Go Green

Camila Martinez-Granata
Staff Writer

Photo From Wikimedia Commons

“Paper or plastic?”

Sounds like a simple question and answer right? Not so much.

All over the United States the products you purchase are almost always handed to you in a neatly organized bag, with convenient handles for you to carry them around while you continue to shop or head home. It’s no secret that plastic bags are not the most kind to our environment- but they’re so useful and convenient. They have become such an integral part of grocery shopping and bagging, that even though we know they aren’t good for the planet, we still give in to their convenience. It’s time for change, and at the University of California Santa Barbara, you know exactly what it means.

As an extremely environmentally friendly community here at UCSB, it’s not only important to know what isn’t good for our bird friends at the lagoon, but why. Plastic bags are almost always thrown away, and disposed of in landfills. In fact, according to Protect Your Central Coast, it takes plastic bags anywhere from 15 to 1000 years to decompose. The worst part is that plastic bags don’t always make it to the garbage- they end up in the ocean for birds and sea-life to digest and harm themselves. In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal reported that only one percent of plastic bags are recycled; the rest are free to wreak havoc over the natural environment that we always claim to protect.

Another reason to avoid plastic bags (like you should even need one): oil. Plastic bags, among other plastic products, are produced from fossil fuels that rev up our cars, planes and ships. Considering gas is going for a little over $4 a gallon, it might be a good way to take advantage of your consumer power.

People bag on (pun intended) paper bags because it kills trees, but most paper bags used by grocery stores are already made out of recycled paper. Plastic isn’t. Yes, there are some biodegradable plastic bags out there, but because they cost more to make, stores aren’t likely to hand them out to consumers willingly.

Grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have largely turned to paper bags when they pack your food. Urban Outfitters also stepped up and has even begun to use canvas or cloth-made bags for you to take your overly v-neck home in. To put it simply, this is awesome. Not only do you get a free tote and reusable bags that are not plastic, it offers a convenient way of spreading green thinking and living.

We live in a world where new technology dominates our interests and preferences; so naturally, who would want to use an old plastic bag when you could just get a new one from the store? You don’t need to anymore. Now that grocery stores sell or offer reusable or paper bags, we can avoid contributing to the massive pollution and environmental degradation that happens all over the world. We can embrace being kind to the planet in simple, small ways that make a big difference.