Three Gifts Challenge

13 January 2008
Our new environment minister, Peter Garrett, is floating a proposal to ban plastic shopping bags in Australia by the end of the year. I think this is a great idea. Not only do these bags pollute every corner of the earth, they also kill a large number of marine creatures.

Australians use 4 billion plastic bags each year; in China 3 billion bags are used per day; in the United States 380 billion disposable plastic bags are used each year and only 1 percent are recycled.

It got me thinking about other commonly used items that we might be able to give up that would be a great help to the planet. In the midst of this there was an interesting segment on morning TV on the five most damaging personal waste items. They are, and this is a cut and paste from this link:
  • Polystyrene foam: Take away cups of coffee are made from expanded polystyrene foam, a product that does not break down over time. Polystyrene cups simply create landfill that releases toxic chemicals into the air. Alternative: Bring your own mug or take away cup to your favourite cafe.
  • Cooking oil: Cooking oil is often disposed of in ways that hurt the environment. Simply pouring oil down the sink not only damages the plumbing, but it also means the oil ends up in waterways. In the same way that oceans can't deal with oil spills from large tankers, small waterways can't deal with oil that is put down the sink. Alternative: Store used oil in a sealable container or jar and ask your council how to dispose of it correctly.
  • AA batteries: The batteries that power your remotes control contain around one percent mercury and when this leaks it can cause environmental damage. Batteries use less energy than they cost the environment to produce. Alternative: Rechargeable batteries.
  • Disposable nappies: Nappies are convenient but they can create landfill that takes years and years to break down. It's estimated that the average baby creates around 700 kilograms of solid waste in nappies alone. Alternative: Cloth nappies.
  • Cigarette butts: Smoking is more than a health hazard, the 32 billion cigarette butts thrown away in Australia each year damage the environment. It can take years for each butt to break down as each cigarette contains poisonous chemical compounds. Alternative: Quit smoking or make sure any cigarette butt is disposed of properly.

I decided to challenge myself to give up or modify three environmentally damaging things I do. I think it’s a really good way to remind myself that I can’t afford to sit back and think I am doing enough.

It is not enough.

It's the small things that I could easily change, with just a bit of thought and action, that will make a difference. It occurred to me that it would be a good challenge for everyone here. If we all got involved, and if you wrote about the challenge on your blog or talked with your friends about it, maybe there would be a ripple effect that would really make a difference in our own communities.

So my challenge to you is to choose three items or actions that you currently have in your life that you’ll modify or give up completely. It doesn't have to be on the list here, it can be anything that you do that you know is harmful and are prepared to change. We can do something important here. If we all do this, tell our friends and neighbours what we are doing and why, and ask that they join, we could make an impact in our local areas.

I think it’s important to continue working towards reducing consumption of just about everything we use, but this will be extra. It will be our three gifts to the world. I want everyone to join me in doing something positive for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. It looks like they will pay the price for what we are doing now.

This is what I will do:
I will never accept a plastic bag again. I have a number of cloth bags for grocery shopping and I always take my basket when I go out, but I do sometimes still come home with a plastic shopping bag around the milk or fruit.

I have to arrange my basket so I can put cold things in it. I generally have a diary, papers and notebooks in my basket that I don’t want to put cold and wet items on. I have a little cloth bag in a pouch that I’m going to keep in my basket so that if I do pick up milk or fruit and vegies when I’m out, I’ll put my paper stuff in the cloth sack and fill up my basket with produce. I’ll have to train myself to check I have the bag pouch every time I pick up my basket. I tend to come home and empty my bag and not put it back where it should be. That will stop from this minute.

I will never buy water in a plastic bottle again. I resolved to give this up about six months ago and did well for a while but then I bought water when I was out somewhere without my water bottle from home. I have a perfectly serviceable Thermos flask that is unbreakable, I’ll use that for hot and cold drinks. If I am caught out without the Thermos, I’ll have to stay thirsty until I get home. That will soon teach me to always take the Thermos. ; - )

I don’t smoke but I work with people who do. When I go to work tomorrow I will put out containers for cigarette butts and make sure I put them in the rubbish bin each week.

So that’s it for me; three gifts for my local world. Will you do this with me and make a positive change? I’ve made two badges you can save to use in your blog when you write about your gifts. You can then put the badge in the side bar of your blog to show that you’re part of the challenge. Let see how far we can spread this, let’s see how many people we can motivate to give three gifts. If you have no blog, print the badge out and stick it on the fridge, and tell your family and friends about the challenge. Seeing the badge will remind us of our commitment and that we can be part of a global solution instead of continuing on regardless.

