Friday, March 27, 2009
How Green Are Your Grocery Bags?
You feel pretty good about yourself toting those green woven bags back and forth to the supermarket. But how much — and what — do they really save? And what's wrong with the old plastic and paper kinds? Reusable fabric bags are most commonly made from cotton, but the cotton-farming process is extremely fossil-fuel-intensive because of the machinery involved. Cotton is also responsible for 25 percent of all chemical pesticides — insecticides, fungicides and herbicides — used on American crops. Chemical fertilizers are used to enrich the soil. Most of the cotton grocery bags are woven outside the U.S. where labor is less costly, but that increases the use of fossil fuels in getting them from the factory to these shores. The process for making paper bags is also far from ideal. Huge machines log, haul and pulp trees. The entire paper-making process is heavily dependent on chemicals, electricity and fossil fuels. Surprisingly, plastic may be greener than paper. The EPA reports that making paper bags generates 70 percent more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than making plastic bags. The former also uses more energy and generates more solid waste. With any sort of bag, the best solution is to not throw it away at all. Paper should have an advantage here, right?...Fox News