Reducing Plastic Bag Consumption

Is your home littered with plastic bags? Yes, I know that the frugal side of us can find many ways to use these, but does anyone else feel bogged down by these?

Since I do our grocery shopping at Aldi, I have always brought my own bags to the grocery store. I have had many a bag bust on me. Frankly, I find the plastic bags flimsy and not well-equipped to hold the loads that I put in them. I am not a grocery bagger so I am sure that I overload these, but I usually have a handle or bottom break on these when I take them to the store.

On the flip side of me, we shall call this part of myself the environmentally aware portion, has felt really bad about all of the plastic bags that we have been tossing out. Apparently, other people feel the same way as San Francisco has banned the use of them in supermarkets, large retailers, & pharmacies. IKEA also made the move to charge customers five cents per bag, in hopes of encouraging the public to bring their own bag. offers some surprising statistics on plastic bag consumption:

Top Facts – Consumption

 Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
 According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
 According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)
 According to the American Forest and Paper Association, in 1999 the U.S. alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees to be cut down.
 According to the industry publication Modern Plastics, Taiwan consumes 20 billion bags a year—900 per person.
 According to Australia’s Department of Environment, Australians consume 6.9 billion plastic bags each year—326 per person. An estimated .7% or 49,600,000 end up as litter each year.

Top Facts – Environmental Impact

 Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
 Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
 As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected.
 Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month.
 According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone “from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere from Spitsbergen 78° North [latitude] to Falklands 51° South [latitude].
 Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

There are frugal ways that you can reduce your use of plastic consumption. If you can sew, try sewing some canvas bags for yourself to use in lieu of the plastic bag. Visit this site for a free pattern (use the grocery bag dimensions) on how to sew grocery bags.

Reuse the bags that you already have for anything and everything. Use them to line wastebaskets, take them to the grocery store with you, or tote them around with you while you clean up the yard.

You can also purchase bags that can be reused for your grocery day. I decided to take a less frugal approach towards reducing my plastic bag consumption, but this saved me time and helps me feel like I am doing my part to help the world. This set of bags was found through Everyday Happenings of a Frugal Mom, a blog that I recently ran across, and I loved the look of these! I purchased this set of bags from Reusable and have been using them for the past couple of days.

These bags are amazing and I am so pleased with them. They are made just like a grocery bag and are flat on the bottom so that they naturally stand upright. They have handles on them to make toting them around very easy and they hold tons of stuff. I was able to fit all of our groceries into four bags with ease. The set came with fabric drawstring bags for my produce and I used these for that purpose and for storing my eggs in.

I also went to Dollar Tree and got two plastic totes to put my canned goods in because it is easier when I am bagging the groceries myself for me to put them in the car and carry them inside.

I can’t rave enough about these and how pleased I am with my purchase. It has made my shopping day so much easier and I feel like I am doing my part to help the environment.

The shipping time is so unbelievably quick that I could hardly believe it. I literally had my order in my hand twenty-four hours after I placed it.

I have been toting my bags around since they came and taking them everywhere we go. These work great for all of my shopping, but also our frequent trips to the library. I also can’t wait to tote these bags to our Farmer’s Market this summer.

Being frugal and being environmentally aware, in my opinion, seem to go hand in hand. I cloth diaper because I want to save money, but I also make a positive impact on our environment. I do not use paper towels or napkins because I think they waste valuable grocery dollars, and I reduce the waste in our house. I choose not to buy paper plates because I don’t like using things only once and tossing them so I use the plates we already have to serve our lunch on.

Being a mom and being environmentally aware should go hand in hand too. You love your kids so you want them to have as beautiful of a world as we have. How do we accomplish that? By caring for the world so that our children can enjoy it.

What are some frugal things that you do that have a positive impact on our environment? Do you find helping the environment and your frugal endeavors seem to go hand in hand?

Published April 03, 2007 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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