How to Practice Easy Bargain Environmentalism #3
Save & Be Green at the Same Time — #3 Nix Plastic Baggies
I often hear the argument that making greener choices means spending more money, suggesting that environmentally friendly choices are a luxury of the upper middle class and above.
But that is not entirely true. With smart purchases and small efforts, you can help the planet and your wallet.
Each week, I present a new tip that will help save both your money and the environment.
This Week’s Green Tip is: No more plastic baggies
In 50 years, future humans will look back on the mountains of plastic waste that will be our legacy and shake their heads at our stupidity. Just like we look back on lead paint or asbestos and wonder, what were they thinking?! It’s laughable that we didn’t see the harm we were causing while we were doing it.
This week's post focuses on plastic baggies (like Ziploc bags), but its principles apply for all single-use plastics.
According to Wired Magazine, the resealable bag business is a $1.6 billion industry. That is a lot of bags being manufactured, sold, then thrown away—money that consumers are essentially tossing in the bin. Over 40% of plastic is single-use, meaning that after one use, it is thrown away.
Our oceans are in severe danger of overflowing with plastic. According to National Geographic, “more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are already floating in our oceans.”
Marine animals (about 700 different species so far) are dying in hordes from ingesting and becoming entangled in our garbage. In thirty years, every seabird species will be eating plastic due to the rate humans are disposing of the stuff. Is the life of a sea bird worth the convenience of putting your sandwich in a Ziploc bag? Definitely not!
Even if you don’t live near the ocean, waste in landfills frequently blows away with the wind. If the trash lands in a river, it could make its way to the ocean or other body of water. Regardless of where your garbage ends up, the plastic problem persists.
Buying a quality product that you can reuse for years will reduce the amount of waste you create. Sometimes that means spending a bit more up front, but you will have saved money before the end of a good product’s life.
Try these alternatives to plastic baggies:
Durable storage containers
I particularly like Pyrex containers for food. They’re durable, don’t hold smells/stains, and are made of glass, rather than plastic. If glass containers aren’t an option for you, I also like Rubbermaid storage containers. They’re plastic but very strong (they won’t warp or crack easily) and have a great, tight seal.
Compostable food wraps
Food wraps are a perfect alternative to a sandwich bag (or cling film covering). They’re great because they last a long time but don’t stick around for years at the end of their usefulness.
Reusable zippered bags
These are probably my least favorite option, but sometimes you just need a zippered bag. A lot of these are even dishwasher safe!
The amount of research and development that went/goes into making the perfect zippered bag is ridiculous. That money, brain power, and effort could have gone into making a convenient material that won’t clog our oceans. It’s time that companies redirect their R&D efforts toward greener products, but it’s unlikely they will do so without incentive.
Pulling your support of companies that treat our planet as a profitable wasteland will help send the message that they need to change their product. Take it one step further and contact the company you’re boycotting (a simple email or Tweet will do) to let them know that you will not support their environmentally damaging business further.
If you implement and encourage others to use greener methods of living, you will reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of waste you create.
While every effort to live greener is a worthwhile cause, there’s always more you can do to help. First and foremost, vote for representatives who understand that climate change is real and deadly — people who value the planet and its inhabitants over a pocketful of cash. Second, vote with your wallet. Buy from businesses that make eco-conscious products and decisions.