Making Ripples

Making Ripples

“Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That’s over one million plastic bags used per minute.”
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Phase Out Plastic Bags with Enterprising Ideas

By Amanda Bancroft

In the final frontier of green living, there are always unexplored galaxies. Last night, I had just fallen asleep when the theme song to Star Trek blasted through the ceiling from the apartment upstairs. My dad and I used to watch Star Trek when I was a kid, but we were a Ziplock family and I grew up knowing more about Spock than how to store food without waste.

I decided then, my first goal was to completely eliminate the need for new plastic baggies in the kitchen. Instead of using a Star Trek phaser on them, I’ll just phase them out gradually. Reusing older baggies is OK, and preferable to throwing them away. Some people wash out large ziplock bags to freeze homegrown produce or to use them over and over again. However, it’s not sustainable to use new plastic bags for every purchase in the bulk aisle, or really at all. The U.S. produces 380 billion plastic bags a year, more than 1,200 bags per U.S. resident; and it takes about 12 million barrels of oil to produce that amount.

That’s why the bulk section in stores like Ozark Natural Foods is so important in cutting down plastic waste. For those who have yet to explore this frontier of food, here’s a brief introduction: the bulk aisle contains large bins of snacks, nut butters, baking ingredients, rice, tea, coffee and more. You can purchase a reusable container, use your own containers once weighed and marked, or grab a plastic bag and fill ‘er up.

Since we acquired the plastic bag habit, we’ve also acquired over two hundred plastic baggies. Every timeI turn around, there are more of them — on the desk, the counters, the drawers, the pantry shelves…they’re like rabbits! Our baggy bunnies have overpopulated the kitchen. Today’s grocery list contains a spice, cumin, which we buy in the bulk aisle…in little plastic baggies! This time, the cumin ain’t comin’ in if it’s inside a baggy. Here’s how I’ve reduced hundreds of plastic baggies to less than a dozen:
1.    Instead of grabbing plastic baggies, purchase glass spice containers.
2.    On a bike or walking? Organize a carpool with friends when you need to refill heavy bulk containers.
3.    Use mason jars for food storage, cloth bags for bulk tea, lightweight Asian takeout containers for hiking snacks and bento boxes for sandwiches.
4.    For fresh produce, try reusable produce bags.
5.    Don’t store your old plastic baggies alongside catnip, or your cats will eat them!
6. has tips for finding free mason jars, and craft ideas for excess baggies.

But there are other options to reduce waste. For example, we take backpacks with us to do our grocery shopping. If you want to make a difference and reduce waste and plastic use, check out our blog to learn how to support Quinn Montana and sign her petition to make Fayetteville free of plastic bags!

Ripples is a blog connecting people to resources on sustainable living while chronicling their off-grid journey and supporting the work of non-profit organizations. Read more on this topic and others at

Categories: Commentary