Art store run!

Went by the Utrecht art supplies store. Loose pencil (also china markers and colored pencils, in lieu of markers), gum erasers, metal rulers, gummed paper tape and a wide variety of paper supplies — all without additional plastic or extra packaging.

Which is why I think of the art stores as good office supplies stores.

Brass brads keep papers together

OK: three posts in the last 2 years is a pretty poor result. I’ll try to do better.

Now some plastic reduction. I bought these brass brads to keep papers together. They’re fun and remind me of elementary school book reports and high school plays. Inexpensive, reusable and not a bit of plastic.

Low plastic? Shop on campus

I was in Athens, Georgia last weekend for a University of Georgia alumni event. One fun thing about being in a college town is shopping for items unavailable elsewhere. (Metro D.C. is — what? — thirty times the size, but it’s easier to get beer-making supplies in Athens, for instance.)

One such product line is green office supplies, or rather school supplies. I was taken with the recycled paper blue books — dubbed and colored as “green books” — plus recycled-plastic-content pens (I prefer my fountain pen) and corrugated-cardboard ring binders. There was even a aluminum-cased USB stick in all-cardboard packaging. Other things — one I bought and will describe later — too.

Some were marginally more than their non-recycled-content companions; others, like that USB stick, were quite a bit more. Bit it’s nice to have the options and I saw it at every bookstore I visited.

D.C. bag law, one month on

The District of Columbia law requiring a fee for disposable bags in food and liquor businesses is reducing the demand for thee bags, even if it irritates some locals.

No official reports yet, but shopkeepers report half the use of disposable bags — quite an accomplishment — per this January 23 article in the Washington Post. Of course, there are naysayers and complainers. But I have a hard time thinking too much D.C. grocery and liquor shopping will move to Maryland or Virginia. Particularly the latter which has a food tax that D.C. doesn’t. And if you can’t remember to bring a bag to pick up your lunch — or eat it on-site — and won’t pay for a bag, then I feel no sympathy when it lands on the sidewalk. Twice. How embarrassing, so much so when adding meaningless “big government” sloganeering to counter it. (Nobody complains about “big government” when the city shuts down a rat-infested eatery, for instance. Why shouldn’t I have the option!)

On the other hand, it’s now psychologically and socially easier to bring my bag — I keep one rolled up in my satchel almost all of the time — to a take-out restaurant (I have featured one in the article as they use sugarcane fiber boxes and biodegradable forks and spoons) or a liquor store.

Some more facts about the D.C. bag law

The District of Columbia’s shopping bag law begins today, and I’ve already been out to pick up a few necessities, cloth bags in tow.

Since I’ve heard some misinformation, I thought I would share some details about the new law.

  • The financial impact statement for the bill compares Washington, D.C. to Seattle, Washington, which went though a similar process. From their stats, D.C. uses about 360 million plastic bags a year — in a jurisdiction of about 600,000 people — with about three-quarters being used in the stores affected by this law. The statement projects that by fiscal year 2013, there should be a 80% reduction in disposable bag use.
  • This law effects the approximately 4,000 D.C. food retail establishments, which includes groceries, liquor and drug stores.
  • Disposable paper bags used in restaurants are exempt from the legislation.
  • There is, alas, only one enforcement officer budgeted for the law. The first offense fine is probably $100.
  • It was passed by the D.C. Council unanimously.
  • If you carry your own bag, not only will you not be charged the fee, but D.C. gives retailers an incentive to offer you a nickle rebate.

Produce without plastic

The forthcoming District of Columbia plastic and paper bag restriction specifically excludes bags for fruit and vegetable — perhaps out of concern that D.C. residents need no discouragement to eat their greens.

But in France we saw an alternative — paper. Strong attractive paper bags — squared off, with a picture of a cheery market scene and big enough to hold a pound or two of apples or grapes — were the rule. I suspect they’re made of virgin pulp; kraft paper usually is

Bocca Sacs are the maker of the one I kept, if you’re an interested greengrocer.

Trader Joe’s bag a win on all counts

I went at Trader Joe’s — a specialty grocery store, for those unfamiliar — a few days ago directly from work , but didn’t have my own bag. Since some of the nonwoven cloth bags (read: plastic) at home were beginning to show their age, I went ahead and picked up a large canvas bag at Trader Joe’s on the way to the register.

Not only was it attractive — red, with the logo over-pritned in black and white — and canvas — thus will biodegrade — but it was made in Lowell, Massachusetts and was large enough for all the groceries I had.

Even the tag was plastic free.

D.C. bag bill makes unanimous step forward

Good news. The D.C. Council has passed unanimously a bill that charges a five-cent fee for grocery-style shopping bads, plastic or paper, for the sake of the trash-filled Anacostia River. (Part of the collected fee will go to fund durable bags for low-income Washingtonians.)

Reportage from DCist and WashingtonPost.com.

Not all reusable bags are created equal

I’ve been using reusable grocery bags for years, but not for any reason the hip or fashionable would recognize. First, I had no car for long periods in Georgia, and that meant long walk and bus waits to get groceries: overloaded plastic bags cut into your fingers. (I also used a backpack to shop.) Second, my dreadful little apartment had a roach problem and both plastic and paper bags — if saved — gave them convenient homes. If thrown out, well, that’s wasteful. Mesh bags from the co-op were ideal.

Fast forward to today. Now everyone has them, and it’s hard to find a big event in D.C. where someone isn’t using the reusable bag as giveaway swag. The problem is that most are made of a nonwoven plastic fiber that, after a few months use, tears and becomes unusable. More trash; the plastic bag problem only reduced and delayed. (It will probably help the river pollution problem since there are fewer of them and they’re not so light as to blow anywhere, but that’s not a solution to the plastics-in-environment problem.)

So now, when proffered a freebie bag, I say no unless it’s one of the rare ones made of muslin. They wear harder, could be prepared if need be, and will biodegrade. (The Swiss and British legations have had them at events here in D.C.)

Of course, you could buy or make a muslin, canvas or string bag: what a notion!