Today the earth faces a lot of challenges. These include global warming, pollution, the destruction of natural plant and animal habitats and the consumption of natural resources well past the breaking point. If people want to fend off these dangers to preserve the earth, human behaviour must be altered. One way this has been accomplished recently has been through a move towards the use of resusable shopping bags.
Traditional Shopping Bags
To understand the benefit of reusable shopping bags, you must first understand the risks posed by the traditional shopping bags that were used for decades in grocery stores and retailers. As you probably well know, there were generally two choices, paper or plastic. According to Waste Management, humanity uses and then throws away approximately 4 trillion plastic bags a year. You should be aware that the production of plastic requires chemical processes that release pollution into the environment that is harmful to plants, animals and human beings.
The amount of paper bags that are used each year is also extremely large. All this paper must come from somewhere. Typically, that occurs via the clearing of portions of forests even in parts of the world where endangered species are threatened such as the rainforests of South America. While recyclable paper is a more environmentally friendly alternative, the production process required to recycle still can create a significant carbon footprint of its own.
The Long Term Risks of Traditional Shopping Bags
However, it’s not only the production processes of paper and plastic bags that are wasteful. They also pose long term risks. Deforestation, for example, that is required to create millions of paper bags may eventually make life on planet earth unsustainable due to the fact that trees do much of the work of converting carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen for animals an human beings.
The long term risks of plastic are also significant. Unlike other substances, plastic does not biodegrade. It could take a thousand years for a plastic bag to disappear in a landfill entirely. Plastic also poses significant risks to animals that can be suffocated or poisoned if they come into contact with plastic in the wild.
The More Environmentally Friendly Choice
Thankfully, certain people were aware of how much waste is created simply to make shopping bags that were later disposed of. This led to the advent of resusable shopping bags. Unlike traditional shopping bags, these are not constructed from paper or plastic. Instead, they are made of cloth, most often cotton, which requires a less strenuous production process than plastic and does not require any trees to be sacrificed.
Even more important is the fact that reusable shopping bags are not thrown away. They are used to transport groceries or other products to a person’s vehicle. However, they are designed to be sturdy enough for constant reuse. A person can use the same reusable shopping bag for many years without having to purchase a replacement.
While the use of resusable bags has been steadily increasing, it is still much lower that the use of plastic and paper bags in the marketplace including in Canada. However, if the adoption rate of reusable shopping bags became 100 percent, the positive impact on the environment would be immediate and significant indeed.