How to Stop Using Plastic at Home – Part 2: Let’s Go Shopping!: Totes

Plastic is poison. Producing plastic produces poison. This is not to say that we should stop using plastic altogether. There are many important uses for plastic in medicine and industry. But the plastic that ends up filling landfills, littering our streets and poisoning water is, for the most part, consumer plastic. And that we can stop using. And I do mean STOP using, because there are many alternatives when we shop.

Avoiding plastic when shopping could be a huge topic, because plastic is ubiquitous, not only in household shopping, but in clothes, cosmetics and grooming, home furnishings, pet care, you name it. Today we’ll stick to weekly shopping for the kitchen, pantry and laundry. We’ll save the rest for another time.
We’ll start with the last phase of shopping: What do you bring your shopping home in?

The best choice is a reusable bag. There are many choices, and you can find them for sale in grocery stores and big box stores. You can even get them for free at events. But as it is for many products, you need to carefully choose. A surprising UK Environmental Agency study found that cotton and canvas tote bags had to be used 393 times to offset the carbon footprint of it’s production. A bag made of recycled plastic only had to be used 26 times. A paper bag had to be used seven times. And that thin plastic giveaway bag only twice.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t shun those thin plastic bags. If people would recycle them properly they would be the best option. In the U.S. you can recycle them in a bin at the grocery store, though most people don’t. But in most of the world there is no way to recycle them. They are just tossed away, where they litter the ground and waterways. That’s why 77 countries around the world have banned them. And, of course, reusing a paper bag seven times might be a problem. (And think of the number of trees felled to make them.)

That leaves really only one choice: a tote made of recycled plastic. You can find them in lots of stores that sell totes. It is not hard to tell if the material is cotton canvas or plastic. But unless the label says so, to be sure that the material is recycled plastic, you can go online to Etsy or Amazon and search for “recycled plastic totes.” If you really want a canvas tote, you can even find them on line. But remember that you will have to use even a recycled canvas tote a long long time.

Of course, it doesn’t do you any good to have a collection of recycled totes if they aren’t with you when you need them. That’s why I keep a few large ones in the trunk of my car, and some smaller ones at home for when I walk to a shop.

Next week we’ll continue with our “no plastic” shopping trip.

Thanks for your commitment to caring for God’s creation!

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