Monday, March 12, 2007

A Semi-Related Issue

In our journey to learn more about bag conservation we have been talking about our garbage footprint, everything that goes into making, transporting, and disposing our waste. I was reading an article in Time that also spoke about another footprint. It had to do with eating local food versus eating organic food. One issue discussed was that of the fuel required to transport organic products to certain regions versus buying locally grown food that was fresher because it did not have to travel great distances. Basically, is it better to buy apples from a local orchard, or one that has traveled thousands of miles but is organic?

Of course, this issue has layers of complexity unrelated to just the footprint, but it kind of made me think of toss-away plastic bags versus reusable bags. Reusable bags don't contribute to our garbage footprint until they are no longer functional (rips, holes, etc), while toss-away bags can contribute dramatically to our garbage footprint. Even if we do recycle our plastic bags, they must travel over a thousand miles from Indiana to be recycled. On a large scale this can have massive effects on energy use and emissions into the air. In a similar fashion, organic foods must travel many miles to reach us here in Indiana. Local foods do not have the same ill effects, although many argue the pesticides could.
If you are interested in reading the entire article, it is the cover story of the March 12 edition of Time.

1 comment:

Michelle Verges, Project Director said...

Amy,

This is a great post--I'm glad you raised this issue.

When I first moved to South Bend, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Farmer's Market, which is very near to campus. It's a great place to buy produce from farmers in the Michiana area. (I go to the market each Saturday; the farmer's market butter tastes so much better than store-bought butter!) If you haven't seen this place for yourself, now's a good time to explore this venue.

I've wondered the same question about how much it costs to transport plastic bags for recycling. I don't know how much money it costs to fuel a semi-truck with 40,000 tons of bags. How many miles per gallon does a semi-truck get, anyway?

The only piece of information I know is that Michiana Wal-Mart stores ship the bags to a facility in Ohio for recycling.

That's why I'm so glad that Jeff Ashby, Owner of Rocky Mountain Recycling in Salt Lake City, will be joining the panel discussion at BagFest. Because he works with Wal-Mart at a national level to recycle plastic bags, he'll know the answers to these sorts of questions.

We definitely need more information.

Anyway, I look forward to reading the Time article about buying local vs. organic foods. Thanks for bringing this article to our attention.

:0) M