Small steps, my friends, small steps.


  1. Rhonda,

    I have accepted your challenge. The post will be up later this evening.

    "If you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem."

    I will have my children read about your challenge and see what 3 things they can change in their little world as well.

    Thank you for inspiring us!


  2. What a great idea I know what you mean by always coming home with a plastic bag.
    My challenge will be to only go to the supermarket once a month to save on fuel. I already have sold my car and go to work with hubby and my son said I can use his car once a month to do my shopping it is only sitting in the garage he catches the bus to his poly course as the bus stops outside our house.
    My other challenge will be recharging batteries. I think that is about all I can handle at the moment I already use the green supermarket bags and don't buy things that are manufacured or produced overseas because of the fuel used to bring them here and also the slave labour used in manufacturing products.

  3. I know plastic bags are evil at the end of their life, but oh dear they can be so useful before that time arrives! There are a couple of plastic bags re-uses for which I haven't really found a satisfactory alternative yet. Lining the bin in the kitchen is one. My mother always used to lay out newspaper and wrap everything that wasn't going into the compost. These little packages then went directly into a kitchen bin that had a plastic bucket type insert (washable). This was emptied into the big bin outside, which was also lined with sheets of newspaper. Not a plastic bag in sight, but I hate the way newsprint rubs off on everything. I need to think of a better way to contain waste initially and to transport waste between storage points as it progresses to land fill.
    The other re-use is for dealing with doggie business when you take the dog for a walk. Have you worked out a way to handle (or more accurately not handle) this without using a plastic bag when you take your dogs out for a walk?

    I really think the best solution to the plastic bag problem would be to come up with a material that biodegrades more quickly and doesn't blow away so easily.

  4. Rhonda,

    Thank you for the inspiration and I will give it a good long think about what 3 things I can change in my world and then write up on my blog.

    A question regarding the plastic bags, well a couple of questions:

    a) are plastic bags recyclable in your area? Where I live they are now recyclable. There is also an organization that uses plastic bags to weave rugs and reusable tote bags, and various other creations. Do you know of any such thing where you live?

    b) What about trash bags? Will you be eliminating these as well from use? I know from reading your blog that you do recycle, compost and place shredded paper in your chook run, but I am curious about how the rubbish is picked up. Again, where I live, we MUST use plastic bags for the trash. Regardless if we wheel a bin to the curb for the garbage truck to empty into, we cannot have loose garbage or it won't be picked up and a notation will be given. Are such regulations in place where you are?

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    What a Wonderful post. I do most of the things you talked about .However, lately I've been lazy and when at the grocery I accept plastic ,they use to ask paper or plastic and when they stopped asking I stopped requesting paper after awhile. And I just bought 3 cases of bottled water. I am going to make tote bags to take to the grocery. However we stock pile and don't go shopping much these days.
    I'll have to reread and make up my list to take your challenge.

    Also the magazine Warm Earth ,I won from your drawing arrived late today.Thank You so much! I love it, I enjoyed reading your article. Are you eating the fish yet?:o)

    THanks for all your wonderful potings. Blessins', Lib

  6. I'll have to think about this one... I already try to do everything on the list. We even use cloth diapers. But I know there is always a lot of room for improvement.

    I have a few things in mind... I'll have to get back to ya.

  7. Hi Christine, thanks for taking up the challenge and telling the kids about it.

    Kate, they are great gifts. Thanks for taking up the challenge.

    Marg, I do what your mum did with the newspaper rolls. We've eliminated the dreaded plastic bin liner doing it. You say the "end of their life" but that's the problem, we use them for a very short time, to bring home groceries, to line bins and pick up pooh, but that isn't the end of their life, they exist in land fill for anywhere between 20 and 1000 years. I would love to see some sort of safe biodegradable plastic that could be made into bags that would decompose safely. I notice that Cadbury are now using a water soluable tray in their chocolate boxes now. It dissolves after a few minutes in water. I have to read more about it to find out what happens to it then, and how long it takes to decompose.
    Our dogs don't pooh when they go out. They are morning and evening girls, very regular. LOL Could you take newspaper with you and scoop it up with that?

