National Geographic generated quite a stir in the summer of 2018 after releasing their June issue titled “Planet or Plastic.” Artfully designed to imitate an iceberg, the magazine cover featured a plastic bag submerged in an open ocean. The image immediately went viral, bringing to light a topic of conversation long overdue – the affect of plastic on our planet. Countless individuals and organizations have discussed plastic’s impact for years and called for sustainable change. Regardless, we still experience the pains of single-use plastic in everyday life.
I’m sure that most of this information is not new to you, but I believe that before we can implement positive sustainable change, we must first truly understand and process the problem. That’s why today’s Simple Challenge is tackling just one aspect of the issue – plastic bags.
According to the Earth Policy Institute, “Worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, nearly two million each a minute.” Let that sink in. Two million in one minute. And in the United States alone, “The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year.” [Eric A. Goldstein, NRDC] If you’re anything like me, when you hear a statistic like this one, it’s easy to get fired up. Frustrated at society. Frustrated at yourself for being a part of the statistic. But, in the end, you feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and left without a solution. The thought passes and you go on with your day.
That stops here. Rather than leaving you empty handed, I want to offer an easy and practical solution – reusable bags. It sounds so simple. “Thanks Bek, I probably could have figured that out on my own.” But, until you put into practice, it’s just an idea. So if you’re on board with this challenge, I want you to commit to introducing reusable bags in your life now. And I’m here to help you do that. Walking with you, every step of the way.
Step One: Grocery Bags
Nearly every grocery store has an option for buying reusable bags. Recently, I have seen them in Whole Foods, Sprouts, Aldi, and even Walmart. They’re stronger than both a plastic bag and a paper bag so you don’t even have to worry about the milk breaking free on your walk back to the car. *cue celebration* And even though it might require a couple dollars to purchase them initially, you’ll save yourself a lot space with four or five foldable bags rather than a pile of paper or plastic that you feel guilty throwing away. Hello, simplification. Leave a few in your car so that you never forget them!
Step Two: Trash Bags
Originally, trash bags seemed impossible to me. I reeeeally didn’t want anything other than plastic because sometimes trash just …needs to be contained. But, after doing some research, I discovered that biodegradable trash bags exist! Praise. If you still have plastic bags lying around, don’t just through them away. Use them as trash bags first and then transition to biodegradable. And, as always, before tossing anything in the trash ask yourself, “Could I have prevented throwing this away?” If you come up with a solution, implement it. You’ll be using less and less plastic bags in no time!
Step Three: Food Storage Bags
Lastly, lets tackle snack bags and food storage bags. Admittedly, this one can be a tough switch. Grabbing a quick baggy for your sandwich and tossing it in the trash at lunch can seem soooo easy. Clean, quick, and you’re done. But just think about how many of those little bags you have probably thrown away in your lifetime. Too many. So switching over to a healthy and sustainable alternative can be hugely impacting, even over the course of one year. Purchase a set of reusable bags that are a variety of sizes, silicon based (ideally), and dishwasher/freezer/microwave safe! Your lunch will thank you.
As with almost everything in life, working one step at a time is key. Introducing a bunch reusable bags at once might initially feel overwhelming. So take your time! Over the course of the next few weeks or months, try to swap out one plastic bag usage per week. Adding reusable bags to your lifestyle is not only more eco-friendly, but also sustainable and minimalist. You’ll save money, time, and space when you’re not constantly refilling a depleting supply of plastic bags. And in one year, if we follow the static from earlier, we may prevent wasting approx. 1,500 single-use plastic bags in our house alone. Now that, is something to celebrate!
If this post is the first that you have read on The Cooper Journal and you’re wondering what A Simple Challenge is or why are we talking about minimalism, I’d encourage you to read these articles 1) A Practical Guide to Living More Sustainably and Minimally + 2) Minimalism – What is it really?. As always, please let us know your thoughts below. We still have much to learn and a lot more growth ahead, so we love to hear from you too! And if you’ve decided to take the challenge, feel free to share it with us by sending a message or tagging #asimplechallenge and/or @thecooperjournal!
Much love to you my friends!