Editor’s Note: The Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC) is an ASUCD commission responsible for researching environmental issues affecting the campus and its surrounding area, and providing recommendations for improvement. Doin’ It Green is a new feature which provides tips and ideas for being green.
Here at EPPC, we encourage you to have some swag, and bring your own bag. However, even the greenest of tree people find themselves caught without eco-tote once in awhile, and those awkward moments often result in the lose-lose situation of choosing paper vs. plastic (as opposed to forfeiting your groceries at the check-out aisle, in which case, you are a better eco-warrior than myself). So, knee-jerk reaction: plastic is bad, and paper is of the trees … so paper is a better option, right? Not exactly. In terms of the entire lifespan of a paper bag: production, transportation, and decomposition, a paper bag will end up emitting 70 percent more greenhouse gasses than its similarly-sized plastic counterpart. Furthermore, trees take a major hit for our luxury of single-use paper bags: 14 million trees are brutally chopped every year for paper bag production. However, don’t jump on the plastic bandwagon just yet: Polyethylene is made from fossil fuels, and they pretty much refuse to return to their organic state (read: they don’t break down). American shoppers are given over 100 billion plastic bags annually, equating 12 million barrels of oil. The costs (monetary, environmental and moral) associated with the extraction of fossil fuels is constantly increasing, as the proverbial “low-hanging fruit” has long since been harvested.
So, dear reader, which is the lesser of the two evils? Bottom line: they both suck. Things that are better for the environment than single-use bags: ANYTHING that you plan on re-using multiple times. The purest type of recycling is plain-old re-use. However, if you do happen to be caught at the check-out aisle without a bag option, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each, and then you can decide which way you feel more comfortable killing the earth. Happy shopping!