    Maggie, there is some recycling of bags here but not nearly enough. Some of our major supermarkets take the bags back and send them off to recycling depots. We stopped using trash liners quite a while ago and now wrap what we throw away in newspaper. Most of our wet rubbish goes to the worms, chooks or compost and if we watch what we buy, we generally don't have much to throw out.

    I'll write a post about rubbish next week, Maggie, thanks for the idea.

    Hi Lib, I'll be interested to see what you decide on for your challenge. I'm pleased the magazine arrived. About 10 of our fish are quite big now and should be ready to eat in about March or so.

    Hi MamaK, thanks for taking up the challenge. : )

    Recycling near you - Australia

    Recycling near you - USA

  8. I am going to go cloth, next month, which for me is a big step. Cloth shopping bags, napkins and flour sack towels, for cleaning..
    We still use plastic bags, when we clean out the kitty litter and trash. I really dont know of any other alternatives for those. The site I will be getting my cloth bags from, sells produce ones.

  9. I already have scratched the cloth napkins ect. I use paper bags. Now I am going to bring my own bags to the grocery and not use their bags at all. I'm going to accept the challenge and challenge others to do it as well. I'll have to really think about the next two. Any suggestions for an already green girl?

  10. Great post once again Rhonda! I will also accept your challenge. I have purchased several cloth/string bags and am trying very hard to remember to take them w/ me to the market. The plastic bags are a huge issue in the U.S. I am hoping that by taking my cloth bags, it will in turn make others take notice and give it a shot. We also have a new recycling center near us that will accept cardboard so I am adding that to my bin.

    I am also trying to be more mindful of my purchases. Less packaging and looking more at need vs want. I will end up saving more money with that as well.

    I am weeding out my chemical cleaners in return for more environmentally friendly cleaners. Loved your posts on the homemade cleaners and will give them a shot. We carry several items at the nature store I work at such as Seventh Generation, ect. and I have mostly converted to them.

    Thanks once again Rhonda for your inspiration!!!

    central Illinois

  11. suzen, just do what you can, love. Don't stress about it. Whatever you can do helps. Congratulations on going to cloth. That's a major step.

    Thanks for taking up the challenge, Kristi. I think that when others see what you're doing, it will make them think about their own choices.

    Debbie, you're taking some great steps. I have to be mindful at the shop to bring home less packaging too. I think it's a good step also to email companies about their packaging if you think it's excessive. There is nothing like the power of people united to bring about change.

    I am so pleased you've all decided to make a stand. Congratulations to each and every one of you.

  12. I'll join you in the challenge. Will have a think and put my three things up tomorrow. Plastic bags is definitely one - I have so many green bags I never 'need' to get them. I reject them off but not always. Need to do so.

  13. I love ya! And I think this is brilliant!!!!!! THIS is why I read your blog!
    Thank you my friend!


  14. Good post today Rhonda I too have accepted your challenge

    Will come up with a few ideas during the afternoon and post this evening

    Most times I'm good with this sort of thing but there are those times when I'm not:((


  15. Terrific post again Rhonda, i so enjoy reading your blog, has given me something to think about....
    I do have some cloth bags in the boot of my car BUT i must remember to take them out and use them when i go to the shops..
    Will have a think this afternoon and post about it later.
    Have a wonderful Day

    Robin (Perth)

  16. I have tagged you for a Meme. Come and have a look!


  17. Hi feral. That's what gets me too, and I suspect a lot of others, we take one thinking it's a one off, but it never is. I am going to be really strong with this and not accept any more bags. I'm looking ofrward to seeing your gifts.

    YAY Kelly! What are you going to do? Don't forget to come back and tell me what your gifts will be. : )

    That's great, Cathy. I'm interested in seeing what you come up with.

    Robin, like me you're half way there, we just have to remember to follow through EVERY time. Oh, and spread the message so others can do their bit too.

    Congratulations everyone, I'm so proud of your all.

    Hi Kate, I posted on your blog. Thank you. : - )

  18. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for the challenge, we are going to give it a go - although could be difficult!
    TTFN - Bear and Ted

  19. As I lie awake, not being able to sleep. I wondered, cloth produce bags weigh more than the plastic produce ones. Do I really want to pay anymore for groceries, than I already do? I am not as fortunate as most of you to have a garden.

    I buy most of my produce at Costco, so no bags there. Just the occasional trip to the market for iguana veggies.

