I considered titling this post Soapbox Saturday, but then I thought no one would read it. But you’re here now (hear that door shutting behind you?), and I hope you’ll stay (see those big guys guarding the door?).
This morning I came upon an article in the New York Times about a reversal in Ireland of the use of plastic bags. In 2002, a 33 cent tax was placed on each plastic bag–if a customer wanted them, they had to pay. Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94%. Yes, 94%. Within a year, almost everyone had bought and begun to use cloth bags. Incredible, isn’t it? Now, according to the article, the use of plastic bags is considered “socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.”
Here in the United States, a smattering of grocery chains like Whole Foods have made efforts toward phasing out plastic bags. Unfortunately, we Americans are stubborn bastards (yes, I’m including myself). It seems it will take nothing less that an act of Congress for us to follow the example of a small country across the pond who, with the enactment of a simple but stern tax, has achieved an environmental feat that we should all be lining up to emulate.
So what’s our hangup? Every time I go to the store, I feel guilty whenever I forget to ask for paper. (But even the paper bags come at the price of cutting down trees, as well as the use of energy and fuel it takes to manufacture and transport them. ) I resolve every time that I will purchase cloth bags, and I’ve even gone online to shop for them, but have never bought them, for reasons that make little sense. I seem to want cute bags at a great price, when I should just choose some plain ones at a great price and care little about how they look, as long as they are serviceable and washable.
A good stash of bags would mean having at least a dozen, if not more. I hope to find bags that hold as much as a paper grocery bag, which would be ideal. I would also like them to stand up on their own, like a paper bag does. But those seem to cost more. And that doesn’t matter so much, since plastic bags don’t stand on their own, so why should I care?
So, I’m making a late resolution. A serious one, that doesn’t involve diet or exercise, or cutting out swear words. This one should be easy, as easy as it is for me to remember to take my purse when I leave the house, and easier even, since I can leave the grocery bags in my trunk.
This month, I will seek out and purchase an adequate number of cloth grocery bags. I will harness whatever Irish solidarity runs through my blood (it’s there, though diluted) and make an important change. I invite and challenge all of you to join me. As I do my research, I will post some links for bags I like, and I hope you’ll do the same if you find a good source.
It’s a small change and a big one, too. Maybe someone in line behind me will see my cloth bags and think, “Yeah, I should get some of those,” and maybe they actually will. A wavelike effect that could spread across the country (I dream big), even all the way to the aisles of a W*lmart near you. I do know that over time, businesses will line up with their customers’ demands. If we ask for it, and ask for it, and ask for it again. Eventually, they will listen and comply.
Come to think of it, this would be a great fundraising idea for schools and other organizations. So much better than candy or wrapping paper. All of you who are involved in your PTO can snag that idea and run with it. (I’m counting on it.)
Maybe I should start a website and call it BagLadies. Everyone could sign up and register their changeover to cloth bags. Hmm. I’ll have to give that some thought. Just as soon as I buy some cloth bags.