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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

April 19, 2023 - 8:13am --

     “May I have paper, please?”

     “I don’t need a bag for that, thanks.”

     That’s me at the grocery store checkout trying to avoid the plastic shopping bags. Better yet, I just hand the clerk my own reusable bags or frequent the self-checkout.

     On top of not wanting more of the bags to stuff into an overflowing container, I’m trying to do my part to help the environment. Sure, I find alternate uses for the bags, but not enough to continually need more.

     It’s estimated we use 5 trillion plastic bags a year worldwide. Besides being made of fossil fuels, the average plastic bag is used for just 10-20 minutes – about the time it takes to get from the grocery store to your house. However, it can take up to 1,000 years for a bag to disintegrate completely.

     Plastic bags have rocketed into the top ten items found on beach cleanups over the last couple of decades. Plastic in the waterways poses serious threats to human safety and plastic bags are a major contributor to the problem, according to Ohio State University Sea Grant researchers.

     In observance of Earth Day, April 22, The Ohio State University Extension Sustainability Team compiled a list of ways to reduce our single-use plastic waste. High on the list is to replace disposable plastic shopping and produce bags with reusable ones, or skip the bags altogether, if possible. Bring boxes from home or use produce boxes from the store.

      Also on the list:

     ●   Take your own cup/mug to the office and encourage coworkers to do the same. Strive for a Styrofoam-free workplace by buying inexpensive, washable cups/mugs for guests.

     ●   If you are a coffee fan, purchase reusable K-cups (single-use coffees and teas).

     ●   Single-use plastic bottles have a big carbon footprint, and most are not recycled. Buy a good quality plastic, glass, or metal water bottle to be reused. Wash and refill after every use for handy rehydration and be sure to take a bottle with you when you go out.

     ●   Store leftovers in reusable containers or cover with 100 percent natural and environmentally friendly beeswax wraps or recyclable aluminum foil.

     ●   Choose sturdy, washable plates, cups, and cutlery for your next party to be used over and over. In the long run it will save you money and reduce your plastic or paper waste.

     ●   When ordering takeout food, skip the extra plastic by requesting that straws, silverware, and condiment and spice packets be left out. Use your own items instead.

     ●   Glass jars are great replacements for single-use plastic storage bags. They are easy to sanitize and are freezer safe. If freezing liquids, avoid overfilling the jar as this may cause it to break.

     This idea is a favorite of mine. I use canning jars for all types of food storage, including my homemade granola, crushed cereal for casserole toppings, pasta and cornmeal. When I make soup, I freeze single servings of soup in pint jars. You can even make a layered salad that transports easily and looks enticing for lunch.

     These are just a few ways we can improve our environmental behavior. For me, the list is a good reminder that I can do so much more. Think about one way to start and involve the whole family. One step at a time, we can all make a difference.

Laurie Sidle is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences program assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or
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This article was previously published in The Daily Record.