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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ponderings of the Modern Term of "Green" previous post of brown paper....has got us all asking the question.....
Paper V's Plastic?
Which is better and what is a TRUE cost?
With many of our shops going plastic free, and people returning to string bags (sort of and of a fashion), will we,
 and in fact,
 should we, see a return of the paper bag?

I have had the very good fortune last year of meeting (and making my friend) Lee from Killiecrankie Farm.

She is an extraordinary woman; holds her own in an industry typically populated by males (forestry), is a qualified horticulturalist of highest calibre, juggling motherhood and new entrepeneurealships. She upholds the old crafts and the pursuits of la vie simple (being also a self-confessed Francophile) and often is found pondering (inside her head) the modern term of "green".
Sometimes she lets me in but today...
without further ado....
she lets us all in....

"So folks this is my first guest blog.

It’s a bit daunting,

it could be blog Harri kauri by being so topical

but here goes....

Tanya has asked me to say why I like brown paper bags;

it's not just the wonderful crisp stiffness of the paper,

the warm cosy smells of the raw brown carrier,

but because it meets my criteria for a good cradle to grave product.

Good grief what is that !

Sounds a bit weird and heavy for a blog ramble!

If you put it in simple terms think of the question "how?"

How do we get a paper bag ?

How does it get used ?

How does it end its life ?

So if we had a plastic bag (or even one of those reusable green bags)

it started as a dinosaur (cradle)

yup, squished and crushed and stewed below the earths crust to form a natural gas

then we drill it out of the ground, probably far out to seas where no-one can see it

ship it to a refinery,

cook it up into some stretchy goop

add a few stabilisers and there you have it a plastic bag

(simple and inaccurate I know).

Now you can say it is renewable getting out natural gas and petroleum's

but we are going to have to wait a few million years and we are going to run out of dinosaur goop at some stage.

So that’s why we are so keen on bio fuels.

Then the bag goes to landfill to "degrade" - which basically means it’s the same thing just smaller bits.

It won't disappear or become worm food - it will end as plastic.

You can recycle it,

reuse it,

but it will still be plastic (grave)

(simple and inaccurate I know).

So take a brown paper bag.

Many of my favourite things involve paper;


loo paper,

my wooden floorboards,

the box around my chocolate,

a birthday card.....

So you take a tree,

mash it up, wash it (even recycled paper), mash it some more, wash it some more

add some stabiliser

roll it out, dry it, cut it up and fold it

whack-o you have a brown paper bag.

That bag, if unbleached can go straight in the compost

be eaten by a worm as it is "BIO degradable"

pooped out and then fertilize my garden.

It is still cellulose (that fibre stuff from the tree)

(simple and inaccurate I know).....

BUT that tree can be replanted,

grown again in a life cycle of about 15 years.

But what about the forest ?

What about all the energy that goes into turning a tree into paper ?

Well that’s another whole new story . . . . .

the moral of the story is . . . . . use less ?

Ask do I need this ?

Next week meat VS vegetarian and the case of the belching cow (no just joking).

Some other discussions:

What's with you: so I am an environmental scientist, with a bend on sustainability, when not answering to "Mum" I ride a bike for fun (?) and ponder the great arguments of the modern term of "green"."


  1. Missed the discussion yesterday but I am on the side of the paper bag. I have always loved paper bags I especially loved the ones my Grannie used to keep in the big box in her spare room along with wound up lengths of string and clean old butchers paper and wrapping paper.

    Can I tell you a story. When my son Louis was doing his gap year he worked at an engineering firm and didn't want to take his lunch in his old school lunch box so he used a paper bag. It wasn't given any particularly good treatment just stuffed in his bag when it was empty each day after lunch. He worked at that place for 10 months and this miraculous bag lasted the whole time. It was very soft and crinkly by the end , it had been wet a couple of times and developed a couple of small holes along the scrunch line but it was still a usable paper bag.
    The whole family admired this miracle bag.

