Tips for Using Reusable Bags

Sustainability

The plastic bag ban took place in California in 2014. California was the first state to pass legislature prohibiting stores from offering single use plastic bags. This was a huge step because other states have started to follow suit either by presenting their own versions of this legislation or by trying to get similar laws passed by their local governments. Actually, as of today, New York has become the second U.S. state to implement the same plastic bag ban. There are several other states still trying to get similar bills passed. It’s a big step towards becoming more environmentally friendly, but there are other points that should be considered when making the switch to reusable bags.

Plastic Bags for Purchase

There are still plastic bags available for purchase at most stores in California. These thicker plastic bags are more sturdy than their previous counterparts, however they are still made of plastic. For those of us that forgot our bags every time we went to the store in the beginning (we tried, we really did!), we ended up purchasing the newer thicker plastic bags offered by grocery stores at $.10 a pop. This is not to say that the thinner plastic bags are better, but the thicker plastic bags seem to be even worse because of the material. In order to make the newer, thicker plastic bags worth the switch, you must reuse them. I’ve seen statistics online that say you must use them at least 4 times to make the switch worth it, but I know for a fact that these guys will last for several more trips. Be sure to use these plastic bags as many times as possible to make sure they aren’t being disposed of as quickly as the thinner plastic bags. The thicker material makes them less susceptible to holes and also makes it easy to wipe them out if they get a little dirty. It’s not necessary to throw these out right away to opt for canvas or fabric bags. Create less waste in the beginning by using up what you currently have before giving them up entirely.

Plastic Produce Bags

While the plastic bag ban is great, for whatever reason the plastic produce bags are not banned. It’s easy to pile up in the produce department, using separate plastic bags for each variety of fruit and vegetable you’re purchasing. I’ve tried not using them in grocery stores and sometimes get irritated looks from the cashier when they realize all of my produce is floating around inside of my reusable bags. My tip for this, again, is to reuse the bags you already have before buying reusable produce bags. Bring them with you in your grocery tote and use them instead of pulling new ones in the produce department. Once they are no longer usable, you can purchase the netted, mesh or other fabric reusable produce bags (or make your own!). Want to make the switch right away? You can still reuse the produce bags you already have. They work great as dog poop bags, bathroom trash bags (or any other smaller trash cans), and I’ve even used them during travel to hold body wash or other liquids that may leak into my suitcase.

Reusable Tote Bags

The tote bag is a great swap for plastic bags. They can be used time and time again and can even sometimes become a cute accessory for those mundane grocery trips. Unfortunately, like every other fabric item, these things also take resources to make and to eventually dispose of. Again, make sure you are reusing your bags (plastic, canvas, fabric or otherwise) as many times as possible. This eliminates unnecessary waste and ensures that you’re not buying bags just because. Try not to overbuy these reusable bags simply for a cute pattern or because you get bored of your old ones. It can be easy to overload your pantry with reusable bags, but it’s really not doing any more good than the plastic bags if resources are being wasted to create and dispose of what’s taking their place. Try to use your existing bags as many times as possible before throwing them out or purchasing new ones to replace them.

It’s also important to remember to wash your reusable bags to keep you and your food safe from bacteria. This will also help with unsightly marks and stains that may deter your from using the bags as many times as possible. If you’re using the thicker plastic bags you can wipe them out with cleaner and if you’re using fabric or canvas you can throw them in the wash (hang dry them for an additional electricity savings). Also try to separate your tote bags by function. Save a few bags for groceries, a few for outings or other shopping trips and a couple for things that aren’t food related. Overall, you want to keep the bags separate to avoid any cross contamination. You wouldn’t want to keep a pair of dirty shoes in a bag you might later put tomatoes in.

Lastly, if you have to get new totes, try to buy bags that are made from recyclable or biodegradable materials. Several companies now offer totes made from eco-friendly materials such as recycled canvas or biodegradable hemp. You can often find tote bags at the thrift store as well. Overall, you want to be as environmentally conscious when purchasing the bags as you are when using them. Another useful sustainable tip is to upcycle old items such as t-shirts, pillow cases, old fabric, etc. into your new grocery bags. This method cuts down on waste but also saves money on buying new bags. I will try to do a separate post later this season on a few different projects you can easily do at home to make your own tote bags.

Overall the plastic bag ban is a great move for the planet. Reducing our plastic waste makes environmental sense as long as we’re doing it the right way. Always remember to use up what you own before hastily switching to something new. This can be the first and most important step in reducing waste in your own home.

