Paper bags are so much better than plastic…aren’t they? They seem to be. They are of the earth – natural, unbleached, biodegradable – how could they not be better than plastic? Do we really need alternatives to paper bags?
The truth is paper bags create their own assortment of environmental problems. The paper industry as a whole has a proven record of negatively impacting the environment and climate change. Producers of paper bags are among the worst industrial contributors to air, water, and land pollution, and they are among the largest industrial consumers of water, energy, and, of course, forest fiber.
Each year in America 14 million trees are cut down to produce 10 billion paper grocery bags!
Using recycled paper bags instead of virgin paper bags does indeed lessen the environmental impact of paper production. But, manufacturing recycled paper bags still contributes thousands of times more environmental degradation than a good quality reusable alternative to paper bags – reusable produce bags, bulk bags and grocery bags made of sustainable materials such as hemp.
Studies show recycling does help reduce the number of trees felled, and that it does require less energy and water than harvesting new fiber from virgin forests. Yes, it is 100% better to recycle than not to recycle. But, these numbers can be deceptive, since most recycled paper is a mixture of both virgin and recycled papers.
There is an increased awareness these days of the devastating impact of plastic and single-use plastic bags on the environment.
This awareness is spreading a wildfire of change. More and more stores in cities all across the globe are now charging a fee for plastic bags. Some stores are even taking steps to ban plastic and single-use bags altogether. Single-use plastic bags have become the obvious habit to change, but the whole notion of single-use anything, including paper bags, is environmentally destructive.
Some studies have shown that in America alone, shoppers use 1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags per hour!
Unfortunately, as awareness of the impact of single-use plastic bags increases, many stores are offering paper bags as their sole alternative for bulk foods, produce items, and check-out grocery bags. This change is no doubt driven by very positive intentions. But, unless there are additional viable alternatives to paper bags, there will still be an extreme burden placed on the environment by using paper bags.
Clearly the best solution is to use sustainable and reusable cloth bags, such as hemp, as an alternative to paper bags…and to leave our trees in our forests.
When we recognize the beauty and significance of our forests, and the impact paper usage has on this incredible natural resource, we can begin to shift from a culture of wastefulness and disposability to one of conservation and stewardship.
We must recognize and appreciate paper as the valuable natural resource it is – a link to vibrant forests, fresh water, a healthy climate, and happy people all around the globe. Finding ways to replace paper bags with sustainable alternatives becomes the obvious choice.
What about replacing paper bags completely, along with plastic bags? We can make a choice to stop the environmentally damaging practice of using single-use bags, whatever materials they are made of. What about the easy and environmentally friendly alternative of reusable and sustainable hemp bags? Think about it!
To find out more about the environmental impact of paper and paper bags, go to: