Shock and awe: No more plastic shopping bags! Though slated for Earth Day, the plastic vanishing act has already happened at our local Whole Foods store. And IKEA just announced it will follow suit in October. If you forget to bring your own to Whole Foods, you're saved from that caught-with-pants-down feeling by the free recycled-paper bags. But there are always those who complain, like Natalie Angier in The New York Times. While admitting the problem -- a billion plastic bags a year entering U.S. landfills, where they take more than a thousand years to decompose -- with what, Anger asks, is she to line her garbage cans? Will it be any better for the environment if she purchases plastic garbage sacks? Short answer: Yes, if you buy 100 percent recycled, 70 percent post-consumer-recycled (PCR), plastic bags like Seventh Generation's.
But do you really need to buy a thing? Don't pretend that, unlike us, you haven't got a guilty closetful of plastic grocery sacks!
Whatever it's made of, if you bring your own shopping bag, you get Greenie points -- and, from Whole Foods, up to 15 cents back per bag.
Many stores nationwide give back at least a nickel per. Any bag will do the trick, but if you're craving an eco-friendly new tote, you really shouldn't settle for anything less than organic or recycled. Easy to tuck into a pocket or purse a la Francaise, Ecobag's colorful organic cotton woven string bags start at $29.95 for a set of five; a natural string shoulder bag is $6.95, at Reusable Bags.
But what will be this Earth Day's "it" bag? We say, it's up to you. Some may dimly recall last April's craze, the London designer tote with rope handles and the message, "I am Not a Plastic Shopping Bag." Shoppers lined up on both sides of the Atlantic (we almost rushed down to Soho to get in line, but it was raining), and the bags soon sold out -- at any price. Next, British grocery Sainsbury's came out with its own tote proclaiming, "I am Not a Plastic Shopping Bag either." It, too, sold out. Enough, already! We prefer this DIY idea -- buy a plain canvas tote, personalize with your OWN message or design -- from a British blogger.
To read Ms. Angier's lament, click here.
To read about IKEA's plastic bag solutions, click here.
This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.