TIP: Bag the Bags!

Americans consume over 100 billion shopping bags each year. The production of these bags uses energy, most likely provided by fossil fuels, and puts significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The plastic bags never completely break down, creating problems for our landfills and oceans. But don’t think the paper bags are the answer… they take 4 times as much energy to make, and the paper production process releases almost twice the air pollution and 50 times as much water pollution as the production of plastic. Not to mention trees are cut down to produce them and we need trees to convert all that extra CO2.

Costco and some other stores have stopped offering bags altogether. They will gladly put your items into a clean, used cardboard box, and you can recycle it when you get home. Kudos to Costco for getting rid of bags. Hopefully other stores will follow their lead. There are currently two bills in the state legislature to curtail use of disposable bags – one that would charge people to use them, and another that bans them completely.

Every plastic bag you don’t use will keep about .1 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere and every paper bag you don’t use saves .3 pounds. On average, if you stop using disposable bags, you’ll keep about 6 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere every month! Now think how much we could save, if all or even just half the residents of Richmond would stop using disposable bags! Many stores will actually pay you to use your own bags, so it helps your wallet too. It’s clearly time to cut our addiction to disposable bags. Here are a few suggestions:

1) Reuse any plastic or paper bags you already have. You can also purchase sturdy reusable bags at most grocery stores, for very cheap (usually about $1). We’re told that the new Richmond Commons / Film Buzz (at the main intersection in Richmond) has some reusable shopping bags they’re giving away for free, so stop in there and grab a few before they’re gone!

It’s hard to remember to bring them with you, so why not put a bunch of bags into your car right now?

2) Go bagless. If you forget your bags, tell the cashier you don’t need one. You’d be surprised how much you can carry out in your hands (and don’t forget you have pockets too!)

3) If you bought a lot of stuff and forgot your reusable bags, take as few as possible. Tell them you don’t want “double bagging.” And you don’t need to put that gallon of milk into its own bag.

4) Recycle your bags. NEVER throw away a bag! The plastic ones can be recycled at most grocery stores. The paper ones can go in your blue recycling bin.

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