Just One Thing Challenge #2


Now were off with #2:

The request: Use no plastic grocery and shopping bags for the next week. Use, and purchase if necessary, reusable bags. Recycle all plastic bags around the house at a participating location.

The reason: In the North Pacific gyre plastic outnumbers plankton by 6:1. The plastic can clog the stomachs of the marine vertebrates killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year. Moreover, plastics attract chemicals like DDT and PCB poisoning any animal digesting them. Plastics leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can alter biochemical pathways within organisms. Let’s not forget petroleum usage to make a plastic bag. More importantly is the carbon dioxide pollution and petroleum used to transport bags to market. The first impact of this is a more acidic deep sea due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Increases in greenhouse gases are also increasing the atmospheric temperature which in turn leads to a warmer ocean.

Our combined impact: Considering we number 18 currently (you can see why its important to sign up) we will prevent 4.185 lbs of plastic from reaching the ocean (18 people x 5 bags x .0465lbs). If we continue this for a year…234.36 lbs. Gasoline saved would equate to 0.16 gallons for the week (0.5 gallons per person annually to transport / 56 weeks x 18 people). For the entire year 8.96 gallons. Reduction in CO2 emissions equals 3.1 lbs for the week and 173.8 lbs for the year (CO2 emissions from a gallon of gasoline=19.4 pounds/gallon).

Ongoing challenges:
1a. Sign up at this post
1b. Keep reading DSN and participating in the Just One Thing Challenge

People accepting the Just One Thing Challenge: 1. Craig McClain 2. Kevin Zelnio 3. Peter Etnoyer 4. Sheril K. 5. Mike G 6. Farne 7. Jim Lemire 8. Kiki 9. Fish Guy Dave 10. CK 11. Karen James 12. Merisea 13. Keely 14. tonyj 15. Traci 16. Mrs. Hillary Victoria Minor 17. Peter Mc 18. Tony D

32 Replies to “Just One Thing Challenge #2”

  1. A problem: we use plastic bags to gather garbage so we can neatly throw away the garbage into the big garbage can outside. Is there an alternative?

  2. Doh! Please remove my comment on the carbonate vents which was supposed to be written here.

    A good friend of mine said when I linked him to this post:
    “or http://depletedcranium.com/?p=368
    problem: huge amounts of plastic bags clog seas
    bad solution plan: have just a few people use fewer bags for a short while
    better solution plan: make sure the bags, no matter how many there may be, *do not make it to sea*!
    dispose of yours correctly, and use as many as you like”

  3. C’mon guys, I thought this was supposed to be a challenge. I stopped using plastic grocery bags eons ago (even the little produce ones).

    When do we get to the hard stuff like free diving to 100 meters or laying siege to an off-shore oil rig?

  4. Hi,

    Regarding alternative choices for garbage bags. At least in Canada here we have various companies (most specifically Seventh Generation), that offers garbage bags made from recycled plastic materials.
    So that is one option.

    The other is to introduce compost in your household to reduce the amount of garbage you use (thus, less garbage bags).

    As a final option, get started helping to clean beaches or shorelines in your area to help prevent garbage such as shopping bags making it into the water.

    Again, if you live in Canada, visit:
    to learn more about the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up.

  5. Oh, one last thing. At least here in Canada again, there are several large grocery chains, like Safeways, or even Superstore, that will collect and recycle plastic shopping bags.

    Look for something like that in your area, because surprisingly, they don’t advertise such services.

  6. Thanks for the info on BioBags. I have been wondering what I’ll do with kitty litter without plastic bags. I intend to order these. I have just sent the info on biobags to everyone on my email list. A far better use of corn than the corn syrup in our food.

  7. dispose of yours correctly, and use as many as you like

    I don’t think this is a good alternative. The problem is not just that plastic makes it into the sea but the petroleum used to make and transport them as well. Better not to use them at all.

    It is important to start with the basics and work our way up to more of challenge.

  8. I totally agree that plastics are a problem, but I am deeply skeptical of the 6:1 plastic:plankton number. As far as I can tell from reading their blog, the Alguita folks only sample during the day. Being real open-ocean scientists (unlike coastal me), maybe you can provide some insight?

  9. Sure, but already doing that… I don’t drive, and walking home carrying two to four throwaway plastic bags full of groceries will nearly cut your fingers off! Who wants to deal with throwing away a bagful of useless bags every time they go to the store anyway?

    Haven’t tripped over the cellulose plastic bags in the store yet, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye peeled now that I know they exist.

  10. Sorry, me again.
    I saw the kitty litter bit. Just a note that there are many safer options to what I’m assuming is a clay-based litter. There are pine litters, as well as newspaper pellet litters you can choose from instead.

    Such litters, especially the pine pellet types (which you can get a higher end pet stores) (and each massive bag is only $10), are compostable, flushable, and even better yet, better for your cat and yourself. I’ve also noticed less smell, and sometimes you even get a whiff of nice pine-y smell even though the litter box still needs to be cleaned out.

  11. Yes, high nocturnal zooplankton abundance in surface waters could reduce the ratio of plastic to plankton if plastic was constant in surface waters. Good point, Miriam.

    There’s a nice video showing methods called Synthetic Sea

    My understanding is the stated ratio 6 to 1 is plastic to zooplankton, specifically. I’ll try and dig up some primary reference, or place a call to Dr. Moore to see what we can find about this.

