Text and photos by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro
You get it, right? Both plastic and paper shopping bags are bad.
Plastic is an easier villain. It lasts for centuries, kills hundreds of thousands of birds and water creatures a year, and is made from petroleum. Plus, only a small fraction of the 80 billion bags used annually
are recycled. But paper has its own demerits. It’s bulky, expensive, requires more fuel to transport.
This is why Seattle’s proposed a 20-cent fee on every plastic or paper bag has more foresight than Whole Foods’ elimination of plastic bags, which takes effect today, Earth Day, April 22. Granted, "Whole Paycheck" needs to put its customers’ goods in something. And, no doubt, eliminating plastic is a great start. But the solution is clearly for you and me to bring our own reusable bags. So, Whole Foods, how about a little nudge by eliminating plastic bags and then charging a quarter for paper ones?
When Casa de Casimiro switched to reusables from One Bag at a Time two years ago, we had to buy online in bulk (you still can, ten bags go for $16). Today you can find these light, strong, folding bags for about a buck a piece at most grocery stores. And once you have 10, you’re covered even for Costco runs.
I also use Patagonia’s Lightweight Travel Tote a LOT. I wrote about this incredibly versatile backpack/tote/shoulder bag a year ago in National Geographic ADVENTURE. Fortunately, Patagonia still sells it. Like most guys, I’m hyperallergic to anything with “tote” in the name, but this looks more like an uber-light, high-tech backpack. It holds a sixer, bag of tortilla chips, salsa, and a whole lot more.
Then there are plastic trash bags. Around here we’ve become religious about recycling every scrap of paper or plastic possible, which has dramatically reduced our trash (composting is the next project, fyi), but there’s still the issue of rubbish. Once the plastic kitchen bags ran out, we switched to Bio-Bags, which are made from GMO-free corn. Yes, corn has its issues. And, yes, Bio-Bags are more expensive (about $5 for 12 kitchen-size, 13-gallon bags), but it’s a heck of a lot better for everyone and on the balance was an easy choice.
- Nat Geo Expeditions