A Fresh New Perspective on the Paper Vs. Plastic Debate
A few months ago, EarthShift founder and managing director Lise Laurin was asked to offer her opinion on one of the great environmental debates of our time: paper or plastic?
Of course, most of us try to remember to bring our own reusable bags (which is better, as long as we're not washing them with hot water every time we use them!). But Lise was actually asked to respond to this blog post, which asks, "If you forget your re-usable bag, do you go with paper or plastic?"
In her response, Lise avoided the technical nitty-gritty, burst out of the narrow framing of the question, and offered a really helpful real world perspective. Here's what she wrote:
Buy more food (provided you are going to eat it). The impacts of driving your car to the store are much greater than the impacts of the bags. So if you can reduce the number of trips, you'll do more than if you pick one bag over the other.
Next, try to reuse the bag when you get home. Where they have banned plastic bags, the purchase of bags like trash can liners has gone up. So if you have a use for one bag over the other, pick that.
Don't waste food. The impacts of what you're putting in your bag far outweigh the bags themselves. Every time we throw food away, we're throwing away all of that energy, etc.. It's like leaving the windows open with the heat on.
And be sure to recycle any bags you haven't reused. Both types are highly recyclable.
Remarkably, most people think only of the actual bag itself when pondering this "paper vs. plastic" question. But as Lise points out, only by expanding the boundaries of our analysis we get a full picture of the environmental impacts of a product or practice.
Photo: Jonathan Youngblood on Flickr