    Great post Lee. I can really hear your voice through your words and I like your logic.

  2. thanks Tanya! - your intro has made me blush :)

  3. Hey Tanya/Lee, loved the explanation plain and simple, shame it's not as easy to rectify the problem, but we can all do our little bit to make a difference.

  4. great post. Paper bags are great.
    Love your story too Jenny of the long lasting bag.

    cheers Kate

  5. Paper bags definitely! I have thought about his too and agree that paper is better even though we have to chop a tree down to make it.

  6. Well, actually you don't have to chop down trees to make paper - you can buy paper made from wheat waste (the stuff left after the kernels are harvested) right here in Launceston. Superior paper can be made from hemp - it is easy to grow without pesticides (unlike plantation fibre wood). There are many other plant fibres that make wonderful paper and lots of them are waste products from food harvesting. It is a bit of forest industry spin-doctoring that leads people to believe that you have to chop down trees and process them through a massive, polluting chemical digester to produce paper!
    I think the answer is to respect paper much more - people are far too profligate with it, just as we are with so many things today. If we paid a higher price for these things, perhaps we would think twice about chucking them out we would save them like Jenny's granny did. Jenny's story of the Long Lasting Paper Bag is wonderful - just goes to show you what can be done if you give it some thought - her son saved hundreds of paper bags by using the same one over and over.
    PS. What happened to the legendary bag, Jenny? It should have been memorialized permanently in a work of art of some kind!

  7. An excellent discussion and one we should have more often.. In the home where learning first starts.
    From my childhood we wrapped our rubbish in newspaper.
    I don't remember a plastic bag..
    Our groceries were brought home in cardboard boxes.. Toilet paper was the old news paper cut up ( oh boy ).
    I love to make my own carry bags and crochet shopping bags from cotton.:))
    Hello to Lee and Tanya, Excellent blog :))

  8. ah yes - alternative fibres are great - but at some stage a forest must be cut down to create farm land - and the argument being that annual crops require far greater energy inputs to grow and harvest and despite being a waste product, the original product is intensive agriculture and often not organic - oh the discussions are as long as a piece of string.
    But Susies point is perfect - respect what we have - value it !

  9. Well you girls have been talking up a treat while I've been out and very healthy it has been too.
    I LOVE that story Jenny and it is an important one too. I agree with Susie, it should have been memorialised.
    So keeping in mind that this could definitely go on infinitum and that Lee has tried to keep it a post rather than a thesis paper, I will just say that "paper" per se is a very broad term. Just like "fabric" or "mineral". While some paper product can be made from other fibres, the truth is only wood pulp is suitable for other types of paper products that we use every day. Cotton is a great fibre but it is never going to make silk. Sulfide minerals important for metal making will never make a porcelain bowl.
    Susie's point about "people being too profiligate" is key. My neighbour accross the road is a lovely guy, but he used to regurlarly hose his driveway and set the sprinkler on his nature strip...UNTIL water became a user pays system. Water suddenly had a price and therefore a value.
    Thank you for the "Cradle to the Grave" look Lee and for all the wonderful researched links.
    I love that so many Tasmanians have commented on this but I am intrigued to know what people from afar think, especially those in other countries. Do other people debate the paper/plastic issue as vigorously or is it just that it is so "in our backyard" that we are avid about it?

  10. Good for you, Lee! A brilliant debut guest post. Loving it. J x

  11. I am afraid The Paper Bag just disappeared. It was held up and admired at the end of Louis' gap year and then put with the other paper bags and was never seen again.Very sad really but it adds to the legend really (I have a feeling I may have accidentally used it to drain some fried food on and then it went into the compost)

  12. Talking of brown paper bags for your shopping, just in case you were a teensy weensy bit still interested, the Glengarry Shop is on the market again....

  13. Oh poor paper bag Jenny - at least it went onto another fitful purpose ;)

  14. I used to love paper bags.
    I don't use them any more.


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