Monday, September 29, 2008

Reusable bags aren't really all that "green"

I'm really not surprised to hear that those hipster-trendy reusable shopping bags are not actually that "green". The WSJ article here explains more about why.
"If you don't reuse them, you're actually worse off by taking one of them," says Bob Lilienfeld, author of the Use Less Stuff Report, an online newsletter about waste prevention. And because many of the bags are made from heavier material, they're also likely to sit longer in landfills than their thinner, disposable cousins, according to Ned Thomas, who heads the department of material science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What about you, readers? Do you use those reusable bags or do you reuse your current bags? My thing is, I reuse all of my plastic grocery bags again in my house for trash bags and for scooping out cat litter. I reuse the paper bags for recycling because they won't let you put recyclables out in plastic bags and won't give large apt buildings reusable plastic bins (nor will a huge bin fit in my tiny Fan kitchen). Most of the cloth or remade totes are not large enough to hold what a normal bag would anyway, and I'd need several of them for a large grocery trip.


anOCgirl said...

my partner and i are trying to be more green, but we're not there yet. we use our grocery plastic bags as kitty litter trash bags and liners. i have bought some of those 'trendy' reusable bags for short trips to target or cvs, where i don't expect to buy too much and the stuff will fit in the bag. also, i take them to the pet store because treat and catnip easily fit into those bags. i also use them to put my lunch or to take my gym clothes to work. i don't know if any of those uses are considered 'green' or not. but we're trying!

Terra said...

I've got three reusable bags, but I wouldn't necessarily call them the trendy kind. I got two of them from Kroger and one of them from Whole Foods and I use them CONSTANTLY. They're big enough that I can fit almost a full two weeks worth of groceries in them and not have to worry about plastic or paper bags breaking. When I do get plastic bags from other stores, which I try not to do, I use them for dog pooh pick-up or for trash can bags in the bathroom and whatever else I can think of to do with them. And, like you said, I put my recycling in paper bags as well.

Miles said...

Wow, it's a shame that you label these reusable bags as "hipster-trendy" all within your first sentence. When in reality they are helping out waste reduction in more ways than one.

If one is to purchase a well-made bag, made of heavier materials, for the purpose of: REUSING IT, because it last 10,000 times longer than a standard plastic bag, how is this a bad thing?

I don't want to seem like I am attacking the poster here, but I consider my self extremely environmentally conscious. At age 23, I can honestly say that I have not taken a new plastic bag from any retailer or merchant in over a year. This means anywhere from Kroger to Target. To be exact, one year, and almost 2 months.

This might be seen as kind of crazy, but I would much rather cary the two or three things that I buy with my hands and 10 fingers than waste a sheet of plastic.

I have a cat, so for scooping the kitty litter out, I always grab a handful of used plastic bags from the plastic bag recycle bin at Ellwood Thompsons.

I also would never take a paper bag and use it for recycling when I can get a FREE recycle bin from the city. This aspect of recycling with the paper bags kinda puzzles me. Why take the paper bags in the first place if you are concerned about the environment when you can get reusable bags. 2nd, why throw the paper bags away when you could use them for months at a time again at the grocery store. Get a FREE recycle bin from the city and stop taking paper bags period. I live in the Fan, but keep my recycle bin outside where there is room.

You say that most of the canvas or totes are not large enough to cary what a normal bag would, or what you purchase? You'd need several of them for a large grocery trip? Well stop being lazy and go buy or find a few more. They are 99 cents at whole foods and right over a buck at Ellwoods, Ukrops, and Kroger.

So instead of getting a few more reusable bags, you'll just settle for plastic and let some horribly researched article on reusable totes make you feel better.

All that article is saying is how many people who have reusable bags don't use them. Well here is an easy fix to that problem. Use them. That's why you got them in the first place.

Generation Next said...

I appreciate your comment, but I think it is unnecessary to attack me personally. I was only sourcing one article and nowhere did I say I was an expert on the greenness of those bags. I thought my tone was a tad lighthearted. I thought the most interesting point of the article was that for those who don't actually use those remade bags more than once or twice (obviously you do, so you aren't included in that), it isn't better. I used the word hipster-trendy to illustrate those who use the bags just for show and not for any larger purpose.

If you had read my post, you'd see that I said that the city won't give large apt bldgs like mine the free recycling bins.

My point was also that "reusable" doesn't just mean using a cloth tote--we reuse lots of things everyday, like the bags for cat litter and recycling. I was interested to see what other ways readers reuse.

Chris said...

Ironic but it's the people that are subverting the idea - not the reusable bags.

A few reusable bags I have haven't lasted so long, but I have one good sized one that I use a lot but not always. I usually eventually get around to separating bags I do end up getting and bringing them back to the stores (most have bins for returning bags - I wonder how efficient that is), but we use a few of them for bathroom trash bins and cat/hamster litter.

All our recycling go in usually a really large plastic bag that gets reused (until it breaks) - and I've all but given up on using one of those recycling bins because there's not enough room. Instead I just use one of my trash cans (too much paper/bottles/cans to fit every 2 weeks).