Monday, April 23, 2007

Earth Day and Recycling

I wanted to write about my grocery bags on Earth Day*because I really have nothing better to write about and seeing how this blog is a celebration of all things me there is no harm done...right? On a more serious note, I wanted to write about them because the Boy and I take recycling quite seriously. We understand that we are neither capable of affecting major changes(something to do with us being mere mortals) nor something as radical as this. So we recycle.

I have one large canvas bag which started its life as a diaper bag and since it did not amount to much in that avatar it was handed over to me do as I please with it. And it pleases me very much to use it for lugging my groceries. Then there are a bunch of paper bags from Whole Foods, Trader Joes etc. that I merrily reuse till they give up on me and their papery lives altogether. This combination of bags helps us avoid plastic baggies as much is humanly possible in the packaging obsessed society we live in. The bagging guys at the checkout counter of my grocery store think its rather funny when I start yelling "no plastic-no plastic" in my desperate efforts to stop them from bagging my goods in millions of plastic bags. They then proceed to fill up my ginormous bag like maniacs without any regard to what goes on top and what stays at the bottom...urgh! I could ask for paper bags, I guess, but that does not really help the trees, does it? As long as I can remember my parents always carried two large-ish cloth bags when they went shopping for groceries, so in someways it is the most natural thing for me to do. Besides cloth bags are re-usable, they do not clog up drains in third world countries or choke marine life to death slowly. They are also much stronger than the regular supermarket issue plastic bags. For more reasons as to why plastic bags are evil, go here. But I do agree that it's not entirely possible to be rid of them, so we just reuse the plastic bags that we accumulate as trash bin liners.

Luckily some businesses have figured out that they can do away with the plastic bags, earn some brownie points and also keep their costs low along the way. Ikea has started a 'Bag the Plastic Bag" campaign in its US stores. The plastic bags are no longer doled out for free (they cost a nickel each) and the iconic blue bag is being promoted as a reusable option. This has not stopped people from shopping at Ikea. Wholesale stores like Costco never handed out plastic bags to begin with and yet they do roaring business, which goes to prove that providing free plastic bags is just the kind of customer service consumers can do without.

We also made a conscious decision to avoid plastic bins to separate our recycling... buying more plastic to improve our eco friendliness quotient seemed totally incongruous. Instead, we got two large, rectangular, cardboard boxes that were discarded by the Boy's lab, duct taped the open edges together and cut out a large circle on one side to make ourselves two recyling bins (one each for paper and can, bottles etc.). When the boxes get to the end of their lives, we will just recycle them and get two more boxes. We also wait for the annual Greenbelt electronic recycling day to get rid of our obsolete, useless electronic equipment. And another thing, since we do not consume a whole lot of ready made, convenience foods the amount of plastic packaging trash we generate is much lower than average.

I am sure if we look around our home, there are lots of other things we could do to try to reduce our ecological footprint and maybe with time we will. We would love to use eco friendly detergents and cleaning fluids but they usually cost two appendages in addition to half a month's we will have to wait for sometime before we can walk down that aisle of grocery stores. Until then we will just recycle, drive around in a Toyota and feel really happy that we are making a wee bit of an effort.

*but forgot to because I was busy running through fountains!!!


Phantoms and Voices said...

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

Need I say more?

Ishan said...

Today we were given a jute-er thole (jute bag) at work, for using as a grocery bag. Also had to sign a pledge to regularly use it.

Smriti said...

Good to find another environment conscious person around :). Keep up yoru efforts! I have written down various steps that I take to conserve natural resources. Every other day I think I should've bought a hybrid but as you've said sometimes being evironment-friendly means spending a whole lot extra!