Reusable Bags Gaining Ground?

This weekend, I found myself at a supermarket in foreign territory (New Jersey) with an unwonted form of transportation (a car). My husband and I were stocking up on our way back to Manhattan after a visit with my mother.

“Paper or plastic?” the young woman at the check-out asked, which triggered a conversation among her, my husband and myself about which was worse.

I said it was a toss-up, which always surprises everyone, especially now that the tide has begun to turn against plastic.

Granted, paper is grown from a renewable resource where plastic is made from petroleum. And yes, it is heavily recycled and biodegrades in the environment instead of littering the landscape, clogging sewers and choking animals who eat it, as plastic does. But paper takes more energy and water to produce, and generates more greenhouse gases.

Environmentally speaking, the only good choice is reusable bags — which my husband and I, embarrassingly, had none of that day.

The check-out person cheerily noted that lots of her customers had started bringing reusable bags. When I pressed for numbers, she hazarded 30 percent. Really??? Well, 30 percent including those who said they forgot to bring them…like us.

That still sounded like progress to me. Intention isn’t the same as action, but surely must be a precursor.


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4 Responses to Reusable Bags Gaining Ground?

  1. George Roach December 2, 2008 at 8:54 am #

    Good afternoon,

    I found your "Journal of Sorts" very interesting today. As I thought about it, I think that you may have an interest in what we at Con Edison are doing from a positive perspective to help the environment by reducing paper, and everything related to making paper. We are making significant efforts, and progress in migrating customers from both receiving and paying their bills by check to do so electronically. As a result of the above I will initially provide some information that you may find interesting and that I would gladly expound upon should you have an interest in including it in one of your writings. Furthermore, Con Edison is an original member of the national "Pay it Green" Alliance,, where we and many of the Financuial Institutions throughout the country are attempting to educate consumers, related very specifically to the positive imnpact that they can have by migrating from paper to an electronic billing and payment envirnment.

    Please see the attached as samples of what we have been doing.



    George K. Roach
    Con Edison
    Central Credit & Collections
    Electronic Billing and Payments

  2. Julia Fishman December 8, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    I read your article by Sheryl Eisenberg from Jan 2008: PETS AND THEIR POOP, about the ways to handle poop “greenly”

    It is confusing to me, since I am not clear how can something that is obviously biodegradable be bad for the environment and how can it be better to pack it in plastic bags and fill up the landfill, when it is obviously going to biodegrade faster without the plastic bag?

    There are – hopefully – a number of wild animals that poop to their heart’s content in the woods and right in our backyards (coyotes, skunks, birds, mice, etc) that don’t carry around poop bags and don’t have access to a flush toilet. Why would their waste not contaminate the ground water and the waste of pets and cats will? Besides, the ground water is cleaned before it is used for drinking. And as far as swimming – it seems like there would be all kinds of contaminates in that kind of water anyway – so swim at your own risk. Seems to me like the ground is a great natural filter and there are micro-organisms that are happy to eat and decompose the poop of our furry friends. If we are to think long term, what kind of a solution is it to recommend putting something that CAN decompose into landfill?

    Just thought maybe someone could shed some light on it or do some sort of follow up article

    Thank you,


  3. Sheryl December 9, 2008 at 12:12 pm #


    Animal waste is not that big a problem in small quantities, but in large quantities concentrated in relatively small areas (cities and suburbs), it poses a public health threat. The reason is that it carries pathogens — organisms that can cause sickness and death. Human waste is similarly problematic, which is why we don’t dump it raw into waterways but build elaborate wastewater treatment systems to sanitize it first.

    Dog poop also contains nutrients that can make water uninhabitable for wildlife by feeding alga blooms that use up all the oxygen.

    Bagging animal waste in plastic is admittedly a compromise because, as you point out, plastic doesn’t biodegrade (and is made with petroleum). But all things considered, I’d rather have that problem to figure out than a health crisis.

    Fortunately, bagging isn’t the only alternative. You can use a doggie-dooley to dispose of dog poop, bury it or flush it down the toilet.

    Cat poop is a different story. It contains toxoplasma eggs, which are suspected of making it through wastewater treatment only to kill sea otters. Toxoplasma can also cause birth defects in humans if the mother is exposed when pregnant, and may play a role in schizophrenia.


  4. David Baumgarten June 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    Hi Sheryl,

    Our company Baumgartens has been 'going green' in multiple ways.
    One is by inventing and manufacturing solutions that do less harm to the environment and offering these solutions for other businesses interested in using less natural resources.

    I'd love your thought on our items.

    Please take a look if you have time.