I’m sticking to my promise. As far as blog posts about plastic shopping bags go, this one is the last. But it’s also my first step towards making one corner of my life greener. Granted, that corner is inside my trash can and it will be a while before the job is done there. But like Bob Marley had once said: “You got to start somewhere to get somewhere.”
With that as my motto, I’m on my way!
I have to confess though, once I’d committed to this change, it wasn’t all that hard. What helped too, because of writing this blog I’d learned enough about why I should say ‘no’ to plastic shopping bags to make doing so meaningful. Then it did’t take long for it to become less of a chore and more of a habit.
I now never leave my bags in the car and that ‘oh-darn’ feeling I used to have when I’d get to the cash register and remember them no longer happens. My husband has made the change as well, as has my mother. She recently said that she’s been telling her friends about it. (She also told them that I invented recycling. She’s very proud of me, apparently, because it seems to be catching on. I tried to tell her that I’m the one who is finally catching on; that people have been talking about recycling since the 1970’s. I don’t think she’s convinced.)
Anyway, as had happened when I fooled myself into moving the contents of my house one corner of one room at one time, when I went about eliminating shopping bags from my garbage can, I wound up getting more done than I thought I would. Through my research, I learned that in New York State, where I live, single-use shopping bags actually fall under a broader category of recyclable items called plastic film. Included in it are many types of plastic bags, like cereal bags, and frozen food bags, as well as packaging around items from a corner of my life that I would have put off making green for a very long time. Here’s why:
Setting: A recent conversation between me and my husband at the dinner table.
Me: “At some point we’re going to have to do something about our paper towels and toilet paper.”
Him: “You mean the stuff I buy at Sam’s? Why’s that?”
Me: “A lot of it’s packaged in plastic wrap. It’s not bio-degradable.”
Then came that look usually reserved for when I overspend on my credit card. I knew I was in trouble.
Me: “All I’m saying is we need to switch to eco-friendly products.”
Him: “You know ‘eco-friendly’ is code for ‘more-expensive,’ don’t you?”
Me: “I’m just saying we should look for–––”
Him: “Just because I went along with the shopping bag idea, doesn’t mean I’m okay with everything changing.”
So that happened.
In retrospect, I should have had a conversation with him about going green before I started this blog. We talked about it a little, but at the time I hadn’t expressed that I intended to make EVERY corner of our lives greener. The thing is, I’m starting small; one corner of one room at one time, because that’s what I can handle. Maybe that’s why I’d left out that one broader detail. It’s also likely that in the back my husband’s mind he thinks this is a phase I’m having. He’s waiting to see if it ends before he puts his foot down. The way I see it, that buys me time to figure out how green living and our cost of living can balance out.
So now, not only have I dodged having to talk my husband out of buying Bounty in bulk, but I’ve made a second corner of my life a little greener. I realize, of course, that if everyone, including me, stopped buying items packaged in plastic, then manufacturers of those items would have to figure out a greener way of packaging them. But, while there are some things I can do without, like salads in bags, (the plastic bags they come in are not recyclable and the loose produce is fresher, anyway,) I’m not ready to give up my Bounty, either. And, I want these changes to last. It’s easy enough for me to store the plastic wrap that paper towels and such are packaged in instead of tossing it, and then to take it to the Dump with our other recyclable. That’s my comfortable fit for now.
Also, I made my first trip to the Dump with my plastic bags and saw where they keep the ones they’ve been storing for eight years. There’s a lot of them. I wonder why no one has offered to buy them yet. I had emailed Price Chopper’s headquarters a while back to ask what they do with the bags that people put in their drop-off barrels. What I learned from their response was that Price Chopper has a “robust” recycling program with Trex. The chain sends Trex all the shopping bags from those barrels as well as the shrink wrap that goes around those pallets that get delivered with jars of beets and stuff on them. Trex uses the material to make decks. (To watch short commercial about how Trex does it click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0gBMWPlcIU )
So, here’s what my first greener corners look like:
Finally, in case you’re wondering if I sleep any better these days; oddly enough I no longer lie awake nights feeling like the world is about to end. It’s not that I’ve fooled myself into believing that by recycling shopping bags I’m going to save the planet. I still see myself as ant-sized compared to the mess we’re in. But, having taken control of something attainable has helped me to feel less afraid. Instead, I’m more determined to keep making positive changes, no matter how small. Enough small changes can add up to something that matters. Right? And, if you listen to my mother, which I always do, this recycling business is catching on.
For more information on plastic film recycling please go to: http://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/s00/index.html
Next week: What’s so bad about my mail, anyway?