Given the concerns pulling us in different directions—our health, the environment, climate change—what’s an environmentally responsible, health-conscious shopper to do? Let’s compare the main bag choices—plastic, paper and cotton—to try to answer that question.
Life Cycle Analysis
To understand the full spectrum of impacts and benefits of a particular bag, we need to analyze its life cycle. A life cycle analysis (LCA) looks at how much energy is used and how many environmental impacts a product is responsible for at every stage of its life, from cradle to grave. This includes extracting the raw materials, refining them, manufacturing the product, packaging it for shipment, transporting and distributing it, its use and possible reuse, recycling and final disposal.