Sunday, November 4, 2007

Paper or plastic? Neither, biznatch.

This is Courtney’s idea. I told her I couldn’t think of anything to write about, so she said, “Why don’t you write about why people shouldn’t use bags at the grocery store?” Okay, then.

Why should you use bags? You only use them because they are there and the clerks go ahead and bag your purchases before you have a chance to think about it. A bag simply takes several items and allows you to pick them up and transport them as if they were one. Then why do they put milk or pizza in a bag when that’s the only thing that fits? The groceries go into bags and then into your cart. You wheel the cart out to the parking lot and right up to your car. You lift the bags out of the cart and into the car. When you get home, you take the bags from the car, maybe carry them up some steps or down a hall and into the kitchen. The bags are effectively employed for a journey of maybe 50 or 75 feet, depending how far it is from the driveway/garage to the kitchen. Then the bags are disposed of. Okay, sure, you probably make a point to save some for trashcan liners or you might even find a place that’ll recycle them. Most likely, though, they just go into the garbage. All so you can carry your groceries 50 feet. Then next week, 10 more bags for another 50 feet. Ad nauseum.

Now, I’m not going to pretend wasted grocery bags are going to cause the downfall of man, or even that they are an enormous threat to the environment. I will say this: they are entirely pointless. They aren’t even the easiest way to carry your groceries. A box is way better. I never understood the idea of buying those reusable cloth bags they’re trying to push on us because it would take so many of them and you would have to drag them into the store every time. No, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but if it’s less convenient, we’re not going to do it. But then there’s the box. The plastic box Courtney and I use to hold newspapers destined for recycling also happens to hold about a week’s worth of groceries. You should see how much friendlier the baggers at the Kroger get when you tell them just to throw everything in the cart without a bag. You wheel the cart out to the car just like always. In the trunk you’ve got your box (or two if you prefer two lighter loads) and you put your nutritious and delicious purchases in it. When you get home, you pick up one thing, your box o’ goodies, and carry it inside. Here’s the kicker: When all that good stuff is put away, you have nothing left to take care of- you just take your box and put that stack of papers back inside. The simple act of carrying your groceries has created no waste, as it should.

Waste, after all, is the greatest of sins. To me it is anyway. The bags, of course, are just an example. We have become conditioned to equate disposability with convenience, and it’s just not true. I swear to you, the box actually saves you steps, if for no other reason than you don’t have those wasted bags taking up room in your trashcan. Of course everything that would have been in the bags is held inside its own disposable packaging anyway, but that’s another infuriating problem. The bags are a choice. Just say no.


Chris said...

Good point (even though you've got a nasty typo in the headline. No, I'm not talking about biznatch.)

I suppose I've never given much thought to this. What really irritates me is when I see companies pushing more and more disposability and automation on us -- like now they're advertising these plastic pouches to microwave veggies and such, instead of using a glass bowl or something durable you'll have to wash. I also just saw an ad for an electric jar opener, like jars are so hard to open we can't possibly just use the strength in our hands. We need a battery-powered device that we'll have to sit on an electric charger between uses.

It seems to me, there's no machine that can do so many tasks powered by such a wide variety of renewable fuels as the human body. So one good way to reduce our carbon footprint and conserve fossil-fueled energy -- as everyone is talking about these days -- is to do as many things manually as you reasonably can.

Still, I admit that I, like most people in this regard, am pretty much all talk. I do use a manual (not electric) can opener and have switched many of my light bulbs to compact fluorescents. Not quite enough to call myself carbon neutral, I'm afraid.

Mickey said...

Thanks for pointing out the glaring typo before anyone else saw it. How embarassing.

And since you bring it up, and I'm sure you know this, there is no such thing as carbon neutral since it implies a canceling-out of the use of carbon-based fuels. Once you use it, there's no getting it back of course, and no amount of carbon-credits or lightbulbs changes that. And I drive alone to work 32 miles round-trip each day. How many dead Iraqis and American soldiers is that?

Courtney said...

I enjoy not using bags not only for the environmental factor, but also for the weird looks we always get from the bagger at the grocery store. He's always like, "Whaaaaa? No bags? You weirdos."

Julie said...

I carry around the reusable bags. I've been really bad about leaving them in the trunk, though, but I have moved them into the backseat in an effort to prevent that in the future. I promise not to turn my back on that just to tick you off (although you would probably appreciate that sentiment).

While we're sharing environmental pet peeves, how about people who turn the water faucet on full blast to wash their hands? I think they should die. We're in the middle of a terrible, awful drought and they act like there's no midway point between 'off' and 'blow a hole in your hand.' I appreciate that there is probably no evidence to back this up, but I'm pretty sure that more water pressure will not clean your hands better.

Noelle said...

I have these great re-usable bags that fit all my groceries. However, I'm forever forgetting to take them out of the car and into the store. I feel like such a bad person when I used disposables instead.