  20. Rhonda I love when you do one of these community-spirited challenges and I love reading the comments. Its just an added bonus to your daily inspiring posts. My gifts I have thought about are: 1. Like you I am still sometimes coming home with the odd plastic bag. This I will reduce and will sew some more bags tomorrow. I do not have much rubbish as I recycle etc but will still use the odd bag as I don't buy newspapers either! Although I do receive the free weekly one so I will be vigilant at keeping it and stockpiling.
    2. I always cook from scratch and make my own sauces etc but the one treat I still engage in which I will stop (and find a substitute) is buying chocolate Tim Tam biscuits. When I see them reduced and on sale in the supermarkets ( I know as a ploy to get me to shop there)I justify that it is good to have an emergency supply in the freezer. Ha! they never last long enough. So, when I saw a program saying there were harmful substances/chemicals? in Tim Tams I decided that would do it!! So, no more Tim Tams.
    3. Engage in regular and consistent physical activity as a way to maintain optimal physical and mental health. The resources that go into treating preventable lifestyle diseases of the 21st century is staggering and unsustainable. By taking responsibility for my health and acting in a preventative way I will reduce the possibility of any future burden on the planet.

  21. Two supermarkets in the Uk use biodegradable bags. The tapioca ones degrade in 28 days. If 2 can then why not all of them. If price is the issue then charge for them and get more people re-using their shopping back.
    I will stick the article on bio degradble carrier bags on my blog at some point. Masybe we cna ask other supermarkets why they havn't made the change if some have.
    Have a good day.

  22. I found this alternative for the water bottle, Somethhing to think about?

  23. something to think about for cold/frozen foods while shopping.. i use public transport (we don't have a car) while shopping which can mean a considerable time gap between buying frozen/cold foods and getting it home. To solve this problem i bought a collapsable cool bag. I don't go to the extent of actually putting in those things that you freeze and which keep the bag cool, i find that generally if the bag is full of frozen and/or cold stuff that's enough for the time it takes me to get home, but if its an especially hot day or you have a way to get home, then you could do.

    when i do a big shop i have my lil granny trolley (on wheels), with 2 large canvas bags and my cool bag, all empty, folded inside. It works for me :)


  24. Rhonda Jean, I'll post this graphic (& link back)up for you today...

    My 3 things? Hmm... Continue to not drive most of the time (now to the point of even cutting out errand day each week). Continue to find a way to repurpose things on hand creatively instead of always buying new. Continue to try and grow our own at home -- that saves on plastic bags for certain!

  25. Dear Rhonda,

    Thank you for this challenge. I accept and will blog about it soon. First I have to catch up on some recipes I've been meaning to post at my blog.

    Several years ago, my husband and I eliminated our paper napkin use by only using cloth napkins. I have been wanting to eliminate the use of paper towels, but have not found a suitable alternative. I will, given your challenge, try to be more creative. Perhaps I will just knit myself a bunch of cotton dishcloths, only a bit bigger, and use them in place of paper towels.

    I would like to pose a challenge. I notice that other people who commented to your three gift challenge have the same problem as I do. I have the cotton bags for food shopping - they're in my car - but I almost always forget to bring them with me into the store! I know it seems silly, but obviously I'm not the only one who does it. Any suggestions for how to remember to bring them in with us?

    Second, I would like to ask if you would be willing to create a pattern for sewing our own cloth bags for taking with us into the marketplace. That would be a great thing to do - maybe we could even have a swap?!?!?

    Thank you for your fine blog. I love reading it. Your writing has really made an impact on my life.

  26. I too will take your challenge Rhonda. I will never take another plastic bag, use the Diva cup instead of disposable tampons and pads, and try much harder to avoid extra packaging at the grocery. Thanks for keeping us on our toes! I love Ellen's idea about a cloth bag swap.


  27. I've since added my list to the 3 gift challenge. Thank you for the inspiration Rhonda, looking forward to your comments on trash bin bags.

  28. Hello Ted and Bear. Good on you for taking up the challenge. I look forward to seeing what you'll do.

    Hi Suzen. I made myself some net bags, you can see them here: They don't weigh much or cost much to make and yet they've been great holding the vegies and fruit I buy. Thanks for the links.

    Bella, they are three fabulous gifts. Congratulations on taking up the challenge. I didn't know about the Tim Tams!

    Lizzie, they are great questions that you should ask your supermarkets. All companies need to listen to local concerns at the risk of losing their customers. If two can do it, why not all of them!