Do your local stores still offer plastic bags? And if they do, do you use them or do you bring your own reusable bags? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

MelissaRose

6 Easy Swaps for Sustainable Living

Sustainability

When living sustainability first hit the blogosphere, it seemed like it might be some kind of fad. People started toting around reusable grocery bags, and companies began advertising their use of less packaging. But sustainability isn’t just a trend – it’s here to stay. More and more people are catching on. We’re becoming more aware of the effects that everyday items that once seemed harmless are having on our planet and it’s vast ecosystems. Some of the changes can feel daunting. It can feel like we don’t have the time, energy or money to make the changes we so desperately want to make. However, I’ve learned that there are some small changes we can all implement without too much effort that can make real differences. These are my top 5 now 6! easy swaps for sustainability and how you can implement them into your life without breaking the bank, ruining your routine or causing unwanted stress in your already busy and stressful life.

1.Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are one of the first things I can remember seeing pop up on the market that promoted more sustainable living. Grocery stores everywhere started offering their own branded versions of totes and bags that you could purchase for relatively low costs and reuse time and time again on shopping trips. In California, where I’m from, plastic bags were banned altogether; however, instead of them being completely banned, these even thicker plastic bags started making their way into markets. The thicker plastic bags cost around $.10-$.15 per bag, but didn’t seem to be any less destructive than their lighter plastic counterparts. Not only that, but people who weren’t bringing bags had no quarrel with purchasing a couple of these bags and loading them to the brim with all they could fit, trying to save that next ten or fifteen cent purchase. This doesn’t have to be a difficult switch. In fact, there are several reusable bag options that you can try that cost no money at all. If you’re like me, you’ve been saving your old grocery bags since the dawn of time. You can bring these into the grocery store to reuse. I even have a ton of the smaller produce bags that I take with me to the grocery store as well as the farmers market (admittedly, they also work great as dog poop bags). Another free option is to create your own tote bags out of old t-shirts. Instructables.com has a great tutorial on this, and if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can always cut and tie the bottom of the bag as well. Another option I’ve used quite often for quick trips is just using a large purse. Really anything that you use to carry things in will work – tote bags, purses, backpacks, homemade bags, baskets, cardboard boxes, you name it – if it will hold things it will hold groceries. Want to use reusable bags, but always forget them? Keep a stash in your car. Having bags on hand at all times will make it more difficult to forget grabbing them at all.

2. Reusable Water Bottle

I used to buy Smart Waters at the gas station pretty regularly. I’d buy so many that my car was filled with plastic bottles, sometimes not even fully emptied (such a waste!). Once I realized how much I was wasting (and learning more about sustainability), I knew I needed to make a change. There is a serious water bottle crisis happening on our planet. According to this article from The Guardian, there are 1 million plastic bottles purchased every minute. This influx of plastic, although fully recyclable, has overarched our ability to process it all. There is just too much to handle. If you lined up all the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 alone, they would reach half way to the sun. THIS IS CRAZY. Enter: The reusable water bottle. My reusable water bottle of choice is a 24 oz ThermoFlask stainless steel water bottle. You can purchase a two-pack for around $35 from Amazon (they also sell them at Costco). When you add up all the money you spend on water bottles (if you were like me), you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll save by switching to something more sustainable. Not only that, but I find that I drink more water, waste less water and I’m no longer contributing to the plastic water bottle crisis that is occurring in our day and age. A perfect accompaniment to your new reusable water bottle, is a filter pitcher. This ensures you have bottle-ready quality water to drink (at a fraction of the cost), but also ensures you aren’t contributing to what is already a crisis of epic proportions.

3. Bring Cutlery From Home

If you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I very much enjoy cooking and meal prepping. I love being able to bring homemade lunches to work. Not only does this save me time and money, but it makes me feel better throughout the day. Not only that, but the less fast food I purchase, the less I contribute to the use of single-serve plastic cutlery, containers and other utensils. But up until recently, I was eating my lunch at work and realized that I am still using the single-serve plastic cutlery that my workplace provides. This is an exceptionally easy switch, because it does not cost any extra money, it simply requires you pack utensils from home in your lunch. A typical set for me is a spoon for breakfast and a fork for lunch. I pack them in my lunch bag, use them at work then bring them home to be washed. I think what I’ll eventually do is buy a set of utensils from the thrift store and bring them to work to stay. I can wash and use them at work and stop using the single-serve options that seem so convenient. Truth be told, I think food actually tastes better with real utensils! I’ve also seen people do this on the go so that if they end up eating out somewhere they have their own utensils on hand.

