Beliefnet
Everyday Ethics

canvas-grocery-bag.jpgWhy, oh why, am I so completely and utterly incapable of remembering to bring recyclable bags with me to the grocery store? It’s not like I haven’t got any…. Heck, I have canvas totes from conventions past and beach vacations yet-to-come cluttering up my closets, falling out of cabinets, coming out the yin-yang and falling out the wazoo. Sometimes I even hang one of these ‘green’ bags over my front doorknob to remind me to take it with me when I go out shopping.

And yet… I never, ever remember.


I believe recycling is hugely important. (Maybe that’s why I have sixty million plastic shopping bags stuffed under my sink–because I’m going to reuse them one of these days. I swear.) I want to do better for my planet and future generations that might want to live on it. Sometimes, in my more dire moments, I even think it’s not safe to have kids unless I could somehow genetically modify them to have gills, because with the polar ice caps melting due to global warming, we’re all gonna have to start swimming pretty soon… at least those of us coastal folks who live at sea level.

Anyhoo. On to ethics, responsibility. All the light and fluffy stuff this blog is meant to cover.
The question is, how can I care so much, and do so darn little? Were shame and guilt enough to spur change, I’d be the world’s best recycler by now. (If those two were good motivators, I’d also have a BMI closer to 22 and triceps like Michelle Obama.) So what’s my problem? Am I just too forgetful? Congenitally lazy? 
Well, yes. 
But enough about my faults. What’s to be done? I say, if you’re too lazy to change locally, agitate for change on a much bigger scale, so society will make it easier for you to do things differently every day without all that nasty effort on your part. Once society alters its norms, we’ll all form new habits–even hypocritical little old me.
In several European countries, for instance, there have been taxes levied on the use of disposable plastic bags. The most notable success (that I know of) has been in Ireland, which instituted what it called a “PlasTax” of 15 cents per bag in 2002, reducing their use by as much as 90% since 2002. New York City and several other cities here in America have been toying with the same idea, though we haven’t seen much movement on the issue lately, and nothing on the federal level yet. (Some argue we’re too big to do something like this easily, but I wonder.) Elsewhere on a grassroots level, there have been efforts made to make recyclable grocery bags look chic, notably those snobby Anya Hindmarch “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” bags. (Unfortunately I couldn’t give a damn about chic, and those don’t look like they’d hold much anyhow, so that’s not an incentive for me.) 
All these seem like good steps, if not nearly enough. I know there’s got to be some combination of greater societal movement and personal shift in behavior, no matter how uncomfy it may be for a while. What else do people recommend to get me up to par on this important issue of personal responsibility? Suggestions (if kindly meant) are welcome.
Lastly, until society changes, I wish my local grocery store would have a “bag drive” and let me drop off the six bizillion wadded up old ones I have left over all at once instead of using them up piecemeal for carrying lunches, plugging leaks, packing-box filler, performance art… 
Maybe they could reuse them in the store itself or recycle the plastic into something else. Just, please, remove the crinkly evidence of my shame from my blushing kitchen cabinets!
Previous Posts
Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus