San Francisco greens plastic shopping bags

posted by Mike on April 2nd, 2007

WorldChanging has a good roundup:

This week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance, which bans the use of plastic shopping bags by large supermarkets. The ordinance requires these grocery stores to use either compostable bags, made from corn starch or other vegetable-based materials and containing no petroleum products, or recyclable paper bags containing a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content.


The San Francisco Department of the Environment estimates that currently about 180 million plastic shopping bags are distributed in San Francisco each year. About 774,000 gallons of oil are used to produce this number of shopping bags.

It’s been pointed out that the Supervisor who sponsored this legislation is a Green:

Supervisor [Ross] Mirkarimi cofounded the California chapter of the Green Party over 14 years ago . . . .

Personally, I’d like to see people switch to greener shopping bags voluntarily, rather than through force. (Retailers would, too.) Maybe this will make greener bags more widely available to retailers elsewhere. Who knows.

Big Y now has canvas bags

posted by Mike on June 18th, 2006

000_1023Last November we made and distributed dozens of canvas bags at our local supermarket, Big Y. The goal was to wean people off paper or plastic shopping bags, a very small step to a more sustainable way of life.

Big Y execs told us they’d keep an eye on the project, and might consider selling canvas bags to their customers in the future.

We put hundreds of dollars into the project, and though we asked for donations, we mostly spent our own money. What’s more, we never saw anyone using the bags after that first day. So the project seemed to be a bust.

Andrew with a Big Y bagTwo weeks ago, all Big Y locations began selling $3 canvas bags at the registers.

I have no idea how much influence our project had on this decision. But I want to believe that it all paid off.

How to knit a plastic bag

posted by Mike on November 17th, 2005

Reusable bag titan Rajiv Badlani points out that because you can’t convince every shopper to use cloth shopping bags, there will always be some plastic bags out there. He plans to recycle these into textiles.

You can do something similar at home, with shopping bags or the plastic bags they put your newspaper in on rainy days. All you have to do is cut the bags into ribbons, twist the ribbons into a sort of yarn, and then knit or crochet the yarn into whatever you like. This is an inexpensive way to make holiday gifts for the environmentalists on your list.
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How to make a canvas bag

posted by Mike on November 12th, 2005

Forget about “Paper or plastic?” It’s time to make your own canvas shopping bag.
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Stopping plastic shopping bags

posted by Mike on November 4th, 2005

James and Abby Hannaford-RicardiThe Saints Francis & Therese Catholic Worker community here in Worcester worries about plastic shopping bags. They fill up landfills, clog storm drains, and litter the city.

The worst part is, nobody even needs them.

A few sturdy cloth bags can do the job as well as plastic (or paper) bags, and can be used over and over for years.

Making the transition requires two steps:

Step 1: Get the cloth bags. The Catholic Worker is making this step easy for dozens of Worcester shoppers. We’ll be giving out homemade canvas bags Nov. 9 to shoppers at the Big Y supermarket on Mayfield Street. These were made possible by generous donations and lots of sewing work.

(See also our instructions on sewing canvas shopping bags.)

Step 2: Change your shopping habits. This one isn’t too hard, either.

My parents live in a 2-story house, with the kitchen upstairs. My father made the transition from plastic bags by either using a couple of cloth bags for small shopping trips, or by putting groceries straight from his shopping cart into his car. He’s set up a sort of pantry downstairs by the garage, so he can move the groceries from the car to the pantry easily. He moves the groceries upstairs as needed.

At my own house, we always used some cloth bags, but always used plastic bags, too. Then we made a chart listing how many plastic bags we were using, how many paper bags, and how many times we used cloth bags.

Using plastic bags became a cause for shame. If you used a plastic bag, someone would look at the chart and say, “Hey, who used a plastic bag today?” It became competitive, and our plastic bag use quickly dropped to zero.

Here’s an article previewing the project in the Catholic Free Press: Canvas shopping bags to replace plastic.

Update: See our articles on making your own shopping bag out of canvas or old plastic bags.

Pictured: James Hannaford-Ricardi outside Big Y, rejoicing at his new canvas bag while his mother, Abby, looks on.