Sunday, February 23, 2020

Reusable Grocery Bags - My Road to Sustainability

Reusable Grocery Bags

ChicoBags are inexpensive and easy to use
Love my green ones!
Quick story time. I purchased my first reusable Chico grocery bags about 9 years ago. I have always been into living a more sustainable life, and this was probably my first purchase. I ordered three green Chicobag Original Totes, and am still using them to this day. My son has two of them in Ireland right now while studying abroad because they do not allow plastic grocery bags there! But, back to the story. I was trying to use my bags every time I went shopping, and I remember one particular day shopping at Wal-Mart. The cashier actually asked me what was wrong with their bags and why do I feel the need to bring in my own? She did not say it like she was wanting to learn, she was saying it like "how dare you". At the time, I told her that I didn't want extra plastic bags junking up my house and found it easier to just keep using the same bags over and over again. Wow, I would have a completely different response to her now! I still remember that cashier and often wonder if she is still working, because nowadays there are so many customers bringing their own bags....she must hate it 😂

Week 3: Reusable Grocery Bags

There are so many reusable grocery bags out there. How do you know which one is the best? How much should you be paying for them? How on earth do you remember to use them all the time?

Let's start with the first question, which one is the best? 

type of insulated reusable bag I use
Similar to the insulated bags I use.
There is NO one-size-fits-all reusable grocery bag. You may not want to hear this, but you might have ChicoBag and my Shutterfly bags, that showcase family vacations. When I am heading to the home improvement store, it is usually the smaller plastic bag size ones, because most items I am purchasing don't even fit into a bag. The thrift stores around me now charge for a bag, so I bring along my larger, deep base bags to stuff all my new-to-me finds. I have many fun prints from JoAnn's Fabric and Crafts. These are nice and big and hold a lot of fabric and yarn. The only other type of bags I have are the bags that have a narrow bottom, and to me are pretty much useless. I use those bags to hold my reusable bags! It is better for me to grab one bag full of bags when heading into a store.
You might have to try a few to see which ones work for your shopping style. I personally have six different types of reusable bags I use every time I shop. When I am heading to the grocery store, I use three different types of bags. #1 is my cold items bags that are insulated and zip shut, have a large base and are very sturdy. #2 is the all-cloth bags that also have a large base and fold up and snap together. #3 are my bags that have the same shape as a plastic bag, but are of course made from material. I have both

How much should you pay for a reusable bag?

Have to admit, most of my favorite bags I got for free! My insulated bags and deep base grocery bags I received at the Minnesota State Fair about five years ago when they were first becoming popular and were a great give-away for different companies. I really do not care what company is on the side of the bag if the bag is a good one. I have also paid for some bags too. My ChicoBags I purchased nine years ago, but they are still very affordable. My Shutterfly bags are purchased only on a sale, or when they offer them for free (not really free because shipping is expensive). And my narrow bottom bags have been received for free from different organizations, but again, they are not my favorites. My Joann's bags were purchased for under $2.00 and most of the time they were purchased because they were either too cute not to purchase, or I forgot a bag and needed another one. They also have smaller ones that work great for lunches or work shoes for $1.49. I also have a few bags that are smaller in size for smaller purchases that I have purchased at the dollar store. If you are going to do this, check for durability and quality before purchasing them. I have used these dollar store bags as gift bags before because they are normally covered with cartoon characters and bright colors.

My bag of bags in the trunk.
How on earth do you remember to use them all the time?

I hear this one a lot from other shoppers as I am filling my reusable bags and they have plastic ones in their carts. You really just have to make a conscious choice. If it is important to you, you will remember. I always have a bag of bags in the back of my car in case I am stopping for groceries on the way home from work and didn't plan on stopping. I always have a smaller bag in the center console of my car, and they are so small, I normally have one in either my purse or coat pocket too. When I get home from shopping, I place all of my reusable bags into the narrow bottom bag and place it either back in my car, or by the door to the garage to grab them the next time I go to my car. I'm not perfect, sometimes those bags sit by the door for days, but they are always in the same spot and eventually make it back into the car. I need to work on my hubby's car to make sure he always has a stash too, but he is good about grabbing them from mine before he shops.

There are some beautiful tote bags that fit right into your shopping cart and then can be reloaded up again after checking out. I have been looking at those, but to me they seem quite large and bulky. For now I think I am going to keep with what is working for me. Because if it doesn't work, I won't do it.

Why we should use reusable bags:

Recycling of plastic bags is not feasible. Most of these bags will not make it to a recycling plant due to their make up and inability to be made into something new. Last month I vowed to never use another plastic bag again, and cemented that by returning my bag of plastic bags from the front closet. Those bags seem to double on their own when stored in our houses.

Pollution. We have all seen the plastic bags on the sides of the roads waving in the trees and stuck to the fences. If there were no plastic bags anymore, the world would have so much less pollution in it. And don't even get me started on the plastic in the oceans.

