All my adult life I have worked hard to give back. That has manifested itself in many ways, from teaching Red Cross classes for kids to organizing walk-a-thons for domestic violence shelters. About a year ago, however, I found my true calling: dedicating my volunteer efforts to helping rid the world of single-use plastic bags. Statistics vary, but it is estimate that globally, we use almost a trillion single-use plastic bags per year. Less than 5% of these are recycled. The remaining 95% end up in landfills, hanging from trees or fence posts, or in our oceans where they are mistaken for food from a variety of species of birds and turtles.
The problem is, plastic does not biodegrade – never! It will photodegrade – eventually – but photodegradation is much different. In photodegradation, the sun’s rays cause plastic to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, yet it never totally goes away. During this break down process, toxins are released that poison air, soil and water. So in addition to the visible damage due to litter, landfills and death of wildlife, single-use plastic bags also poison our earth.
I do understand that plastics, in many instances, do a lot of good. But when it comes to single-use plastic bags, there are better options. Earlier this year I founded a nonprofit environmental initiative called “Right Bag at ‘Ya!” The mission of Right Bag at ‘Ya (RBAY) is to raise awareness for the damage that single-use plastic bags do to our environment, and encourage people to begin using more environmentally-responsible options.
RBAY promotes a bag gifting program, where concerned people give reusable bags to others with a special RBAY tag attached. The tag gives some quick statistics about the damage single-use plastic bags do, and encourages the recipient to pass on the message by copying the tag and gifting more bags to others. If interested, you can check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RightBagAtYa.
If you’re not yet into the habit of taking reusable bags to the store with you, here are some easy suggestions that may help:
Ø Get yourself one of those nifty little reusable bags that have their own stuff sack attached (like a miniature sleeping bag). They fit easily in a glove box, or even a small purse. Although tiny when stuffed into their sack, they open up to a full size shopping bag and can hold 25#. Among other places, you can find them at http://www.chicobag.com.
Ø One of the problems I hear all the time, is that people have the bags, but forget to take them into the store. Here’s a tip that may help: When making out your shopping list, always put “Bags” as your very first item. Then, if you have forgotten to take them in with you, you will be reminded before you have a cart full of groceries, and can easily go back out to your car to get them.
Ø If you do make it all the way to the checkout line before realizing you have forgotten your bags, refuse the plastic bag and just carry out your items. (This will only work on limited purchases, of course.) Stuff the items in your pockets, your purse, or just carry them in your arms. After doing this a couple times, it will help you to remember!
Ø Many people tell me they are self-conscious about taking their own bags, because in many areas, it is still very uncommon. Be a leader! Reaffirm your commitment to the environment and adjust your mindset accordingly. This is a great thing you are doing, and you should be proud.
If this is an issue that you are passionate about, you can also help by getting involved in other ways. Take part in local cleanup days that focus attention on this issue, contact your local governments to suggest a local plastic bag ban, or be relentless with letters to your elected officials letting them know how you feel. Several countries have already outlawed and/or heavily taxed single-use plastic bags, as well as many cities or counties within the United States. It is my goal to help initiate change that will result in the world being single-use plastic bag free.
Thanks Cherri for the wonderful post. Like Cherri says visit her facebook page and print your RBAY Tags and start gifting today. Give them as Christmas gifts and share the RBAY story at the dinner table. If you are interested in other "Green" bloggers check out the Green Blog Hop!