"Would you like paper or plastic, ma'am?" Until very recently, I would answer "Plastic!" with great confidence that I was helping save the environment. No trees would die because of my choice and I knew that I would reuse the plastic bags in many different ways at home. However, I've found that the answer to the "paper or plastic" dilemma is neither. Research shows that they are almost equal in pros and cons, as they both consume natural resources and cause pollution.
1. Both impact wildlife in a negative manner and pollute our environment. According to the Federal Office of the Environment, paper bags generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags. However, plastics have been used for quite sometime (somewhere between 500-1,000 years) and there is no firsthand evidence of its decomposition. That means that more than likely, every piece of plastic that has been created is still here on Earth.
2. During their life process, they both create toxic by-products. The production of paper bags alone contribute to global warming due to the amount of trees that have to be cut (trees absorb large amounts of greenhouse gases) and the manufacturing of the bags produces greenhouse gases. When plastics aren't recycled, they are often burned. While burning plastics can lead to a decrease in overall sulfur emissions from coal due to the 10,000-20,000 btu/pound that's yielded that can be used to create electricity. The inks and additives found in plastic can create dioxins and emit heavy metals into the air when burned.
3. Neither is effectively recycled. For example, most plastic bags are made from a type of plastic called polyethylene. Eighty percent of polyethylene is made from natural gas, which is abundant, but non-renewable resource. In many cases, it can be recycled, but isn't considered "cradle to cradle" meaning it cannot be recycled over and over again, nor returned to an organic state.
4. Both consume valuable natural resources for a disposable product and most end up in landfills.
Taking all of these points into consideration, buy a reusable shopping bag. They seem to be the best choice. However, if you can't let go of your plastic bags, there are some places that recycle them (even though it seems that they have to be in near-perfect condition). Click here for a location in your area:
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of food has increased by 8% in the past year. For a family of four that spends an average of $745/month for food, that’s an additional $60 per month, or $720 per year. For many, that’s enough to pay an additional mortgage payment, one month’s rent, two car notes or a great start to that savings account they’ve been putting off. Since most of us don’t have that kind of money to burn, here are 7 ways to decrease your monthly grocery bill by at least 25% and reduce food waste:
1. Make a list and stick to it! Take stock of what you already have in your refrigerator, so that you won’t buy things that you already have. It sounds like a no-brainer, but there have been many times that I’ve returned home from an hours-long expedition in Wally World, only to find out that I didn’t need half of what I’d bought. 2. Check your fridge. Trash expired products and check the temperature, too. For optimum freshness, food should be stored between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius. 3. Only buy what you need. Buying from the deli is great, because you can get a variety of meat and cheese in the exact quantities that you need. You can also prevent a lot of waste by buying loose fruits and vegetable instead of the prepackaged ones. 4. Rethink (and reuse) leftovers. Try thinking of leftovers as ready-made ingredients for the next meal, instead of waste. Small amounts of cooked vegetables can be the base of a soup or stew (crock pot, anyone?) 5. Use your freezer! Buy ground beef or turkey in the large value packs. You can make several dishes at one time (spaghetti, pasta bakes, meatloaf, etc.) and then freeze them to use as needed. 6. Swap out! When putting away your new grocery items, put all of the new stuff towards the back of the fridge, pantry, cabinets, etc. and bring all the older items up front. That way you won’t forget about things that have an expiration date. 7. Hold that tomato! Don’t throw away fruit or vegetables that are going soft. You can use the fruit to make smoothies or pies/cobbler. The veggies can be put into soup.
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