BARRINGTON, R.I. (AP) — Answering the question ‘paper or plastic’ could get a lot easier in one Rhode Island town if local leaders support a call to ban plastic shopping bags.
Hundreds of residents and more than a dozen business owners in Barrington are pushing to scrap the sacks, which they say take up valuable landfill space and litter streets, streams and shorelines. But critics — including an alliance of plastic bag manufacturers — say prohibiting the ubiquitous bags would only reduce consumers’ options while doing nothing to help the environment.
The Barrington Town Council voted on Monday to direct the town’s solicitor to draft a proposed ban. The move follows a recommendation by the town’s Conservation Commission to prohibit plastic shopping bags to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bag. Under that recommendation, shoppers could also purchase paper bags for 5 cents each.
“It wouldn’t be a big deal to me,” said Linda Alves, who was shopping for home office supplies Wednesday in Barrington, an affluent town 20 minutes from Providence. Alves opened the trunk of her car and pulled out two reusable bags. “I have so many of these things, who needs the plastic?”
San Francisco was the first U.S. city to ban plastic shopping bags back in 2007. Several cities have followed, including Los Angeles and Seattle. The bags are banned throughout Hawaii. Westport, Conn. is the only New England community with such a ban.
“It’s a matter of changing habits, and that’s not always easy,” said Jonathan Cunitz, a member of Westport’s Representative Town Meeting and an advocate for the ban, which went into effect in 2009. “But people are now more conscious of the environment and we don’t see plastic bags on the street or on our waterfront.”
But an organization founded by plastics manufacturers to fight proposed bans argues that outlawing the bags could threaten more than 30,000 plastic bag manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Donna Dempsey, spokeswoman for the Washington D.C.-based American Progressive Bag Alliance, said the plastic bag has gotten a bad rap.
Walmart, Nike, Target, JC Penney, Levi’s and fellow members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition have unveiled the group’s index for measuring the environmental impact of apparel products across the supply chain.
The Higg Index is an indicator-based tool for apparel that allows clothing manufacturers and brands to evaluate material types, products, facilities and processes based on a range of environmental and product design choices.
This 1.0 version of the index was developed for apparel products and measures environmental outcomes in water use and quality; energy and greenhouse gas; waste; and chemicals and toxicity.
Future releases of the index, slated for 2013, will include footwear products and social and labor impact areas, the coalition said. The index eventually will be expanded to include quantitative data and metrics and feature an improved scoring method.
The current version of the Higg Index asks practice-based, qualitative questions to gauge environmental sustainability performance. It’s based on the Eco Index and Nike’s Apparel Environmental Design Tool. However, the Higg Index has been significantly enhanced through the pilot testing period, the coalition said.
The tool includes a Materials Sustainability Index, a cradle-to-gate assessment tool to give designers and the global supply chain information on the environmental sustainability of materials.
A group of 30 manufacturers and retailers launched theSustainable Apparel Coalition last year to improve the environmental and social performance of the apparel and footwear industry, from water consumption and chemical use to waste and embedded energy in products.
Last month, Nike partnered with Random Hacks of Kindness in the Open Challenge for Sustainable Materials, an initiative that asks apparel designers and developers to use sustainable materials listed on the Nike Sustainable Materials Index.
Article by Marc Gunther at Greenbiz.com: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2012/07/26/behind-scenes-sustainable-apparel-coalition?utm_source=E-News+from+GreenBiz&utm_campaign=21c7056b94-GreenBuzz-2012-27-07&utm_medium=email
The story of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition begins with a letter designed to get the attention of even a busy CEO. At the top: the logos of Walmart and Patagonia. John Fleming, who was then Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, and Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, signed the letter, which invited chief executives of some of the world’s biggest clothing companies–fierce competitors, ordinarily — to join together to develop an index to measure the environmental impact of their products.
Their pitch, in part, read like this:
Creating a single approach for measuring sustainability in the apparel sector will do much more than accelerate meaningful social and environmental change. Standardization will enable us to maximize sustainability benefits for all buyers without investing in multiple sustainability technologies and certification processes, and ultimately empower consumers to trust claims regarding sustainably sourced apparel.
