Take a walk down any New York City street on a breezy day and you are bound to see a plastic bag or two drift by your feet. They are such a common sight in major cities that the people are desensitized to this phenomenon; so common, that they are equated to the naturally occurring tumbleweeds of the Midwest. But there is nothing natural about these non-biodegradable monstrosities; by normalizing plastic bags, we ignore the effects they have on our environment. So for my environmentally conscious effort this semester, I chose to switch to reusable grocery bags.
Going into this change, I thought about all the plastic grocery bags I have piled up in my closet. My local store double bags, and for each trip I take home an average of four bags- eight total per week. Multiple that by 52, and I average 416 bags a year (give or take a dozen)! While they do get reused for garbage bags, there is no way I could ever reuse all of them in my lifetime. Reusable bags sounded like the right route to helping the planet. I would be cutting down on my carbon footprint , which felt good. One person can make a difference, right?
But, as it turns out, simply switching to reusable bags is not the only decision I had to make. After some research on the positive effects of reusable bags, I learned that there are all different kinds that vary in their effectiveness. According to an NPR article, “How Green Are Reusable Bags?”, not all reusable bags are created equal. Cloth bags are more environmentally friendly than the plastic ones, and the recycled plastic ones are better than the bags made with new plastic.
This habit is definitely hard to maintain, because as creatures of habit it is always hard to start something new. I constantly forget to bring my reusable bags if I am in a hurry or stop at the store after school instead of going home first. Honestly, I am not so sure that I will be able to maintain this habit, but I will do my best to keep it up. The early Americans did not worry about their effects on the environment, and look where we are now. But fifty years from now, the environmental sustainability crisis will (hopefully) just be a chapter in a child’s history textbook, if we work hard to fix things now.