Return single use bags to Wal-Mart.
Conserve resources. Plastic bags are made of oil, think of the carbon footprint needed to just make one bag. The drilling of our natural resources, containing, moving, rendering, moving again, creating the bags, moving again, heading to the warehouse, moving again to end up at the store we are shopping in to be used for one shopping trip and then thrown into the garbage. Yes, our reusable bags need to be created also, but only once and can be used for years and years.

Durability. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint of plastic bags, Wal-Mart has made their plastic bags thinner and smaller. But that just means one of two things for their cashiers: they place only 1-2 items in the bags or they double bag your items. How is that helping? We are just coming home with twice as many plastic bags. Reusable bags are built to last!

Saving Money. Don't we all want to hang onto our hard earned money? I know I do. Some stores across the country are starting to charge for single-use bags. Some entire cities are doing this too. I know at my Target, if you bring your own bags they will give you 5¢off for each bag you use. That might not seem like a lot, but those nickles all add up.
Gardening in a reusable bag!!!

Multiple uses. A reusable bag has an infinite number of uses. I have seem people who do upright
gardening in them, kids using them to trick-or-treat, as a car garbage bag, beach bags, library bags, bringing toys to grandma's house or smaller ones as a lunch bag. I personally use them to hold craft items and fabric until I find a permanent home for them. I use them to bring items to and from the school I work at. I even have one just for shoes for when I am wearing boots to work and don't want them on all day long.

Hopefully you are all already using some form of reusable grocery bag. Maybe you forget them at home, or in your car. Why not try to make 2020 your year to start using them on every shopping trip? You will have less plastic waste in your home, and you can feel better about doing your part to cut single use plastic use and reduce the possibility of your plastic bag ending up as pollution in the future. Start with just one bag, and see how far you can go.

Leave a comment about your personal tricks and tips for using your reusable bags. What else do you use them for?


Company: ChicoBags and Shutterfly Bags
Why sustainable: they are made to last for decades
Packaging: received just the bag in an envelope
Price: ChicoBag - $7, Shutterfly bag - up to $17
Advantages: super small and Shutterfly is personalized
Company Mission: ChicoBag: offers products that empower people to take an active role in solving the single-use problem. Shutterfly: creating personalized items that bring your memories into everyday use
My Implementation: I made a commitment to myself to not use a single plastic bag in the year 2020
Coupons: there are many coupon codes online for both companies

Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Up next week: Read, Watch, Listen

I am not receiving any financial or product compensation for this post, the opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bamboo Toothbrushes - My Road to Sustainability

Bamboo Toothbrushes

For most people, the first thing they think of when you tell somebody you are eliminating plastics in your life and trying to be more sustainable is: reusable grocery bags, reusable water bottles and bamboo toothbrushes. Whoever is doing the marketing for bamboo toothbrushes is a genius.

Quote from the Zero Waste Cartel website about plastic toothbrushes "In the USA, over 850 million toothbrushes are discarded and end up in landfill every single year. And once in landfill, the plastic toothbrush will not break down. The microplastics will often reach rivers and end up in the sea. It's estimated that 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are used worldwide every year, with the average person using 300 in their lifetime."

Week 2: Bamboo Toothbrushes

I purchased my first bamboo toothbrushes last July, but was waiting for my old plastic toothbrush to wear out before opening the new ones. My oldest son needed a new toothbrush, and is very interested in sustainability also, was the first to try the bamboo toothbrushes. He really likes his and was telling all his roommates at college about it and talking them into purchasing their own when needed. He is such a advocate for things that he believes in.

My old plastic toothbrush was getting gross, and I made the jump to the bamboo one the second week in January. But what did I do with the old toothbrush? Garbage? Recycle? Keep it in my drawer? Sort of, it got banished to the kitchen cleaning brushes drawer. I used it to scrub off all the food particles on my stove grates that were leftover from the holidays. Something about the new year makes me want to clean my whole house....deeply. Baking soda, water and elbow grease was all that was needed to clean both stove grates.

switching to a bamboo toothbrush

So what did I think of using a bamboo toothbrush? At first I was a little skeptical. I do not like wood utensils in my mouth, they feel weird and I don't like it. We had all wood silverware at my oldest son's high school graduation party, and I just could not eat off of them. The leftovers are still at my parents cabin, and I refuse to use them there also. So I wasn't sure how this was going to go. I had also seen reviews by people who are having bristles fall out of their toothbrushes. If there is one thing I hate more than wood things in my mouth, it is a hair. Agh, I am gagging just thinking about it. So I was concerned about that also, but I went for it. 

bamboo toothbrush reviewI purchased a 10 pack from Zero Waste Cartel for $14.99 because I liked the two different bristle colors so I would know which toothbrush is mine. But, I will admit, I don't really care for the wood feeling against my cheek, but it is quite a smooth wood and I have learned to get used to it now. I have only had two bristles in my mouth, that I know of, and yes, it did make me gag, but at least I knew it wasn't a hair. The bristles are actually quite soft and don't feel like they are scraping the crap out of my teeth. They are easier on my gums and therefore I am actually getting better at brushing my gums because of it. The first few times using the new toothbrush, I needed to get used to rinsing the toothpaste off really well, and I am tapping it on the edge of the sink to remove the excess water better. I am not sure if water sitting on the wood is ok or not, but I am trying to remove the extra water just in case. I have not noticed a better or worse cleaning with the bamboo toothbrush, but I think that is a good thing. They can be swapped out for a plastic brush without any complaints then.The real challenge will be getting hubby to switch over when his toothbrush has reached the end of it's usefulness. 