    Hi Kethry, thanks for your thoughts. I have a granny trolley too that I take with me when I shop at our local farmers market. :- )

    Thanks for taking up the challenge, Wildside.

    Hello Ellen, I checked out your blog and think you're doing an excellent job providing wholesome gluten-free recipes. I'll add you to my blogroll.

    What are you using paper towels for? I stopped buying them about a year ago and haven't missed them at all. I use cotton rags to wipe up spills (and throw them out if the "spill" is too gross), we rarely fry food so I don't need them to drain off fat. I think larger dishcloths would work well, as would cotton squares similar to your napkins.

    To help remember your bags - before you go grocery shopping, could you fold all your cotton bags, place them in one main bag and also put your purse in that bag. If you're like me, you always check to see if you have your purse when you get out of the car. If your purse is with all the shopping bags, you're sure to take them with you. Maybe the other readers will have ideas as well.

    Regarding the cloth bags - I was so close to having a cloth bag swap this time but decided on the tea cosies as it was something both knitters and sewers could do. Let's do the cloth bag swap in February! That will give me time to get some good resources for making our bags.

    Hello Margaret. You've chosen great gifts for your challenge. Well done! Watch for the February swap - it will be for cloth shopping bags.

    Thanks Maggie!

  29. For the poster who was concerned about the added weight of produce bags, you have a few options.
    a. before you go shopping, bring your produce bags to the customer service or manager's station and ask them figure out the tare weight of the bags. If they are all the same you could have the manager sign a little card next to the weight or if they are quite different, a sticker that goes on each bag. Then when you go the cash register and they weigh your goods the cashier can tare the scale first so the wright of your bag is not counted. They often have to do this for salad bar containers and the like. We have a great store here that has a scale next to all the produce and bulk foods with stickers that say "tare" and "weight" on them so you can figure out the tare of your bag or jar when empty and then weigh it again full. The cashier tares the scale for each new car and then weights it. Quite clever.
    b. if that is too much trouble or your market is very backwards and not helpful you can just leave the veggies loose on the belt and put them in your little bags after they are weighed. You should be washing veggies and fruit before you eat them anyway so you shouldn't have to be conserned unless they are wetish things (like lettuce). In that case I would keep them in your bag, hand them to be weighed, and then put them back in.

  30. LOL, Rhonda Jean - Looks like we both started challenges on the same day! Tis the season, I guess!

    I will happily join you in your Challenge. Sounds wonderful.

  31. Somebody was wondering about dog poo: if you don't get newspapers or have paper bags, you could also try corn starch plastic bags.

    Planet Ark have information on their website about plastic bag alternatives, I get corn starch bags for my son's (compostable disposable) nappies. The corn starch is safe for food and composts fully. Mine are from Eenee (who also make fitted cloth nappies). It isn't a perfect solution though - you're still buying something new for the purpose of throwing it out!

    Ideally you'll find something in your house that is headed for the waste (packaging from your food perhaps?) and re use it to wrap the dog poo.

  32. Also I have been using homemade panty liners. I use one every day and I worked out that if I lived another 20years I would of put into land fill 7,300

  33. Thank you for the push Rhonda, my three will be:

    1. Not coming home with those plastic bags - remembering to take the cloth ones INTO the shop.

    2. Buying more foods in bulk at stores which do not use excessive packaging.

    3. Growing more vegies at home to reduce fuel, packaging etc. (not to mention being healthier).

    Thank you so much for the inspiration to make a firm commitment.

  34. Another great inspiring post! I have the fabric totes for groceries, the problem is remembering to bring them in. I would be at checkout and think, darn, there in the car or worse they're still at home. That will be one for me to work on. I do use all the natural cleaners, but could go a step further and make cleaner like the ones you had posted. Will incorporate that. So that is two. I have also been saving as much as I can on gas and driving. By carpooling, and not just running around 'cause I want to. I also don't buy convienence. I'm a make it from scratch girl. We also have a corn burner, a wood burner, and fireplace. So we do what we can within our budget...great Stuff, I will think too if there is anything else;)

  35. i'm in!
    1. cloth dipes
    2. cloth bags
    3. hang out wash as much as i can

  36. that's great information, Gillian, thank you.

    Hi melinda, I'll check out your blog as soon as I have some spare minutes. I'm pleased you've taken up this challenge. : )

    Thanks for the info, Kate. Here is the website Kate referred to:

    Hi Robbie. They're great gifts! Thank you for taking up the challenge.

