Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Paper or Canvas?

San Jose, California has taken steps toward banning plastic bags. They will join San Francisco, Oakland and a few European cities. Even China and South Africa have entered this progressive movement.

I still tend to forget to ask for paper, or even better, to take a canvas bag with me when I go to the store. I think I'm going to make a hanger for our canvas bags by the front door so I remember to grab some on the way out. I've noticed the store clerks no longer asking, and I don't think I see paper bags there any more. That is all except for Whole Foods where I don't think they have plastic bags. I would shop there all the time if I were rich.

Even though I am hardly an example of what the progressive way I would like us all to be, I am not afraid of going one further and suggesting an even more profound change. I would like to see in-store packaging undergo a major change. I don't know how plastic shopping bag garbage and litter compare to packaging garbage and litter, but I would imagine the volume and resultant pollution is similar. And green packaging is a growth industry. It's generally more expensive, but only because the true costs of pollutive packaging are externalized (in the form of pollution, depletion of resources, etc.) So we still pay for it; the manufactureres just don't.

The bottom line is that we need legislation. The free market will work at innovation when forced to by legislation. Until then, only the occasional visionary is going to take action.

1 comment:

Shae said...

I've been thinking that there's a simple way to reduce a ton of plastic bag litter.

In my experience, if you say "I don't need a bag" for that one tiny toothbrush you're buying, the cashiers look at you like you're from another planet, especially at a place like Walmart. They try to give you one anyway and then if you manage to escape without it the door people treat you like a thief (one who can't think of anything better to lift than a $2 toothbrush).

What is needed is a change in cashier attitudes. Saving bags would save stores money. They should be training their people to discourage bag use when people buy small or few or carryable things (like uh, a tote bag. Putting a bag in a bag, there's a brilliant idea.). They should get some kind of incentive for that.

End result, consumers start learning that it's weird to take a bag when they don't need one instead of weird to do without one. Stores save money. Bag litter goes down a bit.