14 March, 2007

Ka-Ching! Environmentalism

Today's conversation at NiT about disposable shopping bags is hitting home with me in a big way.

Right there, in that whole conversation, is hidden the two Achilles Heels of modern environmentalism. (Yes, I know Achilles was only wounded in the one heel, but whatever.)

The conversation is about yet another municipality wanting to ban yet another thing in order to protect us from our miserable adulthood and the responsibilites and privileges thereof. In this case it's San Francisco (surprise!) wanting to ban plastic shopping bags.

As I said over there I remember clearly about 20 years ago when plastic bags became all the rage. They were to save the rainforests, as all of the cute little monkeys and toucans and life-saving wetland bacteria were being destroyed by the felling of trees for Kroger sacks. We could all do our part for the poor tall trees by getting plastic bags. Now caring for the wetlands is old and busted, while worrying over the state of the world's oil fields is the new hotness. So we're back to hating on plastic. So there's Achilles Heel #1. Environmentalism is not seeming very consistant, and at least to me looks like it gives into the latest trends.

Achilles heel #2 is the elitist expense of it all. Nearly everyone agrees that the most environmentally friendly way to carry your groceries home is in a cloth bag of some sort. When I was in school in London I loved the string bags. I try to be as environmentally-conscious as possible without getting an ulcer over the whole thing, so a few years back I went looking for those bags. The good news is that you can order them over the internet. The bad news is that the cheapest seem to hover right around the thirty-dollar mark. I don't know about you, but for me, thirty bucks is hovering in on 'six days' worth of groceries' territory. The plastic doohickies at Food Lion are a whopping 'free'. They'll set you back nothin'. Basically if you've got some extra cash to throw at the dogoodism gods, you're in good shape. You can get you some of those nifty earth-saving bags. But the rest of us down here on the ground are forced to roll a different way.

And yeah, part of me resents that part of the environmental movement in the same way that I resented the kids who wore Jordache in sixth grade. It's as though they think that flashing their money somehow makes them better, more saintly, cooler. It's enough to make me want to ban environmentalism.


At 5:44 PM, March 14, 2007, Blogger Exador said...

They could always buy carbon offsets.

I never confirmed it, but I heard once that those Amazonian natives that Sting dragged around the world to guilt us all into saving the rainforests, realized one day that they could sell off their tribal land and get condos in Rio.

At 5:46 PM, March 14, 2007, Anonymous tom said...

As a consumer and a former retail employee, I can attest to the fact that I LOVE my plastic shopping bags.

I remember when I worked at Target, the rack backs with the handles were the key to great service. There's no need for a bag boy, you just scanned the merchandise and bagged it. It makes being a cashier much easier.

If we switch over to cloth bags, we'll just go back to plastic in another 30 years.

At 9:26 PM, March 14, 2007, Blogger bridgett said...

If you really want a good cheap string bag, I recommend trying here:


The Acme (which is what I use) costs about 6 bucks.

(I also own an NYC snowglobe that has a little plastic bag tumbling around in it...)

At 4:06 AM, March 15, 2007, Anonymous Bec said...

I'm not sure what it is in the US but in Australia we have these things called 'greenbags' everywhere (company name - they sure aren't all green) - universities use them for promotions, clothing shops will sell them for a dollar and they are reusable and really strong. go to: www.greenbag.info

At 9:45 AM, March 15, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

thirty bucks is hovering in on 'six days' worth of groceries' territory.

You can buy food for six days on $30 bucks?!?!?!

How do you do it?

At 11:15 AM, March 16, 2007, Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

Not to mention, excuse me, but what am I supposed to scoop my catbox into? (Ditto for dog-walking dog owners.) Those plastic bags are ideal for that. And if you have enough of them, they make good packing material. They're what I put those shredded, unwanted, unrequested You Are Qualified For This Credit Card! offers into, so that I don't get my identity stolen. They're what I give the local thrift stores so they can bag purchases for shoppers who also don't have those cloth shopping bags. I reuse my plastic bags for a myriad of things. I reuse them in conjunction with my cloth shopping bags, because, believe me, when you don't have a car and you carry everything like a pack mule, you use cloth shopping bags - which are not waterproof, at least not generally, unlike the plastic shopping bags. Of course, if you have the time, the resources, and the inclination, you could just make bags from worn-out jeans.

Or you could buy them from Dharma Trading, at between $1.50 and $2.00 apiece for good sturdy canvas bags:

Those are for the low-cost promotional totes, of course (they're actually blank - you put the promotional material on them), but even the biggest, sturdiest, riveted mail-carrier size bag is about $12.00. They have fabric bags for everything from laundry to cell phones, including inexpensive reusable little gift bags in silk organza, silk velvet, and china silk.

I've bought stuff from Dharma before, and have been very happy with their products and service. But I still want my plastic bags.

At 1:23 PM, April 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too make good use of plastic bags. I triple bag meat to be frozen instead of buying expensive ziplok baggies.
I bought a trash can from Kmart which is designed to use the bags as a liner.
I store small items, such as winter stuff in them.
There are just dozens of uses for them.

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