This week’s blog comes from Monica, an ILACSD Environmental Educator! You may remember her last blog, Ditch the Disposable Lifestyle: Choose Reusables, where she provided us with many useful tips to help reduce our waste, including using reusable bags. Now that SB 270, also known as California Bag Ban, has been signed into law, Monica is here to share helpful tips to make reusable bags a part of your daily routine!
Some Background: In late September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 270, making California the first and only state in the country with a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. While some applaud the effort, others are frustrated with it. However, unless an appeal is successful, come July 1, 2015, single-use plastic bags will no longer be available at your favorite grocery store or pharmacy.
Grocery stores will continue to carry paper bags for 10 cent each and plastic produce bags will still be available, which many people reuse to dispose of pet waste. Regardless of your position on this issue, our staff can assure you that the transition to a plastic bag free state will be easy, with a little practice.
Here are my top 6 tips to help get you in the habit well before July 2015 when the ban goes into effect.
1. Hold off on buying a lot of new reusable bags.
- Look around your house, in the closets, under the kitchen sink, under the bed. It’s likely that you already have reusable bags, or the materials to make your own!
2. I don’t have any bags. Which ones should I buy? Quality is important. You want to buy a bag that will last you a long time. Think years!
- Materials: Cotton cloth bags are my favorite. They can hold a lot of weight and they’re machine washable. I’ve had one of my cloth bags since 2010 and still use it all the time!
- Close the loop! Look for bags made from recycled materials.
- Carbon footprint. American made bags would be great! You’ll be supporting American business and know that those bags traveled less to get to you and thus consumed less resources.
3. Getting into the habit can be hard. Give it a few weeks, before you know it, you’ll never forget your bag. Here’s what helped me get into the habit:
- Keep your bags somewhere handy & always in the same spot to save time.
- Keep a couple in your car. Lots of us make impromptu stops to the store.
- At ILACSD, we keep our shared reusable bags in the same spot. When one of us takes a trip to the nearby Vons or Trader Joe’s, we know exactly where to grab one.
4. Oh no, it happened, again! You’re about to pay for your groceries and realize you forgot your bags!
- If I’m only buying a few things I’ll refuse the bag. “No thank you, I don’t need a bag”. I say that all the time, I don’t mind carrying a couple of items in my arms, or maybe I can fit them into my purse.
- Take a tip from Costco, ask for a box! If they don’t have boxes, I’ll put bulky items in my cart, without a bag, transfer them to my trunk, and the whole shopping experience is bag-less. I lived in Suwon, South Korea for a year, where they banned plastic bags, and this is what a lot of people did. Try to maximize and get only the bags you need for smaller items.
5. Keep in mind WHY you’re doing this. For some of us, the motivation may be to save the 10 cents per paper bag, but every time we choose reusables, that means there are fewer plastic bags to pollute our watersheds and occupy the limited space in our landfills.
I know the few extra efforts I put into using my reusable bags and refusing disposable bags are worth it because I’m not contributing to pollution. When it rains, littered plastic bags flow into storm drains and eventually to the ocean. Many marine animals, like sea turtles, get entangled in the bags or eat them because they mistake them for food. Keeping this is mind motivates me to continue refusing single-use bags!
6. Have fun with it! Reusable bags give you a chance to show your personality, and can be just another accessory that allows you to make a statement. Just try not to make this statement:
Although for some it will take time to adopt the reusable bag habit, our small efforts are bound to make a significant, positive impact on our environment.