Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Those darn grocery bags...

Photo credit: http://learningfundamentals.com.au/wp-content/uploads/plastic-bags.jpg

Are you as tired of plastic grocery bags as I am? Here in Alaska we still see WAY too many of them, often flying around in the wind and getting caught on whatever protrudes from tundra or taiga. A few communities, such as Bethel, Alaska, have managed to outlaw them (Bravo!) and I hear that Los Angeles is planning to this coming July, but here in the Anchorage area their use is still rampant.

I try to bring my own bags whenever I go shopping, but I admit that I don't always succeed. And even if I do remember (or have run back to the truck to retrieve them), I find that the sales clerks are not always very accommodating to us BYO baggers. I practically have to force my canvas bags on them, and if I was too slow but still insist on using my own (after they've started bagging), they've been known to sigh and wad up the plastic & toss them. I once asked a teenage bagger to please re-use the plastic for the next customer, and he said "why?"

In fact, I've discovered that those self-checkout stands that are cropping up everywhere are my friend after all, since I get to bag my own groceries, and take my own sweet time instead of being rushed by a clerk...

Here's a funny anecdote: Right before Christmas I found myself shopping at Office Max, ending up with way more than the 1 item I went in for -- and no canvas bag with me -- and so I decided to purchase an oversize (very useful) re-useable bag that say in big letters "REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE". And the clerk scanned the pricetag, and proceeds to pack it in a plastic bag!
Go figure...
ALASKA: We still got a long way to go, baby!

Recently at the Nature Center, we had a well-attended program about permaculture (Thanks Dani & Gus!), and we had a lively discussion about what steps we can take in our own lives to reduce waste and live in better harmony with our environment.
As part of the program, Dani showed us how to crochet those flimsy grocery-store plastic bags into sturdy baskets using "Plarn" (plastic yarn). And I got hooked (pun intended)!

I already made 3, and just started another (it's fun!!!!)
Here's the how:
Step 1 (non-crocheting husbands and boyfriends, step right up -- you can do this!)
Cut the grocery bags into strips. Either cut rings across and loop them together, or cut them in one continuous spiral, starting at the handle. Optional: rolls these up in a ball (loosely). you'll need a LOT of bags, one or two dozen depending on the size of your final project.

Step 2
Using a large crochet hook (size N or larger), start by making a circle or oval. I like to start with an oval of 4-10 stitches, making single stitches and increase at each end as needed to get a flat oval (at each end, I make duplicate stitches in 3-5 stitches for the first few rows). Once my base is large enough, I switch to double stitches.Then continue to crochet to desired size. I find that a large opening is more "user-friendly" at the grocery store.

Step 3
A pair of handles is made by crocheting a chain of 15-20 stitches, reinforced by single stitches or wrapping. Alternatively, sew on a rim and handles of strips cut from old jeans.

Voila, you're done. You can stretch this bag quite a bit still (use your feet) and it will keep the shape. Remember, these bags are quite strong, and it's fun to do. You'll find yourself raiding your friends' recycling for fun colors -- I'm now making orange stripes from the newspaper baggies, green stripes from the PetZoo, and red dots from Target...

Careful, this is so much fun it can get addicting!

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