    Great choices, Cynthia. Thanks for being part of the challenge.

    Short and sweet, Kelly. ;- )Congratulations on taking part.

  37. This is a comment from Karen who is having trouble commenting. Thanks Karen. : - )

    Morsbags are the latest fashion fad for greenies in the U.K. So.... easy to make from a small yard of material and they slip so easily into your pocket.Try these for starters and you can be so....imaginative.

  38. I need to cut out the odd plastic bags too. Certain storesI shop at I never use bags, but others always give you bags and those are the ones I need to quit taking. What drives me insane is that as much as I don't take many bags anymore, I still have a stack of them from the food you purchased( pasta bags, rice bags , apple bags etc.) I used to use those for disposable diapers, but since we switched to cloth diapers we don't use the bags anymore. Now I don't know what to do with those bags. Any idea's?

    Thanks for keeping me thinking how to be more frugal.


  39. Hi Rhonda I thought some of your readers might be interested in my friend Katie's Morsbag give away that she staged with her knitting group before Christmas, here's the link:

  40. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Another GREAT POST!!! I'm thrilled to see so many jumping on board.:o)
    I'm adding another one to my list.I have an empty gallon size cof. can ,I'll put on the porch for folks to put their cig. butts in.It has a lid.I don't use foam cups (or its rare) so I felt I should add another one.
    For Christmas I made reversable cotton napkins for everyone on my list, I'm doing it again this yr.for b.days, etc. so nobody will have a good excuse to use paper.:o) I will made other things for them also.
    I find when I put groceries up ,I take my bags Back to the car.
    I just LOVE my Visits here.Thank You for all the time you put into each post! Together we are Making a pos. difference.:o)
    Blessins', Lib

  41. I accept your challenge and have my post up on my blog. Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas and helps. :)

  42. natalie, just keep the bags you have in your cupboard. Sure as eggs, there will be a reason to use them in the future.

    Thank you Jenny!

    Great work, Lib. Well done.

    opheliag, I commented on your blog.

    I am so proud of all of you. Thank you for being part of this and trying to make a difference.

  43. Hi Rhonda.
    As usual such an excellant blog and an inspiring challenge. I have posted mine on my site. A bit off the wall b ut thats me! I read your blog every day and you keep me inspired in amongst the turmoil of this modern world which as I grow older I grow more weary of (not the world itself but just the fast paced bits of it..)

  44. Hi Rhonda Jean,

    My Three Gifts Challenge post is up! We do a lot of things to reduce our waste - but there are a few key things we have neglected. Thanks for inspiring me to make these much-needed changes!!

    1. Use Re-usable bags in the grocery store
    2. Bring a To-Go cup with me on business trips
    3. Stop drinking bottled spring water/Bring a bottle with me wherever I go.

    Also, I would LOVE to do a cloth bag swap - it might actually get me to learn to sew!!! I wanted to do the tea cozy swap, but I've just got far too much on my plate at the end of this month & beginning of Feb.

  45. Another great post! Let's see, for the 5 most damaging personal waste items: If there is another option offered I don't take styrofoam cups. I actually stopped doing this 4 or 5 years ago after watching the Affluenza and Escape from Affluenza videos. I made a New Year's Resolution to stop using styrofoam cups for my morning coffee at work and use the china cups they offer. One of two resolutions I actually kept! What I really should do is make more use of To Go cups. Cooking oil: We don't really use large amounts of oil. AA Batteries: We just bought another set of AA for the recharger so we are on that one. Cloth diapers: no babies = no diapers. Smoking: That was the other resolution I kept. We don't really know any smokers now.

    Plastic bags ... they seem to be everywhere. We try to take cloth bags to the store with use but like others, frequently forget. I was aware that this past weekend, packing our groceries into a bunch of cloth bags we had taken into the store, the packer said to DH "would you like the meat in plastic" and DH said yes! I had to run an errand for work yesterday and ended up having to take a plastic bag for my purchase because I was going into other stores. I felt guilty about it because I had just read your message! Boy was I conscious of that bag I was carrying!

    I need to give thought to my three gifts and how I can work the alternatives. Hmmmm .....

  46. This is my first time reading your blog. Great tips; thank you all.

    I forgot all about my collapsible cooler when wondering how I'd keep the frozen foods from defrosting on my walk home from the store. Thank you for the reminder, Kethry.

