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Your cotton tote is pretty much the worst replacement for a plastic bag

By Quartz

You have to use a cotton tote thousands of times to make up for its environmental impactRead full story

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  • A few thoughts in why this and similar challenges are difficult:

    1. Not everyone is aligned on what the goals or criteria are (in part because different valid goals can conflict)

    2. The relevant frame can often be bigger than we think (more things matter and we need to zoom out); e.g., here, the food

    A few thoughts in why this and similar challenges are difficult:

    1. Not everyone is aligned on what the goals or criteria are (in part because different valid goals can conflict)

    2. The relevant frame can often be bigger than we think (more things matter and we need to zoom out); e.g., here, the food choices matter more than bag choices.

    3. Quantifying effects is difficult

    4. The right leverage point for the solution isn’t clear. Here, I’m not sure individual choice is the right level at which we should try to effect change.

  • Having read dozens of these reports as both a technology analyst and an ESG analyst, it really is important to point out that there are several inaccuracies.

    It is definitely best to incinerate ldpe, but the reality is most plastic bags do end up in the ocean or in the ground, and even those that are

    Having read dozens of these reports as both a technology analyst and an ESG analyst, it really is important to point out that there are several inaccuracies.

    It is definitely best to incinerate ldpe, but the reality is most plastic bags do end up in the ocean or in the ground, and even those that are in reclamation, are never properly sorted to be able to be properly incinerated in an environmentally sound incineration facility. Looking at entire life cycles, it is definitely necessary to look at reclamation, and reclaiming ldpe it's not as simple as using an oil refinery cracker. So definitely producing an ldpe bag is far cheaper and far more efficient then producing even paper bags.

    To also compare like to like, most of the paper reclamation is already in place, so the life cycle for paper is fairly easily sorted, in the same way that cans and plastic bottles are, but that is not the case for ldpe bags. Looking at entire life cycles means it's necessary to actually look at the entire lifecycle topographically and also in time slices to understand how the reclamation process to get to the very few and unlikely totally environmentally-sound incineration facilities are.

    Then if we are going to look at total life cycle across both longitudinal data sets, such as the energy that is required to build an entire ldpe facility, inclusive of the reclamation process topographically, and then inclusive of building and environmentally-sound incineration facility, then comparing that against even a totally outdated and obsolete paper mulch facility or paper recycling, that is not anywhere close to either an economic or a carbon or energy footprint comparison. taking into account advances in water reclamation in paper facilities, these numbers also look very different.

    In order to do true comparisons it is necessary to compare across entire time frames of generations and look at how but use cases differ across not only a product's lifecycle but the actual manufacturing, supply chain and logistics of the life cycle from inception to reclamation.

  • And by the way— cotton and other textiles used for clothing- same concept. We are learing more about the true cost of making all this STUFF. So now we have even more to be thinking about. Could the next target be fast fashion (or is it already?)

  • Ignoring the cost and impact on marine environment and long-term health consequences of micro plastics makes this a fundamentally flawed conclusion.

    Granted this stuff can be challenging to calculate. What is the impact of conventional agriculture on soil depletion and recovery? Is water use really

    Ignoring the cost and impact on marine environment and long-term health consequences of micro plastics makes this a fundamentally flawed conclusion.

    Granted this stuff can be challenging to calculate. What is the impact of conventional agriculture on soil depletion and recovery? Is water use really an impact, since it is eternally renewable?

    I’m sticking with my organic cotton totes. By my calls, using one of my bags daily for 10 years has eliminated over 3500 bags from the environment (several hundred of which probably ended up in a waterway or as litter according to statistics).

  • I think it comes down to your priorities: reducing litter vs. reducing carbon. They're both important, and maybe there's some eggheaded effective altruist type who can make the decision for you - but I think it's a great opportunity to make up your own mind and weigh two worthy yet competing priorities

    I think it comes down to your priorities: reducing litter vs. reducing carbon. They're both important, and maybe there's some eggheaded effective altruist type who can make the decision for you - but I think it's a great opportunity to make up your own mind and weigh two worthy yet competing priorities against eachother.

    Of course, if you *already have* the tote - just use that.

  • My town banned plastic bags a few month back and some of the stores now upcycle second hand t-shirts into totes by cutting off the arms, cutting a larger scoop out of the neckline ad seeing the bottom closed.

  • Is it just me or does anyone else feel that even when you feel confident you are doing your part to help the environment, you find out you’ve been doing it wrong or aren’t doing enough?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to learn how I can do more, but I feel sources need to be giving complete research data

    Is it just me or does anyone else feel that even when you feel confident you are doing your part to help the environment, you find out you’ve been doing it wrong or aren’t doing enough?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to learn how I can do more, but I feel sources need to be giving complete research data that shows the whole-picture. For Denmark to release study results stating that plastic bags have the least amount of environmental impact, but failing to include how it impacted marine life is just negligent. By the way, in the past week news reports have come out about a whale washing up ashore filled with plastic bags and trash, so who are they fooling.

