Tip #7: Reusable Bags

If you have been keeping up with Baby Steps, you may think that using reusable bags is a given. I hope you do! But if you don’t, I’d love to give some reasons that shopping for groceries with reusable bags is a small way to make a big difference.

First, think of how much plastic you touch in a day. The first thing I touch is my phone case, to turn off my alarm. That is plastic. Then it’s my shower, my shampoo and conditioner, my clothes, my food, my backpack, my car, and so on. All of those things are encased in, touching, or made of plastic.

It’s impossible to get away from. And in this day and age, I wouldn’t expect you to. But anyone can reduce the amount of disposable plastics they use- much like our Baby Steps about using reusable mugs and water bottles pointed out. Cutting out the use of plastic bags is the next logical step to reducing plastic bags.

The polyethylene plastic bags we use to carry our meat and Reeses at Gerbes, King Soopers and Hyvee take 1,000 years to break down. And polyethylene plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade, which means that they just break up into smaller, toxic bits of plastic that can’t be reused or recycled or even caught and contained to a pile or single area in some cases. They usually spin around in the ocean in something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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(via http://www.remarkably.com/tag/garbage/)
Unfortunately, people romanticize this garbage, and imagine a huge vortex of plastic bottles and bags, which looks and sounds scary. But the reality is even worse: the plastic spinning around in the patch has photodegraded so much, that often we can’t see it with our own eyes, and can’t pick it up with our hands. Invisible, and toxic with extremely high levels of BPA and DDE, it harms at least 267 species that we know of. Sometimes the animals eat the plastic thinking it is food, and sometimes animals hormones are altered by the chemical compounds like BPA.

Over 90% of the time, this will be their ultimate destination; the ocean. Because according to the EPA, less than 5 percent of plastic grocery bags are recycled in the U.S.

Now that you are sufficiently informed, it should be easy to make the move to reusable bags.

First, reusable bags are only a dollar each at any store, either Gerbes, Lucky’s or Hyvee.

Second, reducing the use of plastic bags isn’t even just bringing canvas totes with you. It’s also putting all of your fresh veggies in one produce bag rather than multiple. It’s not putting your gallon of milk in it’s own plastic bag. It’s filling up the plastic bags you do use, rather than keeping your meat, dairy and vegetables separate.

And it’s really being conscious that every time you use a new plastic bag, there are billions of other people doing the same thing, multiple times a day, every day. And all that plastic has to go somewhere.

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Tip #6: Plan Your Travels

This may be the hardest Baby Step yet: plan your travel.

Every day, we use some form of transportation to get to school, work, the grocery store, etc. Even with gas prices so low, planning your travel is an easy way to be more sustainable. Fossil fuel emissions and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere are serious problems, and if everyone in the world focused on reducing their own fossil fuel emissions, we will be able to sustain our current lifestyles for much longer.

Riding your bike to your commitments instead of driving your car is not only more sustainable, but healthier for yourself and saves a ton of money on parking and gas alike. Now that it’s warming up outside, riding your bike to classes and work is an easier task, but even in the winter riding your bike is an option. When it was cold and I lived far from campus, I would drive part of the way to class, park at the foot of Rock Quarry Road and ride the rest of the way to school. Usually, riding your bike means waking up earlier and dealing with the extra exercise, but according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, college is the time when young adults form the habits that they will have for the rest of their lives, so it may be hard at first, but it will be worth it in the end! Eventually, riding your bike three or four miles to school and work will seem like nothing! Not only will biking keep you in shape, but it will seriously reduce fossil fuel emissions from motor vehicles. Try doing it one day a week to start off!

If you are opposed to exercise or bikes for some reason, the second best way to plan your travels is to carpool. Carpooling is easier with roommates or coworkers, but carpooling can extend past work and campus life as well. Mizzou has the COMO Rideshare Facebook page which helps students coordinate rides to and from St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, and even Texas or Colorado! Carpooling will be cheaper than a MOx or train ride, and reduces fossil fuel emissions!

Failing all that, the third best option is simply to plan your solo travels better. Taking one night of the week to run to the grocery store, post office, mall, and other small trips can save a lot more in gas than you’d imagine, saving money and fuel emissions.

This has been a short tip, but remember: even something small, like saving an extra 3 miles worth of driving by biking to work one day a week, can make all the difference if everyone bands together and sticks to it.

Thanks for trying to be sustainable! 🙂 See you next week.

Tip #5: Buy Local Eggs

Being a sustainable shopper is a hard task, especially as a college student. $100, or even $150, a month doesn’t go as far as you might think, and buying that $3 head of organic broccoli seems like such a waste when there is a $1.50 head right next to it, and they look exactly the same! Plus, sometimes an organic head of broccoli can have just as much of a negative impact on the earth as non-organic, depending on how far it’s traveled and where it’s being grown.

That’s why my fifth Baby Step to Sustainability is buying local eggs.

I eat at least 3 eggs a day, mostly because a hardboiled egg is the only healthy food I know of that leaves me with no dishes to wash. Eggs are filled with nutrients and protein, are low carb, incredibly versatile and insanely cheap. A dozen can cost less than $2 (or, less than 17 cents an egg), and last almost a week.

This is why I suggest that there is no reason that anyone able to spend at least $100 a month on groceries can not shell out an extra $2 (or, an extra 14 cents an egg) on a dozen eggs. Even the most expensive of dozen boxes won’t even amount to 50 cents per egg. Often, if you eat 3 eggs in a morning, you will spend less than $1 for breakfast! That is less than a coffee, and has way more nutrients.

Now on to why it’s sustainable. I’m going to stick to a single point to keep it concise, though there are many reasons that local eggs are better for the environment.

As you may know, Sustain Mizzou -and many other organizations- generally defines sustainability as using resources today in a way that does not sacrifice the resources and comforts of our children and Earth in the future.

Reduction of the use of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels is generally one of the most sustainable things we can do in this day, in our first world country. (If you’ve forgotten why, our own MacKenzie Reagan explained this in What the Frack is Fracking) last year. Thus buying food which requires minimal transportation is very sustainable- and often a lot cheaper! – than buying food from states and states away.

Luckily, here in the state of Missouri, we have a plethora of farmers who raise chickens. Even the Columbia Center For Urban Agriculture, which is only about a mile north of the University campus, has chickens which produce eggs! Also, at every store in Columbia, there are a variety of local eggs, most notably from the Stanton Brothers who are located in Centralia.

Stanton Bros. Eggs

Yes, those young boys really are the Stanton Brothers. And they really do run a farm of ~12,000 free range chickens. That amazing fact in itself is a post for another day.

I’ve found, (unsurprisingly) that Lucky’s Market is the best place to buy local eggs, with Gerbes coming in for a close second. Most days, Lucky’s has a variety of eight or more different brands of local eggs. These local eggs also often are free range, antibiotic and hormone free and grain fed, all things which you are free to look up on your own, but that we will also be covering in the future under Sustainability 101.

 

But, if only for the reason that it reduces fossil fuel emissions, please pick local eggs the next time you shop! Even if you buy eggs four times a month, and only do it once, it will be an improvement.

There are many other factors which play into the sustainability of local eggs, but we’ll post about that in the future when we talk more about factory farming and nutrient pollution.

For now, I appreciate all three of you making it to the end of this post (hi mom) and have a great True/False weekend!

-Katherine