Finally, as an industry, we will benefit from the unique opportunity to shape policy and create standards for measuring sustainability before government inevitably imposes one.
…The time is right and the need is great for the apparel sector to move forward now, without further delay, in unison, with strong partners like you.
It was a risky proposition. What if it turned out that a competing company had a better sustainability story to tell? Would consumers be given access to the index? NGOs? Regulators? Most big retailers knew that they had very little visibility deep into their supply chains. Did they really want to find out, for example, that a supplier to one of their suppliers, in a factory they had never visited in China or Vietnam, exploited workers or dumped pollution into a nearby river? Any meaningful index would require companies to ask tough questions and, eventually, face demands from others to share what they had learned.
The letter went out on October 1, 2009. Less than three years later, despite those risks, the apparel industry has made major progress towards creating a global sustainability index, the Higg Index, to measure and score products, factories and companies. A first version was released today by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the nonprofit group that developed the index.
Its vision? Nothing less than “an apparel and footwear industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.” The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) hired an executive director, Jason Kibbey, in January, and today it has more than 60 members, representing brands, retailers and suppliers who together account for more than a third of the global apparel and footwear industry.
Here at MantraMeds, our scrubs are made from recycled plastic but we like to emphasize that making our planet a more sustainable place means practicing all 3 R’s: Reducing, Reusing & Recycling. Here is a great article from HuffPost Green on reducing use of plastic on all your fresh summer produce!
I started shopping at my farmers market this summer. I’ve noticed people putting fruits and vegetables directly in their totes, without taking the plastic bags some vendors offer. But how do you keep produce fresh in the fridge without the plastic?
Not long ago, I asked myself that same question. I had recently invested in a large set of organic cotton reusable produce bags, and while I was feeling mighty proud of myself each time I ventured out to the market (look how eco-friendly I am! Who needs those wasteful plastic produce bags?), the scene in my fridge a few days later was less than pretty.
Stored in plastic, fruits and vegetables would have normally stayed fresh for at least a week. But left in my new reusable bags, all my beautiful produce fast turned into a wilted, spoiled mess. (Even the “crisper” bin seemed to do just the opposite, no matter what the setting.)
I’ve written before about the enormous environmental implications of wasted food; needless to say, my cloth produce bags were not coming close to offsetting the yearly 34 million tons of food waste to which I was now contributing.
But obviously, there were reasons to avoid the plastic bags, too (wildlife-destroying pollution, needless oil consumption, endocrine-disrupting chemicals). They also didn’t seem necessary: After all, plastic produce bags only came into being in the 1960s; plastic grocery bags, a decade later. There had to be a way to keep my fruits and veggies fresh without them.
Enter Beth Terry. As author of the blog My Plastic-free Life and the recently released book Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, Terry knows how to keep everything from persimmons to parsnips fresh with nary a plastic bag in sight: She’s lived plastic free (and not just in the produce department) since 2007.
Terry’s storage methods come largely from Ecology Center Farmers’ Markets in Berkeley, CA, which createdthis guide on how to store more than 60 kinds of fruits and vegetables. But being the plastic-free pro that she is, Terry of course had some suggestions to add. With her help, I’ve created a condensed version for you that includes her input, below.
*Note: While the Ecology Center guide occasionally calls for paper products, Terry tries to limit these; she opts for cloth bags or plastic-free reusable containers instead. (“While plastic is truly problematic, all single-use disposable bags and wrappers have an environmental footprint,” she says.) She suggests a variety of different bags and containers on her site.
This is a guest post from Tom Szaky, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of TerraCycle, which provides free waste collection, and then turns that waste into sustainable products. View our previous post about TerraCycle here: https://mantrameds.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/terracycle-outsmart-waste/
Widely quoted estimates suggest that 90% of the ‘stuff’ we buy is discarded within 6 months of purchase. What’s worse is that 10% of this “stuff” ends up going to some type of waste-to-energy facility, while the remaining 90% of America’s waste ends up in a landfill.
With over 360 million Americans and counting producing on average about 4 pounds of waste a day, it is clear that our recycling systems need to be expanded to accept a wider range of materials, and fast. Worse yet, even commonly recyclable packaging formats such as PET and HDPE plastic bottles are only recycled at an estimated (and paltry) 25%.