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Thursday, October 18, 2007

In the bag!

Chris Jordan
Plastic Bags, 2007 Digital C print, 72″ x 86″ by Chris Jordan

The infamous plastic shopping bag- once a symbol of cash and carry convenience in the modern age, has recently become the scourge of "Generation G" (for green of course!). As efforts to protect our environment become a necessity, rather than a passing fad, more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the planet. One of the easiest and most effective ways being forgoing the plastic and bringing your own re-usable bags for shopping.

The plastic grocery bag was first introduced to U.S. supermarkets in 1977. Although studies show that plastic bags use less energy to produce, transport and recycle than paper, they also show that the rates for plastic recycling are significantly lower than for paper products. When they are recycled, they can be incinerated for waste-to-energy, but this is still problematic, because of segregation difficulties for different materials, high contamination levels from food products and an underdeveloped market for use of the recycled product. Not to mention the fact they they are not biodegradable, unsightly when littered and pose infinite dangers to wildlife and young children.

Many countries and Eco-minded companies are taking steps to ban plastic bags altogether, or to charge for them, like Ikea where they cost customers $0.05 each. At vintage clothing re-saler Buffalo Exchange, each time you forgo a bag with your purchase you receive a token to drop in the charity box of your choice in the store. Each token represents a $0.05 donation to the charity in place of the cost of the bag you didn't use.

Your best bet still remains to bring your own reusable bags. Once associated with hippies, co-ops and hemp lovers, the only choice was often the typical off white canvas tote bag emblazoned with a particular store's logo (Trader Joe's anyone?).

Now, the Eco and fashion conscious have come up with scads of solutions for today's Eco-friendly hipster. Most notably, Anya Hindmarch's canvas bag with the slogan "I am not a plastic bag" (which I can't help but liken to Magritte's iconic surrealist painting entitled "Ceci N'est Pas Une Pipe" in it's tongue in cheek manner) has gained enormous popularity, being spotted on celebrities and supermodels alike.
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Envirosax has created an option for those who don't want their main bag to be their carry-all. Their bags are lightweight, durable, waterproof, and best of all, roll up into a convenient 1.4 ounce package, perfect for storing in the bottom of your purse, backpack or glove compartment. They also come in a wide range of fun prints and colors at just $35 for a set of 5.
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Susan Bijl's color block grocery totes, give a nod to the neon loving nu-rave craze that's hit the streets lately. Made of water repellent coated nylon, the 2 color bags come in assorted packs of 4 for just $28.
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For those looking to do it the way some of our ancestors did, look to the ancient Japanese art of Furoshiki. These traditional wrapping cloths were first used in the Muromachi era, 1392-1573. Re-popularized by the Japanese environmental minister, she says that they can be used for most anything with a little ingenuity and wrapping skill. Lucky for us, they've even created a diagram of the folding plans, which you can download here!
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For a great article on plastic bags and their impact, visit


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