    At the end of the day, the important thing is to not to be wasteful.

  • One small error: (127 countries have adopted plastic bag restrictions, and New York City just passed one this week) - it’s the state of NY that passed the bag ban.

    Many environmental issues are complex. Often stands on some principle cause more harm than what’s being fought. Bans on plastic bags aren’t

    One small error: (127 countries have adopted plastic bag restrictions, and New York City just passed one this week) - it’s the state of NY that passed the bag ban.

    Many environmental issues are complex. Often stands on some principle cause more harm than what’s being fought. Bans on plastic bags aren’t the only way to keep bags out of the oceans. But they score points for politicians who are more interested in points than they are in solutions.

  • Definitely an interesting POV, but perhaps doesn't account for the entire lifecycle of the production costs.

    As the article states, though, if you already have a cotton bag, continue using that!

  • There are no easy solutions and every choice comes with an opportunity cost. What's an individual to do? Source reduction aka don't use to start with makes for a good beginning, followed by reuse as much as possible - whatever the item is. Never, ever litter and take up plogging to mitigate for those

    There are no easy solutions and every choice comes with an opportunity cost. What's an individual to do? Source reduction aka don't use to start with makes for a good beginning, followed by reuse as much as possible - whatever the item is. Never, ever litter and take up plogging to mitigate for those who still consider the environment to be their personal trash can.

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. In Mauritius, since a plastic bag tax was implemented, all big grocery stores make cardboard boxes they've accumulated available for free to customers. Reuse at its finest. (And no need for cotton tote bags.)

  • Amazing insight. Everyone is quick to point out the “good” and the “bad” but then leave it at that. There was a great article by Ephrat Livni titled “there’s a strong ethical case for wearing leather and fur” with even more research done on how to dress “ethically” and the massive misconceptions that

    Amazing insight. Everyone is quick to point out the “good” and the “bad” but then leave it at that. There was a great article by Ephrat Livni titled “there’s a strong ethical case for wearing leather and fur” with even more research done on how to dress “ethically” and the massive misconceptions that you must clear through to get to the real bottom line.

  • The true question is can we change our habits? It takes effort to remember to bring an eco bag every time you leave the house. Lets hope that people resist the urge to accept the cotton tote just because its free.

  • As I live in an apartment I use my useg grocery bags as a replacement for the plastic garage bags I would buy to do the same thing.

    Did the environmental study include the impact of washing the reusable bags?

  • Very interesting! Thoughts? Surely not! Plastic bags etc are so terrible , glommed together in the millions in our oceans and not disintegrating, no?

  • All these suggestions as to how to lower your personal carbon footprint or how to reduce litter make it sound like it's the consumer who is ultimately responsible for the state of the environment. It's true that each of us play a role, but that individual role is so incredibly insignificant, it's essentially

    All these suggestions as to how to lower your personal carbon footprint or how to reduce litter make it sound like it's the consumer who is ultimately responsible for the state of the environment. It's true that each of us play a role, but that individual role is so incredibly insignificant, it's essentially no difference at all. I could convince 1000 fellow environmentalists to make the sacrifices to live at carbon zero, and it would make essentially zero change in global carbon production. Without comprehensive governmental regulations that change the incentives of big corporations from polluting and using large amounts of single use plastic, it makes no difference if you or I become vegan, stop flying overseas, or buy a Tesla.

    Our time, money, and energy is a thousand times more useful if we dedicate it to convincing people to vote for politicians who understands this and is willing to make the hard choices that could save our future ability to live in vast areas of the globe.

  • It's like a choice between devil and the deep sea. Thankfully we still have a third option. Its funny that plastic, as hideous as it is made out to be, seem to be a better option if used sensibly (a big ask, yes) than cotton tote - a produce of water guzzling monster 👾 crop.

    Moderation is the key

    It's like a choice between devil and the deep sea. Thankfully we still have a third option. Its funny that plastic, as hideous as it is made out to be, seem to be a better option if used sensibly (a big ask, yes) than cotton tote - a produce of water guzzling monster 👾 crop.

    Moderation is the key? 🤔 We sure need the deep sea and we need the devil as well, don't we?

  • And organic cotton is even worse!!

  • Environmental impact not withstanding, these are some of the least helpful suggestions I have heard...unrealistic and impractical. Begs the question, So what's in your closet?

  • Hemp is much better!

    Now that the 2018 Farm bill included provisions for Hemp, expect to see more hemp in products for everyone.