  12. Those with cats should also take note of a study in the International Journal for Parasitology reported that more than half of dead sea otters found on California beaches in the recent six-year period had been infected by the cat-borne parasite Toxoplasma gondii. How did it reach the otters? The flushing of used litter down the toilet or other disposal methods that allow the parasite to make it to the water. What to do? Encourage your cat to use an indoor litter box, or properly disposing of outdoor cat feces. Please do not flush cat litter in toilets. Dispose of cat litter with household trash.

  13. It is important to start with the basics and work our way up to more of challenge.

    I understand. As long as you’re saying we will eventually organize an oil rig siege.

  14. This comment is for my fellow “Just One Thing Challenge” takers in the UK: 1) Biodegradable trash bags can be found online at:
    Work with me to keep the pressure up on your local shops to reduce the amount of plastic packaging of food and also to switch to biodegradable wherever possible. This sort of pressure seems to have succeeded in the last year or so by getting folks like Waitrose to sell their organic carrots in a loose bin instead of wrapped in plastic. A lot of work still to be done, though…
    Also, Ocado.com the grocery home delivery company uses biodegradable bags (which you can easily return to them for re-use too) and not only that their vans replace up to 20 cars on the road and they source lots of local produce:

    Lastly, it must be said that of course farmers markets are the absolute BEST: local produce, real people, no plastic, and within cycling distance in most places especially in London:

  15. I’m on it! Have been using the bins made of recycled plastic sold by my grocery store for the past 2 years, and recycle all plastic bag material (it’s not just groceries) back to the same store.

    What’s fun is when they look at my unstainable bins and ask if I want the meat in plastic bags. Sigh.

  16. I’m onboard, too and have posted the challenge on my blog.

    Thanks for the note on the biobags. I’ll have to check them out.

    I keep a couple of grocery bags that zip down to wallet-sized in my car all the time, so if I need to stop on the way home to pick up something at the grocery store I never have to take a plastic bag. I got the bags at Target – they’re about the size of a checkbook wallet when you zip them down but expand to a bit bigger than a plastic grocery bag.

  17. Cyberspace gremlins must be hungry this week because this is the second comment I have posted (the first was on Sandwalk) that has simply vanished. You see, the “P.S.” in my comment above signals the fact that in my mind I had actually left a comment directly before that one. It was all about biodegradable plastic bags and where to grocery shop in the UK. I’m too tired now to repeat it all, but here’s a good link for fellow UK residents wanting to buy biodegradable bin bags:

  18. John (#11), one solution to the problem of plastic bags seeming to cut your fingers off when carrying them is to use a rucksack (or an over-the-shoulder bag, albeit I prefer using both shoulders — and hips, via a belt — sd its much more comfortable). This is what I’ve been doing for well over two decades. It works both for walking and for cycling. (I also don’t have a car.) And it works even if you do use a car (think about it).

    As far as Farmer’s Markets go, YES! I was fortunate enough to live within a short train journey of the first one in the UK (in Bath), and being familiar with the concept from the USA, regularly visited.

    Here in France broadly similar markets are quite common. And many people use baskets (albeit far too often to carry the fecking plastic bags).

    I don’t have any solution on the trash bag problem. I’m careful to only get the ones made from as much recycled material as I can find (not always 100%, unfortunately), and to not generate too much waste, and to recycle (glass, paper, and plastic, especially; surprisingly few cans, I don’t seem to buy much that comes in cans!).

  19. OK. I’m In. I now have 3 re-useable bags (recycled milk bottles, I think) in the car that I’ll use. I have an old dog, so we don’t go to the park too much, so I don’t need disposal bags for that…

    I think I can do this. I’m a bit at a loss for the loose veggies, but I’ll think about it.

    I’ll even look into biobags for the general household garbage.

  20. Plastic is horrible for fruit and veggies anyways. It traps ethylene, the ripening gas. You should put you fruit and veggies either out in the open or in paper bags (not waxy one, so they can breathe). They will ripen better and last a little longer too. So bring a clothe or paper bag for fruit and veggies. Wrap leafy veggies in paper towel. Most grocery stores will have paper towel available by the herbs.Or you can put it in your clothe or paper bag and rinse it off when you get home then wrap in a paper towel and store in your fridge.

  21. I’m on it! I’m definitely going to sew my own tote bags for groceries.

    I like using those plastic produce bags at grocery stores only because I used to work at one. Those conveyor belts get NASTY. Do you really think the 5 people in front of you cared if their raw meat was dripping?

  22. Kevin,
    Thanks for the paper bag tip. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.
    I’m not sure if they have them at our store (it’s a tiny grocery store, smashed small to fit into an overgrown town) but i’ll check. Otherwise I’ll have to drive further to get to a store, and that’s some carbon calculus I’m not ready to deal with.

  23. I’m on it, and I’m bringing my friends with me! Although it’s hard to find the hold-outs anymore, people are catching on!

  24. Since almost everyone here already know about the “evils” of plastic bags, how about the challenge be to pass this information on to people who dont? Starting with your friends and family who you already have some influence with. Then your neighbors and general community. This is the true challenge my friends.

  25. “problem: huge amounts of plastic bags clog seas”

    Interesting case of selective reading. I think the post makes it quite clear that while the marine related issues are important, they are far from the only plastic bag problem we have, many of which are inherent to the material and its use.

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