My ONE Christmas gift suggestion

About a month ago, I toyed with the idea of coming up with a Christmas gift guide. But I decided against it because (1) I didn’t think I was qualified to do one as I no longer shop as much as I used to (booooo…) and don’t really have a good idea of what is out there; (2) with my obsessive compulsive tendencies, it would take me forever to come up with one (I’d have to find the best pictures, get the right shopping info, etc.) and (3) I don’t want my friends and family finding out what I’m getting them beforehand.

But although I scrapped the idea of a gift guide, I am still making one Christmas gift suggestion: reusable shopping bags.

I’ve written about how I feel about plastic bags already, and there’s nothing like the shopping-crazy Christmas season to remind me of how important it is to reduce our plastic (plastic everything, not just bags) consumption. Every other shopper is laden with multiple bags (both paper & plastic), most of them filled with a tiny, tiny item that could’ve fit inside a handbag or another shopping bag they already have. And that makes me sad and furious at the same time.

So, partly for the environment and partly to lessen the risk of you being approached by me to berate you for your wasteful use of plastic bags, please do consider giving reusable shopping bags away for Christmas.

Beansprout bags would be my first choice for reusable bags. They’re from a local company (buy local!), relatively affordable and their bags are produced by a small community in Taytay, Rizal whose main source of income are these bags. Their extensive line of reusable bags also includes shoe bags and canvas totes with part of the proceeds from the latter going to Greenpeace Philippines. How’s that for a really green gift?

If you’re not in the Philippines, though, or if none of Beansprout’s prints tickle your fancy, then your next bet would be Envirosax. They were the first brand of reusable bags I’ve heard of and while they’re on the pricey side (relative to the Beansprouts), they are quite durable: apparently one can carry up to 44lbs or 20kgs. I haven’t put that claim to the test, but I’ll take their word for it. They come in adorable designs, too, and my particular favorite is the Sesame Street line. How could you possibly resort to flimsy, nondescript plastic bags if you can schlep your stuff in one of these?

But if you’d rather give your loved ones something more special, but still with the same environment-friendly idea, then you can always opt for the Jill Sander Market Totw. For about $140, you get to fashionably lug your groceries around in this bright orange acetate bag.

Incredulity aside though, it doesn’t matter if you choose to give away the ₱100 reusable bags they sell at the stall in the mall or the even more expensive silk-twill version of the Jil Sander one above. The point is that we should all do our part to reduce our plastic consumption and try to have others do the same. So give the gift of green this Christmas, and the earth and future generations will thank you for it.

The Kindle dilemma

My friends and I had a discussion over Facebook earlier today. One of them just got a Kindle and found herself missing the feel of a holding an actual book while reading. And so we, along with another bookworm friend got into a discussion.

I love to read and, obviously, I love books. But not just the material in itself, but the actual physical thing. I love the weight of a book in my hands (not so much when I’m lugging it through an airport), the thrill you get when your bookmark’s nearer to the back of the book than the to front, the feel of really, really good book paper on your fingers. And the smell. Oh, the smell of new books. I’m a little ashamed to admit that one of my favorite things to do with a book is to riffle through the pages with the book right in front of my nose and just breathe in that lovely paper smell. And I’d like to think I’m not the only one who does that (or am I? Did I just make a slightly creepy admission?).

There’s also something about shelves and shelves of books that makes me feel at home. I don’t know what it is, maybe it was the hours I spent in our school library sitting on the cold linoleum tiles, taking my sweet, sweet time in choosing which Sweet Valley books to borrow, but I immediately feel a sense of calm and comfort when I walk into a bookstore. I get the same feeling when I look at my very modest collection of books, one I am slowly but surely adding to, in the hopes that someday I could call it even a mini library.

But my conscience is nagging me. Books mean paper. And paper means trees. If you think about the carbon footprint of getting that book into your hands (printing, binding, shipping, packing, etc.) then you’re really left with one option: the Kindle (although technically, there’s the Nook, too). Not only is it the infinitely greener alternative, it’s also the more convenient. No need to risk shoulder pain from carrying a hardbound book in your handbag, no need to put up shelves in your bedroom, no more hassle when moving homes.  All you need is that tiny, thin gadget and you’re set for half a lifetime of reading.

This just won't feel the same

All good sense and logic tells me that I should get the Kindle already. It’s probably just a matter of time anyway, before printed books become a thing of the past. But stubborn as I am, I don’t want to accept that. Because that means that my dream of a library, full of books that feel heavy in my hands, smooth under my fingers, is an even more distant reality than it already is.  It’s not like I can fill my shelves with hundreds of Kindles. I don’t think that would look this good.

Kindle photo from amazon.com

My Personal War against Plastic Bags

I absolutely hate plastic bags. I abhor them. I loathe them.

I didn’t use to have such strong feelings against them until I realized how wasteful and harmful the practice of using them is. And it’s a habit we all take for granted. Four plastic bags for your groceries, a small one for your new pen from the store, an even tinier one for the allergy medicine you bought at the pharmacy. We rarely give it a second thought, and this attitude has made for some appalling statistics:

 

Every minute, the world consumes one MILLION plastic bags.

 

And, as if that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, try wrapping your head around this:

 

It takes 400 to a THOUSAND years for a plastic bag to fully break down.

 

Personally, these first two factoids were enough to provoke my personal war against plastic bags. However, if you need more convincing, here are some other bag facts:

  • Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, a petroleum product. It only takes roughly NINE plastic bags to drive a car ONE kilometer.
  • Taking into account how long it takes for a plastic bag to break down, then the fact is, every single plastic bag ever created still exists.
  • If you think it takes FOREVER for the plastic bags to photodegrade (and not biodegrade), the chemical residues stick around even longer, leaching into the soil and ending up in the food we eat and the water we drink.

And if you need more convincing, more astounding plastic bag facts are available here, here and here. But if, hopefully, you’ve been enlightened then here are some ways to reduce your plastic bag consumption:

  • Just say no: Because, do you really need the bag? Chances are, if you’re buying small items (a DVD, a tube of lip balm, a pair of socks, a roll of scotch tape, etc.), they will most likely fit in your handbag. As long as there is little risk of spillage/stains/damage to your handbag, then say no to that tiny (and practically unreusable) plastic bag from Mercury Drug.
  • Get yourself a reusable bag: The anti-plastic bag movement has grown strong enough that you no longer have to shell out upwards of 400 PHP for an eco bag. My personal collection includes some bought for 50 PHP in Hong Kong, one from Beansprout and one from Bench, my favorite because it’s made from recycled PET bottles, (although I don’t like how the straps are set).

My collection of used and abused eco bags

 

And I know these tips seem like “duh”, no-brainer types of suggestions but I think they’re worth repeating. There are still way too many people taking the bags for their tiny purchases and too little carrying their shopping in reusable bags. I think most people either can’t be bothered to find eco bags and/or spend on them or people just aren’t thinking about it at the checkout. I suppose it’s a habit that’s hard to break. But here’s a trick that I hope will work. If you can’t remember all the little facts above, then the next time the cashier is putting that nail polish/chocolate bar/greeting card in a plastic bag, remember this picture. Hopefully, it’ll remind you of the damage that one tiny bag can do.