Why Your Canvas Tote Could Be Just as Bad for the Environment as a Plastic Bag

iStock.com/Rawpixel
iStock.com/Rawpixel

Many major cities and corporations are cracking down and banning plastic bags in an effort to reduce pollution and save our oceans. But is that really the best approach? While plastic bags are “almost certainly the worst” of all options in terms of ocean pollution, according to Quartz, the issue gets a little murkier when you take other environmental issues into consideration.

As it turns out, canvas tote bags might be less eco-friendly than plastic bags because they’re often made of cotton, which requires more energy and water to produce. According to one study from 2011, a cotton bag’s carbon footprint is 598.6 pounds of CO2, compared to 3.48 pounds for a standard plastic bag made from high-density polyethylene. Researchers concluded that it might actually be better to reuse those plastic bags you get from the supermarket, then recycle them once they’re no longer viable.

Similarly, a 2018 recent study from Denmark found that low-density polyethylene bags wreaked the least damage on the planet of all the different types of bag studied. (However, it’s important to note that ocean pollution was not taken into account in that particular study, and that plastic can still severely harm marine life and ecosystems.) Representatives of Denmark's Ministry of Environment and Food determined that conventional cotton bags would have to be reused 7100 times to match the cumulative environmental performance of a plastic bag. Organic cotton bags are even worse, because those would need to be reused 20,000 times.

So what’s a well-meaning, environmentally conscious consumer to do in the face of conflicting information? To start, Quartz recommends reusing your bags—regardless of whether they’re plastic or cotton—as many times as possible. And if you already own a canvas tote bag, be sure to actually use it to ensure you’re hitting the threshold needed to offset the environmental impact.

[h/t Quartz]

Thursday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Guitar Kits, Memory-Foam Pillows, and Smartwatches

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 3. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Fun Fact: More Than 75 National Forests Will Let You Chop Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Want a holiday tree? Drop by your nearest national forest.
Want a holiday tree? Drop by your nearest national forest.
Artem Baliaikin, Pexels

While plenty of people celebrate the holiday season with a neat and tidy artificial Christmas tree, there’s nothing quite like having the smell of fresh evergreen fir needles littering your floor. But before you head to your nearest tree farm or Walmart, think about a national forest instead. More than 75 of them will let you chop your own tree. Best of all, it’s actually good for the forests.

The United States Forest Service encourages people to grab a holiday tree from their land because it means less competition for room and sunlight for the remaining trees and allows wildlife to flourish. All you have to do is find your nearest national forest at Recreation.gov and apply for a permit—usually $10 or so—to begin chopping. The Forest Service recommends selecting trees no larger than 12 to 15 feet in height, with a 6-inch trunk diameter. They usually ask that you select a tree roughly 200 feet away from roads or campgrounds and make sure you let someone know where you’re going in case you get lost.

Different forests have different species of trees and slightly different rules, so it’s best to check with the forest for their guidelines before you rev up the chainsaw. And no, tree traffickers, you can’t harvest trees for resale.

[h/t CNN]