Saturday, March 6, 2010

I'm a Reusable Bag Hag!

I was in D.C. last week, and one afternoon I found myself in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond buying a teapot. My total bill was five-cents higher than it was supposed to be because I didn’t bring my own bag that was big enough for my pot.

As of this past January, D.C. retailers charge customers an extra five-cents for a plastic carry-away bag. I don’t know if this tax was motivated by purely environmental concerns or by the recession, and I really don’t care. Whatever the cause was, I applaud the effect that it’s gradually going to spur. There’s too much plastic and paper out there, coupled with too many people who take this world and their place in it for granted. Plastic bags have all kinds of purposes – lining trash cans, picking up your dog’s shit, etc., etc. They’re totally not ready to be phased out. But there are a lot of small ways to minimize the number of these bags that are mass-produced, distributed, and then thrown away. There are too many people who will consistently go into Rite Aid for gum and a bar of soap, and walk out swinging their plastic handles with impunity. It’s not hard to happen upon a reusable canvas bag (or to get more productive use out of the plastic or paper bags that you’ve already collected). I own about 10 canvas bags, and I only paid for one of them. Chain grocery stores (at least in NYC) now offer their own eco-friendly totes for about a dollar each. And these little numbers can easily last a lifetime.

I know that D.C.’s not the only city that’s thought to do something this progressive. But these local efforts are moving too slowly and isolatedly, and we’re on the clock. It’s time for Obama and his people to take things up a notch and federalize this principle – via an executive order, so the congressional Republicans and sell-out Democrats don’t hold this up and ruin everything. There’s now finally so much official talk about how to save the planet and stave off extinction - and here’s just one simple measure. A damnload of people in this country are likely to go apeshit at the idea of a nationalized bag tax (even if it’s just five-cents). Who cares? Let them carry on – it might make a few more people think and argue about something a little deeper than Perez Hilton or Twilight for at least a few minutes of at least one day. An alternative is to pull a Whole Foods and give customers a small discount if they bring in their own bag. But a discount doesn’t go far enough. It’s a straight-up penalty that’s more likely to change behavior and make people more conscious about their own carbon footprints.

I want to have a daughter one day and I’ve started to think about her often. I want her to have the same freedom and space to counter and conquer that I’ve had. I want her to have kids of her own if she so chooses, and then so on. At the rate things are going, there’s not much of a prayer of them getting a fair chance. I’ve got to do my part to protect my progeny. Especially when it’s costing me hardly anything.

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