4. Thrift, Thrift. Thrift

Again, if you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I’m huge into thrifting. Thrifting is the one thing I’ve been doing pretty much me entire life that I didn’t even realize was sustainable. It’s sustainable because instead of purchasing new things, you are recycling pre-owned items and saving them from the landfill. Truth be told, most of my house is furnished with things from the thrift store and most of the items in my closet are thrifted as well. Not only is it sustainable, it’s a great way to save money. You can find pretty much anything at the thrift store, especially if you’re patient, and I regularly find things that are brand new at a fraction of the price they would normally be. For more tips about what to look for at the thrift store visit my post here.

5. Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets

Dryer balls are a great way to live more sustainably in that they cut down on waste as well as save you money. Dryer sheets can add up in cost, but with dryer balls, you buy one set and reuse them over and over. Certain sets allow you to add essential oils for an extra scent and others can even attract lint (for those of us with pets, this is a lifesaver!). My favorite set comes from Grove Collaborative (click here for a referral link).  You can buy them alone or purchase them with a bottle of essential oil. (PS. Grove has alot of other great sustainable options for cleaning supplies and other home items – be sure to use the referral link above for your FREE set of cleaning items). I love my dryer balls because they make it so that the clothes dry faster (less energy) while also helping to reduce lint and static from my laundry. I definitely recommend checking these out.

6. Reuse Your Ziploc Bags

Sometimes, trying to be more sustainable can cost money. All of the new reusable snack bags, beeswax food wrappers, fabric produce bags – sure they all look great on your Instagram, but sometimes it’s just not practical to go out and spend a bunch of money on your newfound values. Plus, I know when I started trying to make small changes to my life, I still had alot of things I wasn’t ready to give up yet, or maybe ever. One of these things is Ziploc bags. I know, I know… They’re plastic, single use and get thrown out super quick thus adding to the overall problem. But this got me thinking, I already have a giant Costco sized pack of bags (it’s just me and my husband in the house, so buying in bulk makes things last forever). I don’t want to just toss them out and then spend even more money to buy new alternatives. I did some research online about the materials and makings of these little zipper pouches. Did you know you can wash them and reuse them? Yup. Thus making the Ziploc bag reusable. There’s a couple different ways you can wash them depending on your preference and time. The first is to hand wash. You simply flip the bag inside out, wash and set on a rack to dry. Make sure the bag is open and standing on top of it’s zipper when it’s drying so that the inside (which is actually the outside) dries completely. Another method that I was super surprised even worked is the top rack on your dishwasher. I prefer to hand wash since this can take up alot of space on your top rack, but it is a faster and easier solution if you’re in a rush. Simply do that same thing and flip the bag inside out. Place on the top rack of your dishwasher. I liked to use heavier glasses and things around the bags so they don’t end up flying around inside the washer. You can run a normal cycle with a dry cycle and voila! Resuable Ziploc bags. This is a great trick, and instead of spending money to buy those fancy velcroed snack bags you’ve been eyeing, you’re saving money instead.

So these are my main easy swaps for living a more sustainable life. Each of them are easy to switch and are either free, low cost or will end up saving you money in the long run. There are a bunch of other less easy swaps that I may write about later on, so let me know if you’re interested in those as well! I should also note that this post is not sponsored in any way. I link products that I enjoy using as a recommendation to you. I purchased these with my own money after doing my own research and have been very happy with the results. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions!

How do you try and live a more sustainable life? Do you find some things are easier than others? Are you more likely to make a swap if it doesn’t effect your current routine or spending habits?

MelissaRose

ThredUp Online Thrift Store

Sustainability

thredup.jpg

As I said in my last post, I LOVE thrifting – “love” may not even be appropriate as I have recently become addicted to the idea (and action) of buying everything in my life secondhand at a fraction of the amount I’d normally spend. But there’s another shopping method that shares thrifting’s spot at the top of my love list – online shopping. All of the online services such as Amazon, Prime Now, E-Cart (Raley’s) and more make it so easy to order everything your heart desires without having to get dressed or leave your house (with E-Cart you do have to pick up your order, but you don’t actually have to go into the store). I use all of these pretty often to buy everything from body wash to bluetooth speakers – seriously, I ordered a bluetooth speaker on Prime Now this weekend and had it within two hours – SO COOL. Most recently though, I found that my two loves had been combined by someone who must be one of the smartest people on the planet – allow me to introduce you to ThredUp – the Largest Online Thrift Store – otherwise known as heaven. I had not heard of them until I watched this video by Youtube vlogger thataylaa, where she shows all the items she bought and did a try-on video. What-the-what!? You can get super cute, cheap clothes online without having to put on any clothes!? I said to myself with a squeal of joy – I HAD to try it. And try it I did, and I gotta say, I’m impressed. Keep reading to see what I got, how it showed up and to get yourself $10 off on your order.