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Vegetable clothes

Reusable bags i use at the Farmer's market

My reusable produce bags

New fashion for your greens

Yesterday, I was shopping at the weekly Berkeley organic farmers’ market.  As I was picking up some beautiful shitake mushrooms at the Solano mushroom stand,  a shopper next to me mentioned that he liked my cotton produce bags, especially the mesh ones.  (I have reusable mesh and solid ones.)  He asked me where I bought them. I was happy to spread the environmentally-friendly info and said they are available locally at the Berkeley Natural Grocery. Later in the conversation, I found out that he sits on the board of the farmer’s market and very soon plastic bags will no longer be available at the market. Also, there is a move toward using compostable plastics at the market.

Most of the shoppers at the Farmers’ Market carry reusable shopping bags.  Surprisingly, I’ve only seen two or three other people use reusable produce bags in the environmentally-conscious Berkeley area, at the farmer’s markets and stores.  Most people are still entrenched in the usual shopper’s habit of ripping the plastic bag off a hanging roll and bagging each type of fruit or veggie.

The next step in the reusable bag movement is using reusable produce bags for fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Why should I care?

“All of these “free” bags ultimately cost both consumers and the environment plenty:

  • Each year billions of bags end up as ugly litter.
  • Eventually they break down into tiny toxic bits polluting our soil, river, lakes and oceans
  • Production requires vast amounts of oil.
  • Countless animals needlessly die each year.”

Source: Reusablebags.com

“Americans use 50 billion to 80 billion plastic bags a year.”
Source: Whole Foods Chain to Stop Use of Plastic Bags, NY Times, January 23, 2008

My husband and I have been using reusable shopping bags for many years. However, I became conscious of our small produce bag waste after I realized that we were using about 200 plastic produce bags per year for fruits and veggies!

The reusable produce bags I like are organic cotton and are washable. The mesh bags are good for veggies and fruits, and the solid ones for smaller items like nuts and seeds. I hope to see these bags made with renewable, low-impact hemp in the future.

Flaco's vegan Mexican food in my reusable, recyclable meal container.

Flaco's vegan Mexican food, from the farmer's market, in my reusable meal container.

Where to buy reusable produce bags

Reusablebags.com
Note: Sells organic Cotton Mesh Produce Bags and organic Cotton Net Produce Sacks.  Made with Fair Labor/Fair Wage. Machine washable. The vendor also sells cool Reisenthel shopping bags.

East Bay area (California):
Natural Grocery
Note: They sell organic Ecosac’s GardenSac mesh and net see-through produce bags. They are located on a stand behind a register near the book shelves, and near the produce aisle.

Related articles

Plastic Bags: Switching to Reusable Cloth Bags by Kay Bushnell, SierraClub.com, Accessed November 7, 2008.

SF supes vote to ban plastic bags in stores, San Francisco Chronicle, March 27, 2007

An Inconvenient Bag, Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2008

40 percent of Laysan albatross chicks die each year from plastic, montereybayaquarium.org, Accessed November 7, 2008.

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“The time for small changes is over”

Small and big changes are necessary to meet the challenges facing our earth. As I begin this blog, I ask myself how: we can meet the challenges of climate change and the depletion of our earth’s resources? How can humans live sustainably?

I recently read two articles that addressed these questions.  In “Begging for Small Change,” Dr. Tom Crompton in an article for the BBC says,

“Of course, it’s helpful for people to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, or turn their central heating down; cumulatively, such changes will have a beneficial impact.

…In fact, some research shows that, for a significant number of people, the opposite is true. Having embraced one simple change, some people then tend to rest on their laurels and be less likely to engage in other more significant changes.”

He explains how a green consumer can paradoxically create more waste. Dr. Crompton also proposes positive solutions for change, among them:

“We need a different approach to motivating people to change; one which stems from a re-examination of the values upon which this change is built.

Studies find that people who engage in behaviour in pursuit of “intrinsic” goals – such as personal growth, community involvement, or a sense of connection with nature – tend to be more highly motivated and more likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviour than individuals who are motivated by “extrinsic” goals – that is, financial success, image and the acquisition of material goods.”

Read the complete article: Begging for more than small change

The subject of overconsumption is discussed in Crompton’s article and also in Too Many People, Too Much Consumption by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich of Stanford University. They discuss how humans have been depleting the earth’s resources “as if there were no tomorrow.”

“Four decades after his controversial book, The Population Bomb, scientist Paul Ehrlich still believes that overpopulation — now along with overconsumption — is the central environmental crisis facing the world. And, he insists, technological fixes will not save the day.”

Their pointed remarks about consumption resonate with me as an American and hit home:

“Consumption is still viewed as an unalloyed good by many economists, along with business leaders and politicians, who tend to see jacking up consumption as a cure-all for economic ills. Too much unemployment? Encourage people to buy an SUV or a new refrigerator. Perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell, but third-rate economists can’t think of anything else. Some leading economists are starting to tackle the issue of overconsumption, but the problem and its cures are tough to analyze. Scientists have yet to develop consumption condoms or morning-after-shopping-spree pills.”

The Ehlrichs provide inspiring remarks for positive change:

“We’ll continue to hope and work for a cultural transformation in how we treat each other and the natural systems we depend upon. We can create a peaceful and sustainable global civilization, but it will require realistic thinking about the problems we face and a new mobilization of political will.”

Read the complete compelling article Too Many People, Too Much Consumption.

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