Around the world, the initiative to “go green” encompasses many practices that private citizens and businesses (and even governments) alike can partake in to help reduce pollution and environmental destruction to preserve the biosphere. Fresh water can be saved with shorter showers, water-efficient toilets and shower heads, and more, while carpooling, taking buses, and riding bikes can lower CO2 emissions, and one particular offender of polluting the planet is the proliferation of plastic bags. Although cheap, convenient, and very common, plastic bags can do a great deal of harm to the natural world, so as a part of going green, Americans are encouraged to minimize their use and instead invest in much more durable bags, totes, and cases that are made of eco-friendly, tough materials that help keep plastic bags out of the oceans and landfills. Grocery bags are often plastic, but paper and woven fabric alternatives exist, and even novelty items such as a wine tote can be woven fabric or other materials aside from plastic.
Hazards of Plastic
Already, a sizeable body of evidence and statistics exists to show what sort of ecological harm civilization has done to the natural world, and trash is a major factor in this. Plastic bags are a particular topic of interest; depending on the environment in which it is found, a plastic bag can take 15 to 1,000 years to decompose, and similarly, if paper bags are in landfills, far away from the natural factors that decompose them, those paper bags may last almost as long. Marine life often suffers from plastic bags; birds, sea turtles, and other animals often confused plastic bags for jellyfish and plankton and eat them, which can suffocate the animal, or else keep it stomach full for so long that it starves. Over one million birds and 100,000 sea turtles are estimated to be the victims of plastic bags in the oceans per year. And among all debris that washes up on American shores, about 10% of it is plastic bags alone.
What Can be Done?
Anyone can help curb the excessive use of plastic bags, and with enough Americans working to reduce their use, a lot of good can be done. For example, while the United States uses 100 billion plastic bags every year, the average person uses 350 to 500 per year, so just a few people eschewing plastic bags can mean thousands are not used, and with many thousands or million of Americans swapping plastic bags for environmentally friendly alternatives, that can save tens or hundreds of millions of plastic bags every year. Over a lifetime, a person can save 22,000 plastic bags if they switch to alternatives.
What other bags can be used instead of plastic ones? There are many options. For groceries, a common occasion to use bags, reusable shopping bags made of tough material can be used instead, and they have the advantage of being large (so they carry a lot) and they are less likely to break or tear than thin plastic bags are, making them ideal for nearly any load of groceries. Getting reusable grocery bags in bulk can allow a whole family or neighborhood to make this transition and save thousands of plastic bags per year, and sometimes, such bags come with extra features impossible in plastic ones, such as wholesale insulated bags for temperature-sensitive items.
Other carrying bags and totes for items can both save on plastic bags and come with such features. A wine tote, rather than plastic bags, can be tough enough to easily hold several bottles of wine without tearing, and a wine tote can also have personalized colors, patterns, or logos on it, and it may also have insulation features to keep cold bottles at their temperature, giving a wine tote many advantages over plastic or paper bags. Insulated cooler totes are similar bags for similar drinks, and can be a great investment before long.
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