bag and I’ll just carry my books insteearth-saksad?” (insert beaming, proud smile here!) I told her “Absolutely!”, but she was shot down at checkout when they told her that all purchases needed to be in bags so they knew that the books were paid for.  Happily, I can tell you that she did NOT like that idea.

Not until this moment did I realize that I actually need to arm my seven-year old with her own reusable bag.  I also realized that the solution was sitting back in my car in my own purse.  I have a great compact reusable bag from Earth SAKS that folds down into its own little case and would be perfect to send with her to school and keep in her book bag.

This was another one of my “a-ha moments.”  I’ve been so busy worrying about my own reusable bags that I’ve completely overlooked the fact that our kids need them too, and I have left them unarmed for far too long.

Needless to say, the Earth SAKS bag has taken up new residency with our daughter.  The school year may be nearly over, but all the ways she’ll soon put it to use are only beginning!

Welcome to Plastic Island: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The other day I talked about my frustration over seeing an excessive amount of ‘plastic bag trash’ littering one of our favorite Cleveland lakeside parks.

I feel I would be remiss without mentioning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  I was honestly surprised by how many of my friends had not heard of it before, but it’s something I cannot stop thinking about.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is essentially seven million tons of floating plastic waste, roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire US).  It swirls through the ocean between the continental US and Japan, and contains everything from plastic bags to Legos to footballs.  One fifth is believed to come from trash dumped from ships and oil rigs, and the rest comes from land and all of the plastics we discard on a daily basis.

Take a look, and see if you can keep from feeling just a little bit unsettled.

And if you want to know more detail…

The problem is this… the plastics break down into small pieces of debris, pollute the ocean and beaches, disturb the eco-system and literally become food for marine life, because they can’t distinguish between what is “real” food and what is our trash.  In fact, the amount of plastic trash in this area is six times greater than the amount of plankton (this area’s most abundant food source).  This “mistake” costs them their life.  And think about what happens if you consume a fish whose diet consisted primarily of plastics… it makes me shudder.

The next time you think of tossing away some plastics… stop… and really think”.

(Additional post:  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: words from its “founder”)

(Additional post:  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch… worse than expected?)

This post was also re-published, with permission, at The Reef Tank.

A fabulous “Brownies” weekend & a plastic bag nightmare…

girl-scoutsThis past weekend Mom Goes Green got back to nature… as a chaperon of the Girl Scout Brownies camping weekend!

We were good citizens of the planet by walking delicately on developed paths, talking about the importance of nature and including recycling in our weekend.  It’s so sweet to see how those little girls embrace the idea of taking care of Mother Nature and respecting the earth.

When we returned from camp, it was another beautiful day and (although exhausted!) we wanted to enjoy what remained of the weekend, so we headed to a park, on the lake, near downtown Cleveland.  The lake was whipping up some fabulous winds but no one seemed to mind.  What I DID mind was an astonishing collection of plastic bags that were matted to hundreds of feet of chaiplastic-bag-trashn link fence that surrounds a nearby marina.  I wish I had a camera with me so I could show you this amazing eyesore, but I assure you, it was disturbing.

I don’t think this is so much of a commentary on Cleveland as it is of our overuse and reliance upon these disastrous plastic bags!  I wish I could have picked every single one of them out of the fence and tossed them back at the litterbugs that allowed them to become trash.  I also worried about them eventually blowing into the lake. If I had more time, I would have collected them, but dusk was coming and I had sleepy kids and no gloves!  I just wonder when adults are going to realize what our sweet, little Brownies already understand.

