Thursday, May 14, 2009

A quick update to my post yesterday...our local Stop 'n Shop credits shoppers $.05 per reusable bag.

Another way you can save green by going green is to take your used printer and toner cartridges to Staples and get $3 per cartridge in Staples Rewards (you can recycle up to 10 cartridges per month).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Speaking of thoughtful living, I was at the Citizens Bank at Stop 'n Shop yesterday, and it was busy. So I had some time to stand and observe people checking out at the self-checkouts. I saw a woman and her daughter with perhaps 9 or 10 bags of groceries. They were very careful people and each paper bag was put inside a plastic bag. It's a very good way to bag because you don't have to worry about the paper bag breaking or the plastic bag being difficult to carry. I used to pack my groceries like that, although even 10 years ago I would recycle my bags. Stop 'n Shop had a program with the Nature Conservancy where they would donate $.05 for each bag that a customer returned. Sadly not very many people participated, so each time I brought back a bag I would have to explain to the checkout clerk about the program, and the clerk would have to find out the code for "I reused a bag" from their supervisor. I may have been the only person doing it, and I did it for 2 - 3 years. Eventually I knew what the code was and could tell the clerk how to enter it. At one point I called the Nature Conservancy and checked to make sure the program was still in effect, and they were getting their money.

So back to the woman with the 10 double-bags...if every person who came shopping did what she did, the use of plastic and paper bags would skyrocket. Fortunately, stores are trying to educate customers to do something different. At Whole Foods, if you bring your own bag the store credits you $.05 for each bag. At Trader Joe's, if you bring your own bags you can enter their weekly raffle for a $25 basket of groceries. I actually don't know what Stop 'n Shop does if you recycle bags these days. We have accumulated a good supply of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's plastic and cloth bags. Of course, we often forget them when we go shopping. Fortunately, our very environmentally-conscious daughter gave both my husband and I each an attractive cloth bag that folds up very small and closes with domes. I keep mine in my purse, and it has come to my rescue on more occasions than I can count. And I can use it in stores other than grocery stores. (Why do I need a big plastic bag from Target, if the bag in my purse will suffice?)

We need to weigh our convenience against the impact our behavior is having on the planet. In China, where the convenience of using plastic bags translated to up to 3 billion plastic bags a day, the government has banned stores from handing out free plastic bags and has also banned the sale of ultra-thin plastic bags. According to Yingling Liu at, "China's central government dealt this heavy blow to plastic bags out of concern for the environment and a desire for greater energy savings. People in China use up to 3 billion plastic bags daily and dispose of more than 3 million tons of them annually. Most of the carriers end up in unofficial dumping sites, landfills, or the environment. Urban dumping centers and open fields alongside railways and expressways are littered with the discarded bags, mostly whitish ultra-thin varieties. Such scenes have generated a special term in China: 'the white pollution.'"

What does the convenience really cost the planet? Let's think about it...meanwhile look around your house for bags that can be used for shopping and take them to the store with you.

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