What I Learned from 30 Days Of No One-Time Use Plastic Shopping Bags

September Challenge.

Remember that September Challenge?

Remember how I said that I would crush that challenge?

Well I did!

C’mon, you really had no doubts in my ability. I made that first challenge super easy. Most of us have been using reusable shopping bags for more than a decade. Myself included.

The hubby even climbed further on board. In the instances that he didn’t have a reusable bag with him, he opted for a paper bag. We then use these paper bags for transporting outgrown clothing and miscellaneous household decluttering to the donation shops.

Plastic Straws.

But what about that secondary goal?

The one about plastic straws.

I was shocked to find that the United States goes through 500 million straws per day. That’s a 5…with eight zeros!! It could wrap around the Earth’s circumference 2.5 times! 175 Billion a year littering landfills, waterways, and oceans.

I’ve heard it said that ignorance is bliss, but the reality is I’m much too curious of a person to spend time in that place. In the past, I’ve never even thought about how a straw might be causing long term detriment.

But now I knew better.

So how did I do?

Over the month of September, I used…

3 straws.

The first one was during Miss Sunshine’s soccer tournament over Labor Day weekend. We went to lunch with some teammates. We were the last to arrive. I sat at a table with some parents I hadn’t met before and it didn’t occur to me to mention to the waitress that I didn’t want a straw. That restaurant happened to bring out drinks with the straws already placed into cups. The second one was at my birthday dinner. I knew that restaurant brought out straws separately. What I didn’t anticipate was that the mixed drink would come out with a straw. The third was at the hubby’s birthday dinner. Again, it was a mixed drink issue. It was different restaurant and one of those giant “one drink per patron” margaritas. It may have been hard to drink without a straw.

Open Dialogue.

It also opened a dialogue with the teens. They often think I’m crazy with my attempts to “save the planet”. They definitely are still in the mode of believing that one person can’t make a difference. While it’s true that my conscientious decision to be mindful of straw usage probably made very little impact, it did do something.

And something is better than nothing.

In fact, when we traveled to Mabry Mill the next day, I specifically said to the waitress “no straw please.”

If you’re curious about the fact that those 3 straws don’t account for the photo above, that was taken in April at the airport in Munich…before I discovered my ignorance.

Plastic Consumption

I learned that I have a long way to go on the sandwich bag usage. However, I did pull out glassware and reusable plastic for stowage of leftovers or open packages that I might have used the bags for in the past. I was also more conscientious of using as much reusable plastics as possible when packing lunches for the teens. While we often use reusable water bottles, I definitely had my eyes opened to the fact that we still use too many one-time disposable plastic water bottles.

I also learned that plastic seems to be in almost every…single…thing… It’s a journey to move away from it. I see the merits of taking each step that I can take, while also being gentle with myself in those that I am not yet ready to take.

Positive Growth.

My biggest takeaway from the 30 days is the same thing that I’ve said above, but I think it bears repeating:

Something is better than nothing.

In case you are new to my blog or have just stumbled upon this post,  the “30 Days of” challenges are set to help me grow outside of my comfort zones during this year of being 40.  I will be announce each new one toward the end of the month in case you’d like to join in.  I’d love it if you did!

If you missed the announcement of the October Challenge, you can find that here. Feel free to join in. Better late than never!!

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. Dr Suess quote from The Lorax. Snow mountain background

Let your light shine!



20 thoughts on “What I Learned from 30 Days Of No One-Time Use Plastic Shopping Bags

  1. I’m glad you rocked it. I use them everywhere I can, but as I said before, some of the cashiers are snippy about it. For those places, we save the bags for kitty litter scooping. I would prefer to return to the time of brown paper bags, but the only place I know that uses those is the commissary. I continue to buy Sistema pieces to avoid the excessive baggy use. Straws tho… I’m bad with that. My husband suggested reusable metal ones and I told him I could only imagine impaling myself and then he agreed. I reuse of course, but I could do better. We do not buy disposable water bottles.

    1. We have a prior collection that we use for cleaning up the dog’s mess in the backyard.
      Our Kroger’s have paper and plastic. I don’t think anywhere else in town does. I’ve cut down quite a bit on the baggy use with the sistema. I’m trying to be deliberate about what pieces I add since the boys will be off to college soon and I don’t want drawers full of excess plastic. I’ve debated the reusable metal ones. I still have the dilemma of needing them for the giant teas that I get in a drive-thru on road trips (most weekends with soccer!) I intentionally avoided them during September, but that isn’t a long term solution. 🙂 The male teens take water bottles in their lunches. It’s better than sports drinks or sodas, but I’d still like them to carry a reusable one. I trained Miss Sunshine while she was young enough 😉

      1. I lol to the proper training of carrying water. We lived in Georgia when it became a thing, and because Georgia, really useful training time!
        Good luck with your earth-friendly adjustments — I really do think even one person makes a difference, especially when they’re influencing others.

  2. One person can make a difference! Although you think that stopping your straw usage didn’t change much, the truth is that number is at least double what you think … because you can add mine to the list.

    When you mentioned the straw issue a month ago, I was appalled and immediately stopped using them. Talking about it made a difference to at least one person – me. I suspect there are more! Kudos to you 🙂

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback Joanne! I’m so glad that my sharing about the straw issue made a difference. I really hadn’t thought about straws before so it was mind boggling when I learned about the amount used daily.

  3. Every little bit helps and each individual can make a difference.
    Overall we consider ourselves pretty good. We carry re-usable bags with us everywhere, we haven’t used sandwich bags in over a decade, we re-use and recycle wherever possible, we don’t buy disposable water bottles, and we compost.
    I had never thought of straws as an issue before but after reading this I will definitely re-evaluate my habits on this.

    1. I definitely have a ways to go to be where I’d like to be, but I’m working on getting better. I used to be much better at recycling when it was curbside and part of my taxes in Florida. There are companies to hire here and I really should just do it because the drop off places take much less than can actually be recycled.
      I’ve read some articles on composting and think I’d like to add that at some point.
      The straw issue never once crossed my mind until I stumbled upon the article.

  4. congratulations on crushing your challenge and not using plastic shopping bags. Each person who reduces their use of plastic is important, not just because we have done it, but because we talk about it and our friends do become sensitive to the issue even if it takes a while for them to jump on the band wagon, someone has to lead. thanks for leading!
    I am from Canada where re-useable bags are encouraged at the store, some stores even charge for plastic bags. In Ireland the cost is is about 22 cents for store bags. It doesn’t take long for people to stop using them!
    I believe one person can make a difference, if you are a parent you are helping to shift the attitudes of the next generations! My kids thought I was crazy; i use to make cloth Christmas bags, each year, more than 10 years and they are still being used, even my friends have some and they continue to use them, less garbage of any kind in the landfill is good!

    1. Thank you!
      My local grocery store has signs on the cart return asking if you remembered you reusable bags. I think sometimes people forget them in their car. The process definitely opened my eyes to the amount of plastic that is consumed.
      I am the parent of three teens so I’m hoping they take my comments to heart. They aren’t shocked by the reusable bags because they’ve been my main source of toting things for years. Turning down the plastic straw was a surprise to them. They still struggle to see that one person can make a difference and that there is often a domino effect. I hope to be the seed planter and begin the watering in my children, and hopefully they will continue the growth 🙂

  5. Well done you! The UK banned plastic carrier bags a few years ago and are now looking into reducing the amount of single-use plastic being produced. I think packaging and labelling controls should be stricter; the fat/sugar/salt/calorie content on foods should be displayed on the front of packaging alongside the recycling information, with companies given a deadline of when to make all packaging recyclable. We have one planet, we have to respect it.

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