Your Tuesday Tip: BYOB (Bag, that is)

It's a new school year, so it's time to set some goals. Don't forget to consider the environment along with your academic ambitions.

We have an easy suggestion for you — and it's not a new concept by any means, but it's one we all should really make an effort to do: Make it a goal to always have a reusable bag on hand. Carry at least one in your book bag, purse, backpack, car or bike pouch at all times. Most are foldable and some pack up in their own carrying case, which means you really have no excuse.

Why bother to make the (very small) effort? 

These days, some stores charge you a small fee for bags, while some give you a credit of a few cents for bringing your own. In most of the country, these fees are optional and at the discretion of retailers. But some counties, cities and states have passed laws mandating fees, like in the nation's capital, which has had a bag tax in place since 2010, and Hawaii, which is the first state to ban plastic bags — granted, at the county level, not by the state legislature. (Oahu became the last populated island in the state to ban the bags as of July 1. Though apparently there's a bit of a loophole there.)

If a few pennies here and there is not enough motivation, take a look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It's a giant swath of plastic trash — literally too large for scientists to trawl to measure, according to National Geographic. Not all of this, obviously, is plastic bags. But it's certainly part of the problem. Beyond pollution, the danger extends to marine animals as well. 

Bottom line? It's way past time to ditch the plastic bag habit. Solutions include:

  • Purchasing a reusable bag. Some are made of recycled plastic bottles. (Is that the "Inception" of recycling — reusing a bag made of recycled materials?)
  • Making your own bags out of recycled materials. Got an old T-shirt or 20?
  • Skipping a bag altogether. Think about it: If you carried it up to the register in just your hands, do you really need a bag? 

Another bonus of reusable bags is they are much sturdier than the disposable options from stores these days. So, save your expensive eggs from disaster.

Just remember: Reuse widely and wisely. And give those reusable bags a wash every now and then to avoid the risk of cross-contamination, too. 

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.