According to "Biological Diversity"; a top rated non-profit organization, “plastic is a global tragedy for our oceans and sea life”. This organization that is doing wonderfully important work for the environment, wild life and sea life among supporting other ecological initiatives, believes that in California’s Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments — like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles — are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day. Unbeknownst to many of us, plastic pollution has a direct and devastating effect on sea mammals and water fowls. Scores of sea turtles, flocks of water fowls and numerous marine mammals are killed annually after ingesting plastic, mistakenly taking it food stuff. Some of these creatures get entangled in plastic junk and succumb to a painful death.
So how did we get stuck with so much plastic and especially plastic bags? Well, they’ve been around since the 1950’s in one form or the other. Plastic bags are probably one of the most common sights on the street today especially in under developed countries where civic services like trash hauling and regulated landfills are not available. In developed countries, this menace is present in the landfills, near lakes and beaches or picnic spots away from the city or municipal limits. In many countries around the world, people go through thousands of plastic bags a year, without so much as a thought as to what this high consumption means. These single use plastic bags are perhaps one of the worst kinds of pollution on the planet right now. They fill up our landfills, work their way into drains and sewers, clogging them and resulting in floods and other health problems. They eventually end up in the sea or in forests where they kill hundreds of thousands of creatures every year. They take thousands of years to decompose and their production harms the environment quite considerably as well. Little known to the average consumer, plastic bags are made from petro products and are depleting one of Earth’s most precious resource- crude oil.
Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on plastic bags then, when you can simply opt for a greener and cheaper alternative- reusable cotton bags? As a consumer, you have many affordable choices available to you. Reusable shopping bags in all shapes and styles are available from many retail merchants and online stores. We can carry one, two or even half a dozen reusable shopping bags in our vehicles’ trunks and glove compartments to use during our shopping trips or when visiting farmer’s markets. If you are a business owner, you can tell your customers to bring their own bags, and offer them reusable organic cotton bags or other kinds of reusable shopping bags that they can bring every time they visit your store. Quite a few mega-stores have already started doing this all over the world so why shouldn’t you benefit from it too. What you can do is, hire a company that makes organic, fabric bags such as EcoFabrik to make stylish, branded shopping bags for your stores and sell them to your customers instead of plastic shopping bags. This way, not only do you help the environment, you also make a sound business decision. If those reusable shopping bags are stylish and trendy enough, people will use them whenever they go shopping, even if it isn’t at your store. Free marketing, anyone?
This green, Eco-friendly gesture can actually get you a lot of free promotion, not just through those reusable shopping bags, but other things too. Most websites and blogs about ‘green living’ actually highlight businesses that switch to a greener alternative. All you need to do is have your marketing people draft a press release and email it to such websites. You get lots of free promotion, and at the same time, you encourage other people to do the same. You can also ask your suppliers to cut down their plastic consumption by reducing their packaging or opting for recycled paper and biodegradable plastic. Rather than packaging fresh produce in Styrofoam trays and plastic, why not just leave it open so that people can pick up whatever they need or use recycled, paper or cardboard containers. If you pack these things yourself, why waste money on Styrofoam and plastic when you can get branded, cardboard boxes that can actually be reused and recycled easily?
It all boils down to basic marketing; on one hand, you get cheap plastic bags and Styrofoam trays that people usually throw away as soon as they get home or have consumed the product. On the other, you have stylish, reusable shopping bags made from organic fabrics that people can reuse whenever they go out, and branded containers made from recycled materials that they might just find other uses for. The latter makes more business sense because it’s literally free promotion for your brand! It is incumbent upon all of us to raise awareness about the menace of plastic and single use objects that are polluting our public lands, forests, water bodies and even the air we breathe. Above all, you and I as business owners and consumers will be doing a great service to our precious planet as well as our fellow human beings and those other creatures that call it their home.