05 Jun 2017

Contrary to popular belief, I am not perfect.  I am a work in progress and I am constantly looking for ways to improve the lives of my family, friends and the community as a whole.  I have to call myself out on being a conscious environmentalist.  I had an unconscious environmental lapse recently on a trip to the local grocery store.  As I was checking out, I noticed the young lady behind me who brought her own reusable bags to the line.  I was impressed and mentioned to her how I appreciated her doing that.  I then looked at the cashier as she bagged my things in a plastic bag and realized how wrong I was.  Paper or plastic bags are false choices we make every day.  We should remember to bring our own bags to all stores or have no bags at all.

It is estimated 4 billion plastic bags end up as litter each year.  Many of these bags end up in our drainage systems and cause flooding and damage to our homes and businesses.  The production of plastic requires toxic chemicals.  According to the EPA, these chemicals generate five of the top six hazardous chemicals such as benzene and chromium oxide, were used in its production.  Recycling plastic bags is an expensive and time consuming process because it requires separation by type of plastic, re-melting it and re-forming it.  Petroleum based plastics are not biodegradable.  However, they do take up less space than paper in a land fill.  2,000 plastic bags weigh 30 pounds and 2,000 paper bags weigh about 280 pounds.

Plastic is not environmentally friendly.  Is paper much better?  Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags each year.  Around 14 million trees are cut down annually for paper bag production.  Trees are grown, found, cut, moved, stripped of bark, “digested”(treated with limestone and sulfurous acid until the wood becomes pulp), washed with water and bleach, pressed into finished paper, cut, printed, packaged and shipped.  It is a long process that uses a lot of energy.  The production of paper bags generates 70 percent more air and 50 percent times more water pollutants than production of plastic bags.  Paper is biodegradable but it will not completely break down because it is buried under layers of soil that keep it from getting air and sunlight needed.  It takes 98% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.

It is amazing how our everyday simple choices can add up to make a profound difference in the environment and the way we live.   Many things we do unconsciously because it is easy and it’s the way we have always done them.  These unconscious decisions have a greater impact on our community and take longer to overcome.  I challenge you to wake up and practice better ways of doing things to bring value to your family and the community in which you live.       If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me thomsustainableconsulting@gmail.com.  Or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff.  #Resist #Wordsactionchange



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