Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Plastic Shopping Bags: An Inconvenient Truth






On Earth Day, I wonder if anyone else feels just a little guilty accepting a plastic bag at the check out counter of Target or the grocery store?  Have you been toting the paper or cloth bags to store regularly?  I try to as much as possible.  I take them to the grocery store on a regular basis, to Barnes and Noble - makes it lot easier to tote books out (I go to B&N each week for my mom - to pick her up paperbacks and magazines. I've been hinting that it would be better for her to go to the library: good for the environment and certainly a lot more economical - but her reply is that cracking the spine of a new book is one of the few pleasures left in her life. Who am I to argue? Just wish we had the same taste in books) to the car.  I've even taken to bringing my trusty bags to Target or other shopping locations to save on plastic.  When it's unavoidable, I stash the bags so that I can drop them in the recycle bin at the grocery store - when I remember to do so.  

A dear friend of mine, Josie, has been carting her own bags for years.  Josie is an old hippie, and was talking being environmentally conscious for as long as I've known her, which has to be at least 30 years.  Josie used to live with my sister, and I remember how we used to tease her for dashing around to gather her shopping bags before we would go to the market.  Josie was forever toting home some treasure she garbage picked.  We ribbed her unmercifully, but she had a good eye and much of what she found created a funky, yet shabby-chic home that people would pay thousands for today.  My daughter's first big girl bed was an old brass trundle that she found on her way home from work one day.  Josie had her foibles, that's for sure. Extremely sensitive to sun, she used to wear hats and long sleeves regardless of temperature and she liked to garden at night.  She'd string Christmas lights at night. She didn't just eat organically, but also would bring her own distilled water to a restaurant in a mason jar, but she has a beautiful heart.  For all of our teasing about her being from the planet Fleon, Josie was, and is, ahead of her time in knowing you have to honor your surroundings and listen to what the earth says. 

I often think of her while taking my own bags into the store.  I don't do it all the time - my sister often says, "it's an inconvenient truth that I keep forgetting to put the damn bags into the car in the first place" - but I try to remember to bring the bags as often as I can.  When I do remember the bags, I see that bringing your own is more common place, but I still find that it garners me a few odd or, more accurately, irritated looks from other shoppers.  Granted, it happens in some stores more than others (it never happens in Whole Foods for example, but happens regularly in the local Shop Rite), and it almost always happens when you're in line - the cashiers start bagging without noticing that there is a stack of cloth bags in front of them. Then you get the exaggerated rolling of eyes before they re-bag. 

Today, I stopped in my local SR on my way home from the gym, and brought my cloth bags in with me. I was just going to run in, but I stopped myself and dug the bags out of the trunk.  I had 10 items, so I headed to the self check out line.  Because the scanners are configured to work with the plastic bags that are hanging there, when you put the bloody cloth bag in the bagging area, it constantly hangs up and informs you to call for assistance.  The person who resets that  machine had to practically stand with me as I finished my order. I was standing there, still sweaty from the gym, my hair half plastered to my head wearing a baggy workout T and an older pair of yoga pants (It is an "I FEEL FAT" day).  I was growing quite frustrated - and when I'm at this point, I either curse like a sailor or laugh.  Chose the latter. Luckily, she was laughing along with me as we agreed that these hellion machines were designed prior to considering anything like global warming.  

While we were standing there chuckling, a slender, impeccably dressed women pushed her cart past us, practically snorting at us for not clearing the aisle for her.  She slammed her products onto the scanner and threw them into the plastic bags sitting on the bagger.  I had just finished my order and was right along side her.  She glanced at me carrying my bags (I had a hand basket, not a shopping cart, so I was carrying the bags).  Now, admittedly, I looked scarily close to a homeless person compared to that woman. I live in Stepford Village, so I was prepared for the "look", but she saw the cloth bags and then glanced back at her plastic bags.  Instead of the look, a fleeting glimpse of what looked like guilt flashed across her face.  I didn't feel pleased, I felt compassion - I get that guilty flash when I see that someone has taken the extra 30 seconds to grab a cloth bag.  Within a nano-second, the irritated look returned and she glided out of the store.  I'm sure by the time she reached her car, she'd forgotten the 40 something woman trodding out of the store, but I hope she remembers that by doing the smallest thing like remembering a shopping bag can help. 

1 comment:

noble pig said...

I always try to remember my bags. I hate when I forget but do recycle them. We need to save the earth one plastic bag at a time.