This is part of myseries: 20 Ways to Go Green that Make a Difference. This series discusses practical ways we can go green in our lives, that will have a measurable effect on the environment. This is an alternative to the many lists that offer 100+ suggestions, many of which are not easily applied to our lives or the impact isminimal.
Almost all retailers provide plastic or paper bags for every transaction and customer. These are often provided at no additional costs, and thus customers do not value them. This adds up to lots of waste and pollution, since people discard these bags after bringing home their purchases. There are many easy solutions to this issue that would significantly curb this unnecessary waste.
My favorite is reusable bags. This could mean a burlap sack, cloth bag, or a plastic bag that is durable. Packing these on the way to your store is a simple step, then simply bag the groceries/items yourself or give them to the bagging person. These bags can be acquired in many ways; given out free as marketing or promotion, purchased from a dollar at a retailer or given by family and friends. Even consider using a backpack especially when you are not driving. Many retailers even offer small incentives for bringing your own bags. Trader Joe's enters your in a drawing for a gift card and Whole Foods offers 5 cents a bag.
For those times that you forget to bring your reusable bags and need to use store provided ones, there are a few things you can do to limit harm. First, fill the bags up, so you don't use more than you need. Second, reuse or re-purpose these bags at home, there are tons of different applications, something will always come up that gives these bags a second lease on life. Finally, after they have run their useful life, recycle them properly, rather than putting them into the garbage.