Saturday, January 21, 2017


I suppose it was about 20 years ago when I first heard that a tree gave its life for every paper sack that was manufactured, and we were encouraged to choose plastic bags over paper. Eventually someone enlightened me that brown paper sacks are made from paper pulp so apparently not the drain on our trees that we were led to believe. However, paper bags are more expensive to the retailer than plastic, and the consumer was still encouraged to opt for plastic. I can only think of two retailers in my community who still offer paper as a choice.

Vance at the outdoor fireplace c. 1950
Today we are all familiar with the drawbacks of those plastic bags. They are subject to splitting and tearing and have to be packed fairly lightly, which means you come home from shopping with many of them. Just one trip by the landfill illustrates another problem – hundreds of plastic sacks clinging to the chain link fence. We do not have a viable way to destroy them, and their re-use is limited. In the state of Washington, Seattle has banned them (as have a number of states and cities), but here on the other side of the state, they are still in full use. The solution is to “remember your reusable shopping bags,” and if you can carry your purchase without a bag, just say, “I don’t need a bag.”

I have quite a number of reusable shopping bags stored in the back of the car, most of them promoting a specific retailer. I try to be retailer specific when I use my bags, figuring that Rosauers would prefer I not leave their store carrying bags that say “Albertsons.” However, as I loaded my groceries into the car at Rosauers one day, the bagger noted my reusable bags and exclaimed, “You DO have reusable bags!”
“Yes,” I said, “but not for Rosauers.”
“They don’t care,” she said emphatically; “you can re-use any bag.”

Years ago, while we raised our family, I collected a lot of paper sacks – way more than I could re-use. I gave extras to my parents whose re-use didn’t keep up with their supply. They lined their waste baskets with them.
When I was growing up, it was standard to wrap a box for mailing in brown paper. I think they called it Kraft paper but often it worked just as well to re-use a brown paper sack. We also tied parcels with string. My mother carefully cut the string from parcels we received and saved it for re-use. Grandma Ina was delighted when she received a parcel tied with green string, which she re-used to tie gifts.

Life changes, and some opportunities to re-use just disappear. I don’t recall when the Post Office told us to stop wrapping and tying boxes. As I recall, the paper and string tended to get caught in the conveyor belts. The new way was perhaps less time consuming and more efficient for the consumer, but the old way provided a means of re-using paper and boxes. KW


Chuck said...

The photo seems to fit our present day. I called Konni, today, and she said they had between 2-1/2 and 3 feet of snow at Highland (just above Provo Lake. It is snowing now and plans are for snow the next four days. We are planning to drive up there tomorrow afternoon. Hope we can make it.

Chuck said...

On a side note, trees are replaceable, oil for plastics is not replaceable.

Kathy said...

I don't know when the photo was taken -- perhaps in that famous winter of '48. I suppose he was standing at the fireplace because it was a good place to show the accumulation of snow.

Good point on trees vs. oil.

Chris said...

Yes, that whole tree thing was/is a crock. Too bad many people still believe it. Paper biodegrades, is made from, as you say, pulp, and trees are a renewable resource! Ann makes beautiful covers for books from paper bags and stitches ribbon on them or does a decorative stitch.

Kathy said...

Yes, Chris -- You were the "someone" who enlightened me. Clint also mentioned that there's talk at the mill about paper bags since more and more communities are banning plastic.

Interesting about the book covers from paper bags. Back in the day, I think we occasionally made textbook covers from paper bags. They weren't lovely -- just serviceable.

Chris said...

Ann constantly amazes me with her creative ideas. They heavy paper takes the stitching beautifully.

Kathy said...

Oh, I don't know. I think Ann comes by her talents quite naturally, including patience with a stubborn desire to win through and a willingness to experiment.

Actually, I dream of stitching on paper myself but have never done it. I just dream about it. So many dreams -- so little time.