A lighter shade of green
Sesame Street's Kermit the Frog sings "It's not that easy being green," but it is easy to be a lighter shade of green.
Living in a rural area, we would certainly find it difficult to imagine how many plastic bags are used in the US.
In the town of Marlinton the number that leave stores in a year's time is tremendous, and it in no way compares with the numbers that are toted away from stores in urban areas.
It was 34 years ago, in 1977, that shoppers at check-out counters first heard the words, "paper or plastic?"
Since that time, plastic bags have flown out of the stores, but too many have literally flown out car windows, trash cans and landfills, finding their final resting place as litter along our highways and waterways.
Kristen Brown writes on her website, getmyeco.com, "In 1977, my father, Gordon Dancy, introduced the plastic grocery bag to America. The invention of a convenient, user-friendly plastic sack along with the simple question, "Paper or Plastic?" revolutionized the grocery bag industry and changed consumer behavior. Today, four decades after my father made his mark, there is another need for change in consumer behavior.
"Both plastic and paper bags have negative effects on the environment. Paper bags devastate forests and create water/air pollution, while plastic bags use precious oil and visibly litter our environment. Presently, nearly one-third of municipal solid waste is composed of packaging materials. It is time to change!"
In response to her father's introduction of the plastic grocery bag, Brown has introduced the ultimate shopping bag experience: "Four Unique Bags in One Easy to Use Storage Tote."
"MY ECO Shopping Bag System enhances the family shopping experience and supports the environment.?The solution is comprised of an arrangement of four unique bags functioning as one unit within the? shopping cart which operationally makes packing easier than ever for consumers, baggers and cashiers.?Bags easily nest together in their own convenient storage tote," she writes.
The small bag is designed to hold bottles and jars, the medium is insulated to pack chilled and frozen food, the large bag is designed for fruits and vegetables and is antibacterial lined making it easy to clean and the extra-large bag is designed to hold all other groceries including oversized boxes and paper products."
From the Green-Kit website we learn, "The US alone uses about 12 million barrels of oil every year just to keep up with the demand for plastic bags. The current annual demand tops out at about 100 billion bags".
As for paper bags, Green-Kit reports " the US will cut down 14 million trees each year to satisfy our demand for paper grocery bags.ﾠ It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag."
Therefore, paper is not a good trade-off for plastic.
What can you do?
When given the choice of "paper and plastic," choose option number three - provide your own reusable shopping bag.
It is amazing how much they hold and how much easier it is to carry your groceries from the car to your home.
Ken Swiger, assistant manager at Fas-Chek in Marlinton, stated that the average cost for plastic is 1.51 cents per bag.
That may not sound like a lot, but imagine if you stood by the door at this or any other store and received even a penny for every bag that left there.ﾠ Your cup would soon be running over.
Although Fas Chek has seen a slight increase in the number of shoppers who bring their own bags, the number is none too impressive.
Fas Chek sells reusable bags for a dollar each.
In collecting information for this article I went to a very popular shopping venue, Dollar General , and upon entering the store I came upon two grocery carts that held no less than 24 plastic bags.ﾠ And that was for one customer.
As an avid user of reusable grocery bags I calculated the contents of those two carts and I believe that everything would have fit quite nicely into three or four large reusable bags.
In talking with the clerks I learned that only about 10 people who shop at that store bring their own bags.
The headquarters of Dollar General has instructed their staff to try to minimize the number of bags they use, a number which at this point stands at about five cases a week, said manager Dave Corbett.
Dollar General sells reusable bags with their logo for 50 cents each.
Pocahontas Foodlandﾠ manager Mark Wagner sees reusable grocery bags as a growing trend.ﾠ Foodland sold bags early on and "couldn't keep them.ﾠ Now they can't get them," he said.
Only about one per-cent of Foodland's customers bring their own bags and when it comes to plastic bags, younger people are the ones who will not take them, said cashier Joyce Rose.
Maybe young people have found the pleasure of being plastic-free.
There are several options available for acquiring reusable grocery bags.ﾠ Cotton is, of course, the most environmentally friendly.ﾠ Canvas is a good option, but acquiring a few large bags, even though they be made of polyethylene, is a good idea.ﾠ They are easy to clean and will outlast thousands of disposable plastic bags.
For those who like to sew, there are free patterns with directions available on the Internet. Just Google "reusable grocery bags."
Pocahontas County Preservation Officer B. J. Gudmundsson has been a reusable grocery bag fan for 20 years, having begun the "habit" when she and her family lived in Illinois.ﾠ Her collection contains bags from, among others, AARP, Prudential and the Lewisburg United Methodist Church, which gave away bags at their block party two years ago.
WV Paving IT technician John Broyles and his wife Kandi, Developmental Specialist for WV Birth to Three, love their reusable bags.
"It used to be that your groceries would slide all over the back seat and spill," said John.
"And the bags cut into your fingers," they said.
"We use them all the time, unless we are stuck somewhere," said Kandi.
"It makes it so much easier to carry your things into the house."
Several people told me that they have reusable bags but often forget to take them to the store.
Here's some advice to help you remember.
Once you unpack your groceries, fold the bags and put them into the largest one and set it by the door or hang it on the doorknob.ﾠ Keep the bags within reach in your vehicle - and do not put them in the trunk.
Get hooked on the reusable grocery bag habit.
Find your shade of green.
You need not save the planet single-handedly, but you will be amazed at how much pleasure you get from doing your part.