Reusable Bags: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Reusable bags is the FIRST suggestion I make to anyone who wants to reduce their waste.

Why, you ask?

Because we need to carry things every single day! Plastic bags are typically used for only 7-12 minutes (studies vary) and then we recycle them or throw them away.

Most people who choose to recycle plastic bags don’t do it properly (by taking it to a depot in British Columbia) and end up contaminating an entire batch. Like this. Which is sad.

So now that you have absolutely, 100 percent decided that you will never touch a plastic bag again, what should you use instead?

The Good

The best kind of bags, are bags that are made from something that has already been created, bags from a thrift store, or bags made from sturdy, sustainable materials.

These are definitely my favourite ideas:

above: Tote made from repurposed 2010 Olympics banners.

If you are looking for new bags, made from sustainably sourced materials, you have a couple options:

  • Hemp, which grows fairly fast and doesn’t use a lot of water to grow

  • Bamboo, which grows quickly, but uses significantly more water

Both are decent options, and the best part is once they’ve reached the end of their life, just throw them in the compost!

above: Hemp/Organic Cotton blend tote from Sitka (made in Victoria, BC).

The Bad

Cotton and organic cotton are two of the most commonly used materials in “green” products, however both crops use an insane amount of water. When comparing against hemp, cotton to 2-7 times more water from seed to finished product! Regular cotton also uses 16% of the worlds’ insecticides and more pesticides than any other crop.

If you must, choose cotton totes made from organic or recycled cotton, like the string bags from Montreal-based CredoBags.

above: 100% cotton Market String Bag by CredoBags in Montreal.

The Ugly

Not all reusable bags are created equal.

Grocery stores all seem to sell their version of a reusable bag. Unfortunately most of these bags are not made to last, and are often made of plastic. They are typically non-woven, and tear easily at the seams. They also don’t wash very well, and are ugly to boot.

Nylon bags are another bag I suggest avoiding.* They are super durable, but are made of plastic and will never break down. I made the mistake of buying a set the minute I decided to start my zero-waste journey, and although I will use them until they are no longer usable, I regret it every time I pull one out. Learn from my mistakes people!

I have created a printable door hanger to remind you to bring your reusable bags. SO BRING THEM! AND USE THEM! And when you forget, stuff your pockets with potatoes and balance your bananas under your chin and you will NEVER forget to bring them again.**

Saving the world one reusable bag at a time,

Haley

*Unless you can find them made from recycled plastic! When we buy recycled plastic, we are supporting the recycling industry. Although the goal of zero waste is little to no recycling, it’s not something that is going to end overnight. Purchasing goods made from recycled materials takes away from companies who make things from new plastics, and is always the better option.

**Personal experience. I had no fewer than three employees ask me 12 times if I needed a bag. I looked like a crazy person, but saving the planet takes sacrifice!

For everything there is a season(ing)

Spice blends. They make dinner practically unfuckupable.

BUT they often have too much salt and sugar and nasty synthetic additives to prevent ‘caking’ and preserve. I don’t need extra preservation! It’s already dried, and I go through it at lightning speed. Plus I’m a control freak, so I’ve decided to make my own blends.

Making your own blends from bulk spices that you will find at any local grocery or health food store is 👌. It’s so cheap and you can alter it to meet your specific needs. It also makes a great housewarming or hostess gift, and it gives the illusion that I am, in fact, an adult.

When you get your bulk spices, BRING JARS*. Honey jars, jam jars, salsa jars any darn jar you can find. It makes people happy to see someone breaking from the norm and you get to feel good that you spent 15 minutes not ruining the planet with plastic waste. If you need a tutorial on how to tare (weigh) jars at the store, check out Lauren Singer's post. Her blog, Trash is for Tossers, is the gateway drug of zero waste blogs.

Taco Seasoning

  • 2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 3 tsp. Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt

Measure it. Put it in a jar and shake it. Shake, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture.

Blackened Cajun Seasoning

  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Again… buy it, measure it, shake it.

Italian Seasoning

  • 2 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tbsp sage
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tsp parsley

You should really know the drill by this point. Just shake it.

And I use Minimalist Baker’s curry seasoning blend. Why mess with a good thing?

I add these to any and all of the foods I eat. Curry French Fries? Check. Blackened Cajun Tempeh Caesar Salad? Absolutely. Italian Chickpea “Meatballs”? Let me at em.

Leave your suggestions for delicious combos in the comments or post them on Instagram and tag me @ahemwastefree!