I think I am going to stick with the bamboo toothbrushes. I have been using it for a month now, and I have gotten used to the wood feel in my mouth. I am better at brushing my gums and have one of my kids on board with it also. I purchased mine online, but am starting to see them pop up in retail locations. I actually spotted one at the local Dollar Store! What an easy way to do something good for the planet for only a dollar, and the same price as a plastic one. They are becoming more main stream, which will help to eliminate some plastics in our landfills and possibly change some minds about how easy it is to become eco-conscious with the products that we use everyday.


CompanyZero Waste Cartel
Why sustainable: bamboo & compostable
Packaging: cardboard box and plastic free shipping
Price: about the same as plastic, but shop around
Advantages: softer on your teeth and gums, use old plastic one for cleaning
Company Mission: partnered with One Tree Planted and Bare Vida
My Implementation: I waited until my old brush was shot, then switched and never looked back
Coupons: enter your email and there is a 10% off code that will be emailed to you

Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Up next week: Reusable Grocery Bags

I am not receiving any financial or product compensation for this post, the opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Who Gives A Crap - My Road to Sustainability

New Years Resolution 2020 - To be more sustainable

Two years ago was the last time I have posted on this blog....and I have missed you all!

As many of you know I started my journey to finish up my four year degree and obtain my teaching license in Family and Consumer Science. Well, as of right now I am full time student teaching at a local high school and will be graduating in just four months. That is the main reason I have been MIA with this blog.

But, onto my New Year's Resolution from 2020. It is Valentine's Day tomorrow, and I heard a statistic that at least 95% of people have long given up on their resolutions. Well, I am part of the 5%!

My New Year's resolution was to do something sustainable every week and to try new things and research new ideas. I am still going strong. I will share with you items and actions that I have taken, and will try to post every week what actions I have taken to remain loyal to my resolution. I am not being compensated for any of these companies, they are just companies I have researched and find to fit into my life choices. I will be doing a post about each week and what we did to become more sustainable.

Week #1: Who Gives A Crap 

If you think about it, we are growing trees to be cut down, processed (with chemicals), and shipped to stores so we can wipe our butts after we use the bathroom. After thinking deeply about this, it is quite disturbing and quite frankly disgusting that a tree has to give up it's life to be flushed down my toilet. But what about how they are packaged? Doesn't individually wrapping each roll cause more garbage? The paper wrapping around each roll is 100% recyclable or better yet, reusable. I have been saving mine for my Fashion Apparel Design class that will be using the wrappers in their  "Project Runway" dress out of recycled paper. People use it to wrap small gifts, use it like paper for lists, use it to make braided wrap baskets, rip it up to make seed paper, fold them into little pouches for seed starters or weave them into coasters or placemats. Any paper craft you enjoy, these wrappers can be used for also. The tube inside is also a little thicker than the larger brands, so it would also be a great craft item for elementary students if you know a teacher to donate them too. There is no plastic in any part of this product from the product itself to shipping, and that checks my boxes in sustainability.

But, how does the toilet paper actually feel? I can say that I really like the bamboo version. There is no dyes, perfumes or even compressed designs on it. It is soft on our delicate parts and is a three-ply, so it does the job with the same amount of paper as the large brands. My daughter, who has been known to clog a toilet she uses so much toilet paper, really likes the recycled paper. Her new house is a well and septic system, and the toilet paper has been working well with her septic. I am not sure if she is using more or less, but hasn't complained. And trust me, if she isn't happy with her toilet paper, she lets everybody know! She actually Tweeted about it the one time I accidentally bought 1-ply paper about four years ago. I have no complaints about strength or softness.

Our bamboo toilet paper came in fun black and white patterned paper and the recycled toilet paper came in brightly colored paper. I am not sure if this changes with what they have, or if it will always be the same, but I am excited to see when my next subscription box comes in a few months.


Company: Who Gives A Crap
Why sustainable: bamboo & recycled toilet paper
Packaging: plastic free
Price: about the same as large brands
Advantages: delivered to my door, can use for craft projects
Company Mission: They donate 50% of their profits to non-profit organizations working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries
My Implementation: just sign up for a subscription online, they deliver to my door and I get a more sustainable product to use in my home
Coupons: they offer free shipping over $50 and there are many $10 off coupon codes online

Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Next week: Bamboo Toothbrushes