February 15, 2011

Tip of the day—Use less baggies

They are so easy to use—just grab one from the box and you have an instant container.  They are just as easy to throw away.  Plastic baggies (zip top or otherwise) are the king’s of convenience.  At only a few pennies a piece, they are perfect for lunches, bake sales, and snack bags. 

So, why am I suggesting that you use fewer of them?  Not only will you save money over the course of the year, but you will also lower your carbon footprint.  I’m not going to argue with anyone about whether or not Global Warming is real—either way baggies are having an environmental impact beyond consumption of fuel, pollution during the manufacturing process, and transport.  Birds and other wildlife at a more growing rate are ingesting plastic bags and suffering the consequences. 

Below are a few tips on baggies:

  • Avoid using them when you can.  Look for other reusable options—mason jars, wax paper or parchment, or even plastic containers that are reusable. It isn’t anymore difficult to pack chips in a container than it is a plastic baggie. 
  • Recycle them.  Wipe them out or give them a rinse before popping them into the recycling bin.  I was surprised when a relative told me that her community only offered a couple of options for recycling—aluminum and newspaper.  I realized then how lucky I am to live in a community that embraces the money savings that recycling offers.  If recycling of plastic bags isn’t an option in your town, it is even more of an incentive to reduce your use of them.
  • Reuse them.  If you know that you are using them for chips or crackers, reuse them at least one more time for the same food.  Some people even wash them and dry them to reuse another time.  I do this with quart and gallon sized bags, which I find a little easier to clean.  If you don’t want to reuse them for food, you can reuse them for sorting other items—screws and washers in the shop, samples of lotions in the bathroom, or to put your jewelry in when traveling.
  • Ask yourself if it is really convenient?  I was a little appalled when I read the suggestions of food snacks that the vacation Bible school pack made.  I usually help organize and prepare the foods for the children each summer at our church’s VBS.  Sometimes we use some of the suggestions, but unfortunately, the snacks are often a bunch of junk food.  We try to use the theme of the lesson to make slightly healthier options for the kids.  This year when I was reading through the pamphlet, each day suggested that the food be served in a plastic baggie or some other disposable container.  A few of the days snacks were foods that I couldn’t figure out why they were suggesting using baggies instead of serving them to kids on a napkin.  I think sometimes we become so programmed into doing things out of convenience that we lose sight of whether doing it that way is really convenient at all.  The snack mix that they suggested could easily be made in a large bowl and doled out to the kids on a reusable, washable plate or a napkin.  We estimate that we will feed at least 100 people each day, and multiplied by 5 days of VBS that is 500 baggies that would be needed.  This isn’t even considering seconds for the kids or helpers.  That amount of baggies when purchased on sale or with coupons would probably cost at least $7.  I’d much rather use that $7 purchasing bananas or another healthy snack for the kids to eat.  Not to mention that the helpers’ time and energy spent putting snacks into those baggies could be better spent working with the children.

How many baggies does our family use a year?  We aren’t perfect. We still buy them from time to time.  We usually buy 2 boxes of sandwich sized bags per year, and I buy the kind that do not have zip tops.  I save the twist-ties that tie our bread and use them to tie the baggies as needed.  We usually buy a couple of gallon sized or quart sized zip top bags in the summer months that I use to freeze produce from the garden.  I try to buy those when Ingles has triple coupon week so that I can get them at the lowest possible price.

1 comment:

  1. I agree Gabrielle. I used more containers than bags. When I do, I will reuse them by washing them and hanging them inside out...