    We also are required to put our trash in a plastic bag or it won't be taken by the city. We're not allowed to put out bins with the trash; only plastic bags are allowed. Fortunately, we only create one little plastic bag's worth each week, and that's a bag from the grocery store. My husband insists on getting a few each month for the trash when I ask why he's not taking the cloth bags to the store.

  47. I too will take up the challenge:

    1. always taking my bags with me to the supermarket (I also carry a small zip up bag in my handbag) - for those who foret their bags - PUT YOUR SHOPPING LIST IN THEM! That way if you get inside the supermarket you will have to go back for the list and the bags too :) If you leave them at home I can't help you with that one :)

    2. Trying to buy items with the least amount of packagine, in recyclable packaing or buy in bulk where possible if it has to be in plastic.

    3. making myself some of the net produce bag and putting them with my grocery bags in the boot of my car.

    Hope this helps!

  48. Inspirational! I went plastic free in October and I've been able to give up plastic free shopping bags completely. It's pretty easy, although in Chicago, some of the baggers at the supermarket look at you funny when you put your cloth bags up on the counter. But who cares! We're helping the environment :)

  49. Hi Rhonda,

    It's a great post and a great challenge. But for the sake of being Devil's Advocate, I have a few issues with it.

    Polystyrene foam: Good one here. No problems. Except that you might have added change to fair trade coffee/tea :-)

    Cooking oil: What about folks like me who don't use cooking oil? Can you suggest another challenge please? Or I'll suggest my own - switch to locally produced vegetable oils, instead of animal oils / imported oils.

    AA batteries: While rechargeable batteries are not as evil, I think we really need to reconsider, as a community, how many battery-powered gizmos and gadgets we really need. I mean, will my life end if I don't have a battery-powered leg hair remover? I don't think so! And don't get me started on kids' toys - every single thing that Fisher-Price makes seems to burp, fart, whistle or make some other appalling noise. I'm thinking of boycotting the company!

    Disposable nappies: An interesting one, after reading the latest study out of the Uni of Queensland, which indicated that, for Aussie conditions, there is little discernable difference in impact between cloth and disposable nappies. Are cloth nappies better for the environment? If you're concerned only about landfill, the answer might be yes, but in Australia, where water is a HUGE issue, the answer seems to be no. It's a classic case of because we don't see the damage cloth causes and they're 'traditional', we *think* they're better, but if we're going to be serious about selecting the best option for the planet, we need to be more scientific than just going on what looks like being the nicer option.

    Cigarette butts: I'm right with you on this one! Why not complain to a smoker or two about their horrible smell as well?

    As an aside, I can't believe how long cigarette butts last. We bought our home 7 years ago, and we're still digging the blasted things up from the garden!

    In all, a good challenge. Thanks for posting it :-)

  50. daharja, that list is from a TV program. It is what they claimed were the worst problems. It was just given as an example. I have asked people to choose their own gifts, it didn't have to to be anything on that list.

  51. I am inspired by your challenge Rhonda and will add the post to my blog tonight or tomorrow.
    Everything each of us changes, even when it seems small, is part of a bigger solution. There are many things I am working on this year to "make a difference" but my three for your challenge are:
    1)Remembering my bags is sometimes a problem for me too, I recently purchased (now also sell) Onya bags which are a bag which stuffs back inside itself and clips onto your handbag, basket, pram or anywhere on "you" to ensure you always have it with you. There is also the Onya weigh which is a bag with four small tulle bags inside for your fruit and veg. These weigh almost nothing and double as a colander to wash your produce when you get home. There is more info about these on my blog site. I am determined to do away with plastic bags completely and am currently working on the large bin liners.
    2)To avoid purchasing food items or cosmetics that contain palm oil. This industry is having devastating effects in Indonesia and Malaysia concerning both deforestation and the survival of the beautiful Orangutan, our most closely related species. Their habitat is being destroyed at a rapid rate; they are being injured and killed and many young are orphaned as a result. As consumers we have the power to change this.
    There is no legislation in Australia that requires food manufacturers to label the ingredient as palm oil, it can be labelled generically as "vegetable oil" so this challenge is a difficult one. I also make my own natural soap range. We have changed our recipes and are now completely palm oil free.
    3)Is to always look for another use for something or to pass it on to someone else who can use it rather than it end up as waste or landfill. Most of us know the old saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure" but it really is so true. Add to this the goal to make things ourselves rather than purchasing something new.

    Thankyou again Rhonda for wonderful inspiration at the beginning of 2008....


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