Heard any good eco-curse words lately? Oh yes you have. Take ‘fracking’, for instance. It’s the perfect stress-relieving pseudo-expletive to hurl at someone who gets your goose in a gander, conveying equal parts environmental frustration and linguistical ‘grrrrrr’ without running the risk of offending your grandmother. Technically referring to the natural gas extraction process that contaminates water reserves while also triggering other assorted negative eco-consequences, there’s no frackin’ way that another vulgarity could come close to making greenies rise up and pound their chests in solidarity.
On second thought, there are two little words that get environmentalists equally riled up. Drumroll please. Wait for it… ‘plastic bags’. Utter those two words in front of an eco-sympathizer and you’ll immediately witness two puffs of smoke emanating from their recently neti-pot-irrigated nostrils followed by a couple of scary looking miniature Samurai swords hatcheting rather intimidatingly through their nasal cilia. For the record, greenies are thoroughly capable of making anyone shake in their boots if sufficiently provoked.
What’s with all the plastic bag hatin’, though? Easily totable, infinitely disposable sacks have actually made our lives far more convenient, enabling us to comfortably carry oodles of goodies in bulk rather than stacking just a few choice items in our outstretched hands (with strategic chin support thrown in for good measure). Shouldn’t we be erecting monuments and celebrating a yearly national holiday in their honor?
Oh. I forgot. It’s what they’re actually made of that gets people all worked up. Ethylene monomer chains, which is just a fancy term for petroleum-based plastic. Drats. That stuff really really wreacks havoc on the environment. Scientists suggest that it takes an estimated thousand years for one frackin’ bag to fully break down… but in the meantime, upon being exposed to water and sun, miniscule bits of plastic end up infiltrating our oceans and then are accidentally consumed by marine life.
It really hits home when you see photographic proof of the plastic ‘garbage soup’ that’s churning away in the North Pacific Sub-tropical Gyre, but for those who need more convincing of why they should give a frack, the proof is in your sushi… and your fish sticks. Studies have found that various types of plankton-eating critters (that regularly munch on plastic bits since they’re a dead ringer for their favorite food) end up harboring carcinogenic dioxins, metals and – yes – notorious, hormone-disrupting Bisphenol A – in their flesh. You don’t really want that tuna sammie now, do you?
While plastic bag bans and taxes have gone into effect nationally (in parts of Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas and Washington) and internationally (Australia, Belgium, China, France, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, etc.), the world is a large place. In spite of the notable progress, they’re still such an integral part of our lives.
If you’re still guiltily clinging to the plastic bag demons stashed away under your kitchen sink and would like a bit of clever, crafty inspiration to keep them out of the landfill (and far, far away from the ocean), you’re in luck. These off-the-beaten path plastic bag repurposing ideas are worth their weight in gold, or at the very least, ‘green’:
- Go fly a kite – a plastic bag kite, that is. And it’s soooo DIYable!
- Artist Josh Blackwell demonstrates that traditional cotton duck canvas is no match for the novel backdrop of reclaimed plastic shopping bags hand stitched with multicolored, textured patterns.
- Necessity may be the mother of invention, but inspiration was the mother of this clever soccer ball for disadvantaged youth.
- Ever get a hankering for a rainbow-colored sunburst on your wall? Virginia Fleck’s wildly whimsical plastic paneled mandalas deliver just the right punch of Mother Nature lovin’ plasticky goodness.
- Follow Louie Rigano’s DIY upcycled rain boot template or snatch a pair of Camila Labra’s slightly more stylish fused upcycled plastic bag ankle booties. Pair them with a festive patch worked rain coat and be the envy of the eco-crowd.
- Transforming old plastic shopping bags into children’s building blocks is pretty cool, but Gert de Mulder raises the bar with his design-worthy Recy-Blocks which can be used to construct real-world dwellings.
- Once you master the technique of fusing, there’s virtually no limit to the amount of crafty recycled goodness you can create with old plastic shopping bags… and a corset-style dress is just the tip of the iceberg. How about iron on t-shirt decals, a child’s bib, an embellished art smock, Barbie doll clothing and reusable sandwich bags?! So much eco-fun for everyone!
Image via Urban Woodswalker
For more juicy green goodness, follow Elizah via Twitter