Green Neighbors Program

The Clark County Green Neighbors Program was developed and is maintained by Clark County Solid Waste and Environmental Outreach to assist citizens with developing more sustainable lifestyles and building a strong environmental community in Clark County. Solid waste regional planning and programs are a cooperative effort of Battle Ground, Camas, Clark County, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, and Yacolt. Funding for this project provided by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

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Got bags?

Got bags?

No, I'm not talking about the bags under your eyes because you were up too late binge-watching Netflix, or the ones on your hips from eating too many Christmas cookies. I'm talking about reusable grocery bags. Where did they go? 

Seriously? Where? I have about 20 of those darn things, but when I'm at the grocery store … ummm… none. Out on the town shopping with the girls… uh …zilch. I need to go on a treasure hunt to find them!

I know they're important. I know when I don't use them I'm contributing to the ever mounting global problem of plastic. I know I've even heard plastic bags called "Urban Tumbleweed," as they catch air and blow all over tarnation. I know I am an environmentally conscious person who cares about my planet, but dang… why can't I get those reusable bags in the right place when I need them?

Maybe this will help motivate me. The average American family uses around plastic 1,500 bags a year. Ouch. Landfills are FILLED with these things that can take over 500 years to biodegrade! Americans use and throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture. When plastics break down, they don't biodegrade; they photo-degrade. (New vocabulary word for the day!) This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways and animals upon digestion. Now I'm feeling sick to my stomach, I can't imagine how THEY feel… Need more motivating reasons? Look here. Sure we re-use them to collect dog poop and line the bathroom garbage can, but we need to keep them from being needed in the first place. How many dog poop bags do we require anyway? Really?

How can I remember to have them where I need them? I found one way to motivate myself...

I took the Wastebusters Pledge, where I'm vowing, swearing, signing over my first-born child (well, maybe not), okay… I'm committing myself to bring reusable bags wherever I go for 21 days. I have this amazing set of roll up bags I was oh-so passionate about three years ago. I even bought several sets to give to friends for their birthdays! That's how much I loved these bags. (Yes, we're talking about bags here.) And there they sit now, alone and empty. I am VOWING that these beloved little bags will reside in my purse ONCE AGAIN! (Cue triumphant music.) After I use them, I will roll up those cute little bags and put them back in my purse. I solemnly swear! Feel free to look in my purse. Okay, maybe ask permission first. I don't need random people rifling through my purse, but yes, I will have them there. For 21 days, I will carry reusable bags. Right hand up, left hand on the Bible.

How am I going to remember? Well, now I've committed myself to accountability. Any random person could ask me at any given time to show them my purse, so NOW I'm committed. Or if one person asks me and I don't have them, I will certainly make strides to get those little gems back in their home! Plus the nice WasteBusters team will send me some gentle reminders to guide my progress towards my commitment. Aw, thanks!

Side note: I do think one key for me to using the bags is having cute ones. (Maybe that's just me. Call me shallow, call me vain, but I do love cute bags and I WILL use them more if I LOVE them!) Do what you want with that advice, but just had to say it.

I am also committing to collecting all the plastic bags I have and making sure they find their way to be recycled. And that place is NOT in your recycling cart. Darn, that would be so easy! (Sigh)… but it doesn't work that way. Those bags that find their way into the big blue cart actually wreak havoc on recycling sorting machines and require a major shutdown of the operation with an employee having to climb inside to remove them. Gosh that sounds like a lot of work, and I'd be happy to create less instances of that scene!! I started collecting all my plastic bags and other "film plastic," as recycling industry people call it, a few months ago, and I was astonished at how many there were. From the ones I squashed for many years into that plastic bag holder I have under my sink (Ew… how long have those bottom ones been in there… hope there weren't bread crumbs in them!) to the plastic wrap that seemingly comes wrapped around everything we buy. From the Amazon package that has all those fun air pockets to jump on and scare people with, the bread bags, plastic produce bags (and why do I use those exactly?… that's a question for another day), to the two plastic bags needed to keep my newspaper dry EVERY DAY. Wow THAT adds up! And incidentally "film plastic" is: retail, newspaper, dry cleaning and produce bags, zip and close bags, furniture and electronic wrap, plastic cereal bags, plastic shipping packages, bubble wrap, product wrap (used on paper towels, toilet paper, water bottles, diapers, etc.) Now you know! And just make sure it's clean and dry.

Clark County schools have actually been collecting this "film plastic" (yes, I'm going to continue to use the quotes around those words, because regular people, like me and you, don't use those words ) for a contest. They are competing to see who can collect the most "film plastic" (there they are again!) in hopes of winning a TREX bench for their school. See if kids in your area are participating, and I'm sure they'd love to collect your "film plastic!" Then TREX recycles them into their composite decking products.

Another easy way to recycle, is to take your "bag of bags" with you to the grocery store. Most major retailers have receptacles to collect bags on your way in. If you aren't sure, check this website for a list of retailers.

But recycling the old bags is just a minor way to help this problem. Bringing reusable bags, and no longer requiring the need for single use bags, really is the solution.

Here we go... got bags? Why, yes, I do! Join me and take the pledge!

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