Saving the world one taco bowl at a time,

Haley

*Do I need to clarify that the jars should be EMPTY and CLEAN? Oregano-strawberry jam is a little outside my comfort zone, and it should be out of yours too.

In the beginning...

My lifestyle has drastically changed in the last 7 months.

So what's the deal?

Well it starts when I was a kid. I was creating and dreaming ALL THE TIME.

I dreamed of being Amish, because they appeared to live peacefully and completely one with nature, although I could never get on board with the weird little hats… when my hair is pulled back, I look like the archetype of a middle-aged lunch lady.

I wanted to belong to a hippy commune, growing my own food and reading books in organic hand-woven hammocks...

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with pygmy goats running around at my feet.

I often told people I would grow up to be a nun, because I envied the contemplative, serene environment that these monastic communities embodied and I didn’t think that this life was possible in mainstream western society.

Since then I’ve been a knowledge-seeker. Podcasts are my jam, and I’ve been an avid blog reader since 2007. I try to gather as much information as I possibly can and distill it for quirky (and occasionally obnoxious) soundbites to drop into conversation.

I lived my life trying to be a kind person. Life was great, but I always had a sense that something wasn’t quite right, and from time to time I reverted to my childhood daydreams.

I could never put my finger on it until I came across whole food plant-based veganism.

I had been complaining about how difficult it was to navigate the ridiculous world of food and diets, and my partner suggested I watch High Carb Hannah on the life-altering, for good and for bad video platform known as Youtube (cue eye-rolls and facepalms). She had simple, non-restrictive meal ideas and was super body positive. I was immediately on board, and decided to become a whole food plant-based vegan on the spot.

The reason for the lifestyle change was initially for health. I’ve never had a healthy relationship with food* and thought this sounded so clear and easy. True to my research-y library-loving nature, I began to watch ALL the documentaries. I went tumbling down a wonderful, terrifying rabbit hole, and it completely changed my life.

The range of emotions was overwhelming. I felt everything from sorrow to joy, helplessness to feeling like I had more power than I realized. I was also overwhelmed with the notion that I was being a pretty terrible Jesus feminist**, and I had been destroying God's pretty little planet for decades. My body was also His creation, and I was destroying that too. I felt that if I was to continue claiming to be a social justice warrior and all around bad-ass, I better darn well fight for said justice, in all its intersectional glory. Caring for the environment weaves together my passions in the most bizarre ways... stick around for more of that in the future!

Since October 2017, I’ve learned a lot and adopted so much about mindful, slow, sustainable living. I still live in a small city, drive a car (don’t judge me… my city is hilly and my arms muscles cannot handle the sheer weight of all my mason jars and potatoes) and do all the things I enjoy, but now I have more money, more time, and more memories. I get a self-righteous satisfaction from being a non-conformist and bringing my own produce bags to the store (I am SUCH a rebel***). And above all, I’m learning to live in the moment, to consciously listen to the people right in front of me, and to chill the eff out.

This blog**** is my inconspicuous spot to rant, rave, encourage and empower. I want to document my successes and failures, and share the good life with anyone who needs a little boost. Plus, I make plenty of mistakes along the way, and who DOESN’T need a good laugh once in a while?

So join me on this crazy ride! Check out some tips and tricks, recipes, DIYs and rants (sign up to receive all kinds of goodies below!) I promise to keep things corny and make you groan at LEAST once per post.

 

Saving the world one straw at a time,

 

Haley

Footnotes:

*Show me the woman who has this figured out and I will make it my life’s mission to find you a unicorn. I will braid it’s mane in a fishtail and will outfit it with a pink holo saddle as an added bonus.

**Remember that old phrase “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Well I finally found my way via Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist and I’m clinging to that identifier. Who wouldn’t want to be a non-judgy bringer of love and kindness? Sign me up!

***Guys, it’s sarcasm. I’m not a rebel. I wear black jeans, a plain t-shirt and a scarf everyday. I made a vow to myself that I will never EVER ride on a motorcycle. The edgiest thing about me is that I occasionally wear contact lenses instead of glasses.

****And my side-hustle which isn’t much of a hustle, more of a side-dawdle or a side-saunter. Cause of slow-living, and you know, not wanting to be a pushy dick. Although I can’t promise I will NEVER be a dick. It might happen, and I apologize in advance. Check out all my wonderful wares for your self-righteous eco-journey here.