Category Archives: bad habits

Bags: from plastic to permanent

Plastic bags are cheap and crunchable, and great for picking up dog waste. But they are a killer on the environment.

A 2003 report from National Geographic stated that “somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.”

They are littered all over the environment, (who hasn’t seen one blowing around on a windy day or lying in the street,” and they take hundreds of years to break down.

My family has always had plastic bags when grocery shopping. I even remember my mom requesting plastic over paper when we were little, and explaining how it was better for the environment because it didn’t kill trees. So much for that argument.

Anyway, this is the plastic bag-bounty after a typical weekend grocery run in my house:

Too many plastic bags

Too many plastic bags

Obviously, those can add up fast. So I convinced my parents to invest in some reusable bags.

My mom admits that we were using way too many plastic bags, and that they were cluttering up our house. The ones we have left, we reuse as wastebasket liners or packing material.

My mom then bought some canvas bags. She keeps them in her car, because if she forgets them when she runs out to the store, she feels guilty.

Reusable bags for all our grocery needs.

Reusable bags for all our grocery needs.

She likes them better than plastic bags because they create less waste, they’re stronger and they protect food better than plastic or paper ever did. And because she limits herself to the bags she brings in, she buys less too.

She said she sees more people using them all the time.

“It’s embarassing to not have them,” she said.  “If you don’t have reusable bags, you’re kind of a social outcast.”

My mom also pointed out that Fry’s, the grocery store she frequents, gives her a .20 cent discount for each reusable bag she brings in.

She’s tried a lot of different brands, but said by far, the Walgreens reusable bag  is the best, (those are the cream colored ones in the picture.) They are the widest and strongest, she said, and they don’t have a flashy pattern that makes you self-conscious when carrying them.

Reusablebags.com has a lot of different types of bags, so you can find the kind that works best for you.

If you’re still not convinced that plastic bags are bad, (I know some people who aren’t,) Treehugger has a great article called, “Paper Bags or Plastic Bags? Everything You Need to Know.”

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Filed under bad habits, Too much plastic

Plastic water bottles

Everyone in my family is trying to eat better and take care of themselves. I’m proud to say that there are no longer soft drinks in our house, and we all primarily drink water.

At some point, we fell into this habit of only drinking out of plastic water bottles. I know a lot of families drink water with those, but this is the only way we drink water. My parents buy four or five cases of Arrowhead water each week and use them to keep our mini-fridge stocked.

The mini-fridge in our dining room is stocked with bottles from the 32-packs shown on the left.

The mini-fridge in our dining room is stocked with bottles from the 32-packs shown on the left.

People are always surprised that we have so many bottles. I found five  sitting on my brother’s bookshelf. I promise I didn’t arrange the photo below; it’s exactly as I found it.
Five half-empty bottles I discovered on my brother's bookshelf.

Five half-empty bottles I discovered on my brother's bookshelf.

That is kind of embarrassing.
The 32-packs of water bottles cost $4.46 each. At the rate we  buy them, my family is wasting at least $70 a month by using disposable bottles rather than the alternatives.
Nalgene

Nalgene

My dad explained the purchase as a matter of convenience and safety. Convenience because you can just grab them and go,  and safety because of potential tap-water contamination.

“How are they bad for the environment?” he asked.

I realized I wasn’t really sure, so I looked it up. The problem with plastic water bottles is that most people don’t recycle them. When they are thrown out with garbage, they can sit in landfills for 1,000 years. The plastic is made from petroleum, a finite resource that is wasted when a bottle is used once and thrown away.

Sigg

Sigg

My dad said we recycle most of the bottles, so he doesn’t think we’ll stop buying them, especially because he’s still wary of tap water. He did promise to talk to my brothers and vigilantly enforce the recycling of them.

I switched to a Nalgene bottle last year, but because the chemicals in plastic bottles can be dangerous with constant use, I switched to a metal bottle.

I bought this Sigg bottle in Flaggstaff last month, for $19. I like the Sigg better because when I drank out of the Nalgene, it seemed to run down my face.

The Nalgene was just way too large to carry everywhere, while the Sigg fits easily in my purse.

Now I use the Sigg for everyday use, but I’m keeping the Nalgene for things like hiking.

For those of you with a Starbucks habit, the paper cups and plastic lids can’t be recycled because they have coffee and other residue on them. Unless you rinse out your Starbucks cup, all that plastic and paper is wasted, (not to mention the cardboard holders that keep you from burning your hand.)

The MoMA store sells this cup that looks like a disposable coffee cup, but is actually  made of porcelain. It’s $20, but that’s the the same as one week’s worth of lattes!

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Filed under bad habits, Food and Drink

Foes of the Earth

My family members have a lot of things going for them–but adapting is not one of them. Despite the overwhelming barrage of information about global warming and dwindling resources, my parents and my two brothers have been merrily living the same lifestyle for the last 20 years. In fact, they’ve almost gotten more environmentally reckless over the past few years, perhaps in some unconscious form of rebellion. I can’t say I’ve lost my carbon footprint, but after I spent five weeks in Quebec  this past summer, I felt so guilty about my lifestyle. Canada is such a beautiful country, and I was struck by the efforts everyone made to consciously preserve that beauty.

To start with, here are some things that need to change:

Over-consumption: my family buys far too much stuff. As proof, our house is full of junk. For example, some items are old, but a lot of them are things that were purchased without a need, (i.e. my brother’s ninja costume, which he wore once). Our house is so full, that we have a storage unit filled with furniture and other junk my parents are unwillng to part with. It’s good that they’re not throwing it away, but we didn’t need all those things in the first place.

Food: Again, over-consumption. My mom is the primary grocery-shopper in the family, but that should be changed. She buys things without looking at what we already have, and buys multiples of things, which eventually leads our pantry and fridge to be overflowing. Too much of it goes bad and is never used.

Plastic Bags: Obviously, when you buy lots of food, you end up with lots of those plastic bags from the grocery store. It will make you cringe to see the pile of bags we end up with every Saturday.

As I start to figure out ways for my family to be more eco-friendly, I’m going to keep an eye out for eco-friendly products and technology.

By the way, I am loving this sustainable townhouse on Re-Nest today.

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Filed under bad habits