In recent months, I have been making an effort to use reusable bags for my shopping. Believe it or not, despite the barrage of mass marketing that has indicated that I can single handedly save the planet merely by scoffing at the often asked philosophical question of “paper or plastic?â€, I am not doing this to go green. I have 3 totally not environmentally related reasons:
- Money — Plastic bags cost the retail industry a small fortune every year. Since these bags are provided “freeâ€, the cost gets handed to back to us in the cost of the item. On top of that, it costs money to dispose of plastic bags when you are done with them. Many people may think that the nice garbage men stop by your house because they are trash fairies with a chronic problem, but this is simply not the case. You pay taxes and your taxes pay the trashmen (or women, just to be PC). I know, I am being just a bit unrealistic in thinking that either the store or the city would be so kind as to return that money to me now that I am using reusable bags, but a girl can dream, cant’s she?
- Resources — This past summer gas cost $4 a gallon and threatened with a sawed off shotgun to go to $5. My natural gas bill is now big enough that it rivals the operating budgets of small countries. While granted, the plastic for plastic bags is a by-product of petroleum and natural gas, I really think it is time we weaned ourselves off the non-renewable resource crack pipe all together. I often shutter to think what would happen if we somehow pissed off the Saudis. And no matter how you look at it, there is only so much of it left. Sure, maybe we have enough to use them for the next 200 years, but do you really want to have to tell your great-great-great-grandkid that the reason they are just SOL on the natural resources front is because YOU felt the need to carry your Twinkies home in a onetime use bag? I did not think so.
- Space — You might think that I am going to say landfill space, but I fooled you. I am not. I am talking about the space in my kitchen. I am a Scottish packrat. You think that I am going to throw a perfectly good plastic bag in the trash!?! No way. I am going to keep it and use it as a trash bag, or a lunch bag or a suitcase (they love me at security, I can tell you that). Problem is that I had more plastic bags than I could actually ever use and half of my kitchen was lost to an avalanche of plastic. We still can’t find one of the kids.
Long and short of it, I decided that enough was enough and started carrying reusable bags (at least until I have used up my current horde of plastic bags and we finally local the missing offspring).
And, much to my dismay, using reusable bags comes with its own set of problems. *sigh*
Given that every store from here to China has been touting (or would that be toting?) these “greenâ€ bags, I am surprised by this.
I am sure you have seen these bags for sale. You know, the ones where they advertise that you can save the planet, combat evil and avenge the deaths of lemmings, all while getting low, low prices. Never mind that the silly things could barely fit a carton of eggs, let alone a week’s worth of groceries… But I digress. Let’s just say that I did not buy my reusable bags from these stores (I am fortunate enough to have several awesome Ikea bags.)
While the store owner thought far enough ahead to offer these useless little totes, they failed to think far enough ahead to actually explain to their employees what the hell they were for. My reusable bags are often met with a combination of bafflement, annoyance and occasional open hostility.
Through the use of reusable bags, I have learned that one of the most disdainful things you can do to a cashier is to disrupt her workflow (which is apparently only slightly less disdainful than interrupting the riveting conversation she was having with the cashier next to her simply because you would like to pay and leave the store). Some of the cashiers so thoroughly fail to grasp the point of reusable bags that they will attempt to place the groceries in the plastic bags before placing them in my reusable bags. One cashier insisted that he might lose his job if my groceries were not safely and hygienically ensconced in plastic upon leaving..
So this is the current state of reusable bags, at least here in Cleveland. You are crazy if you use ’em and crazy if you don’t.