I recently learned about Ireland’s “charge” for plastic bags.  If you don’t bring your own reusable, you will pay 33 cents for every single plastic bag you leave with.  FABULOUS idea!  As a result, the use of plastic bags has dropped 94%.  I applaud you, Ireland!  San Francisco has also banned plastic bags, so why can’t we make that happen everywhere?  I know there will be plastic bag advocates who will come up with some reason for this being un-American, but I will always disagree.  A reusable bag can be purchased for 99 cents, and the resources they will save and the pollution they will prevent is immense.  (Let’s remember, there are 4 to 5 TRILLION plastic bags distributed worldwide each year and the negative effects are immeasurable!)

payless-bagI also want to mention a wonderful new program from Payless ShoeSource, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy.  Buy this adorable reusable bag for $1.99 and $1 will go to their “Plant a Billion Trees” Campaign, so a tree can be planted in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest (the most endangered rainforest in the world). With this project everyone wins, so buy some!

I already own about 15 reusable bags, but I don’t think I can pass this one up.  Mom Goes Green is a bona fide REUSABLE BAG junky and I will never let a plastic bag become fence decoration!

Read my reusables… NO PLASTIC!

I am adamant, ADAMANT(!), that no matter where I shop, I bring my reusable bags.  I never, EVER accept plastic, no matter the circumstance.

plastic_bagsIn fact, when our daughter recently had over a hundred boxes of Girl Scout cookies to distribute, I had to find something to put them in for handing them out to our buyers!  Part of me wanted to go out and buy reusables to distribute with them, and hey… that probably would have been a great idea!

But what also “gets me” is that I actually WAS able to find plastic bags to use for the cookies, because I had a stash of them.  Gasp!… a confession.  However, I am pleading ignorance, or a lack of paying attention for having them.  I’ve found that if I’m not paying close attention at the grocery store, a cashier will inevitably find something in my purchase that they deem “plastic bag necessary”.  Greeting cards, ice cream, my organic chicken… every other week it seems, as I unload the loot, a blue plastic bag ends up staring me in the face and laughing, mocking me and non-verbally (of course!) saying “and you thought you could get rid of me!”  I want to yell back “I TRIED!”no-plastic-bags

I have come to realize that when I hand over my reusables I still need to say “no plastic, for anything, AT ALL… thank you.”  If they ask what I would like them to do with my greeting cards, I point out the space between two boxes.  If they ask about the ice cream, I assure them it won’t melt before I get home.  If they ask about my chicken, I direct them to my reusable with the red tag… if it leaks, I’ll wash it.  That’s what it’s for.

I guess our reusables DON’T speak for themselves.  And if we miss the opportunity to tell them “No. Plastic is NOT necessary, ever” they may never know.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” —  Martin Luther King Jr.

I am fully aware that no, he wasn’t talking about reusable bags(!) but I DO believe that his point was that “our voices really do make a difference.”  Speak up… there is no “matter” too small.

A plastic bag in the hand is better than one in the trash.

Today, like so many of you, I had an errand to run.  It was a 5 minute trip into the drugstore for a couple items and (perish the thought!) I DIDN’T take my reusable bags in with me.

Before you start booing me, it was simply because I was buying a few small items and I knew I could just carry them out by hand.  Simple as that, right?  Well, not so quickly.

As the cashier started scanning my items, I got distracted by my ringing cell phone and didn’t get to tell her “no bag, please.”  When I came back to earth, I realized that she had put everything in a plastic bag that she placed on the counter top.  When I said “oh, I’m sorry.  A bag isn’t necessary.  I can carry them out”  she took them out of the bag, handed them to me and (deep breath)…threw the bag in the trash.  I…was…amazed.

I quickly told her that she didn’t need to throw it away and her rebuttal was that it was already “used” and too hard to put back on the rack.  In an instant my whole purpose was defeated.  The bag I chose NOT to take was sitting in the trash can.

So, I asked her for the bag. She looked at me blankly, handed me the bag and, I’m fairly certain, she thought I was insane.

At least I knew I could take the bag to be recycled.  But what a waste.  It all goes back to my frustration with lack of store policy and training that teaches cashiers to be responsible. And for the love of Mother Earth, I nearly pass out when I see someone double- or tripled-bagging with plastic!

No matter how many glares and stares I get from cashiers, I won’t be responsible for helping to create plastic bag trash.  Just look at what it creates.  These are sad visuals I hope no one forgets the next time they have that choice.