  • Had always been happy believing the myth that organic anything was good for the environment and that it meant I was doing my bit. Seems I’ve got to change my course and organic underwear.

  • Unnecessary waste is bad. Reusing your shopping bag is good because less waste is generated. Making you think about not wasting probably causes you to waste less in other areas of your life. I don’t need a study to tell me this.

  • Mitigating environmental impact is crucial yet complicated. Perhaps plastic bag bans should include reuse incentives and bags made of any material should carry a label with some of this information so consumers can make better-informed decisions.

  • Long live IKEA bags.

  • I find this article missing key information thus incomplete and irresponsible. State Who sponsored this Danish study. Hmmm. The plastics industry? My cotton totes are over a decade and a half old and I use them daily for carrying more than groceries.

  • I try to reduce reuse recycle and have been following green marketing since its inception. I’m 100% believing that there’s a lot more that could be done but that change takes time. I could probably write ten pages on the topic but there are plenty of reasons why we’re all struggling with these environmental

    I try to reduce reuse recycle and have been following green marketing since its inception. I’m 100% believing that there’s a lot more that could be done but that change takes time. I could probably write ten pages on the topic but there are plenty of reasons why we’re all struggling with these environmental issues. And most of them boil down to basic mathematics.

  • Truth is, no matter what you do to appease the "everything is wrong" zealots, you can't.

    They are perpetual complainers.

  • Why not reuse plastic bags to create reusable bags? I used to make a bunch of stuff by weaving plastic bags....

  • Just a great informative article, too bad the ( if this is accurate) truth isn’t properly digested and used.

  • So glad to see this story really getting some pick up. They are a complete waste of money. How sustainable could they ever have really been if brands were giving them away like candy/usb sticks. Even startups would give them away as “merch”! The original virtue signal.

  • It is often difficult to understand the complexities of best practices. Driving a Prias others would let me know the depth of the carbon foot print my vehicle caused. Using recycled grocery bag draw similar conclusions. However, doing nothing is not the answer. If everyone every single day could take

    It is often difficult to understand the complexities of best practices. Driving a Prias others would let me know the depth of the carbon foot print my vehicle caused. Using recycled grocery bag draw similar conclusions. However, doing nothing is not the answer. If everyone every single day could take one step forward without back tracking, we will br heading in the right direction.

  • Ocean plastics can be dramatically reduced by policing 10 rivers. 8 in Asia and 2 in Africa. The rest of the world does not put plastic into the oceans. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/90-of-plastic-polluting-our-oceans-comes-from-just-10-rivers/

  • This is a seriously flawed report. We need to stop with this reasoning that plastic isn’t bad for the environment because it doesn’t use as much water or energy to produce as natural textiles.

    As far as we know, plastic never biodegrades under normal conditions. And in only a minority of cases is a

    This is a seriously flawed report. We need to stop with this reasoning that plastic isn’t bad for the environment because it doesn’t use as much water or energy to produce as natural textiles.

    As far as we know, plastic never biodegrades under normal conditions. And in only a minority of cases is a plastic bag ever recycled.

    Natural fibers, especially organic ones, can regenerate soil, capture carbon, and feed back into the natural cycle of decomposition indefinitely.

  • Between plastic or cotton I definitely choose the cotton tote. No matter what any study tries to prove.

  • No need to use anything. Stick purchases in your briefcase, purse or pocket. Or just walk out of the store carrying a few items - - and your receipt, of course 😉. If you need a larger bag, reuse anything that’s already been created and then use it again and again until it falls apart. Repeat.

  • The crucial assumption here is “proper disposal” once you’re done using single-use items. Everyone likes to rag on developed countries who use a lot of single use plastic, but developed counties have much higher rates of proper disposal than developing countries. Developing countries now have access

    The crucial assumption here is “proper disposal” once you’re done using single-use items. Everyone likes to rag on developed countries who use a lot of single use plastic, but developed counties have much higher rates of proper disposal than developing countries. Developing countries now have access to a lot of single use plastic without the infrastructure to dispose of t properly. If you’re concerned about single-use plastic getting into the ocean, you should go talk to the Thai fisherman throwing his lunch bag in the river before giving someone a hard time for putting a Walmart bag in the trash can in the US.

  • Interesting read. The idea is to be not wasteful

  • While not relevant to bags necessary, neighborhood apps like Nextdoor are great ways to ‘Reduce’ and ‘Reuse’.

  • I'm stunned.

  • This is an article about the environmental impact of bag options that intentionally excludes the impact of them piling up in our oceans and food supply?

  • Wow

  • So, the neighborhood cat lady was right... She has a bag (or more) of bags under her sink that she uses as totes and lunch pails and ersatz garbage bags. Who knew???

  • Very interesting

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