…by Meg White
The place Meg puts the stuff she wrote
De-Plasticize Me, Week Two: Is Banning Plastic Bags Un-American?
Categories: Blog, Greening Me

by Meg White

Americans are often called out as the busiest people on the planet. And the busier you are, the harder it is to be green.

American plastic single-use shopping bagThis past week was not only a celebration of all things American — what with the Fourth of July festivities — but was also something of a whirlwind for me, so my self-imposed ban on single-use plastic bags was especially challenging. First of all, I’m moving soon so my significant other and I have been spending weekends and evenings looking to find the perfect place. On top of that, were also traveling for the holiday weekend.

I wanted to bring a gift for our out-of-town hosts, and what better to represent my town than with a veritable staple of the Chicago diet? No, not Polish sausages; the Frango mint. For 75 years, the chocolate treat was made in the Marshall Field’s flagship in downtown Chicago. Of course, now one has to go to Macy’s to buy a box, so that’s what I did.

After work, I was in a rush to pick up the treats before a 6 p.m. appointment to check out yet another apartment. I finally found the candy department in the basement of Macy’s, grabbed a touristy-looking pound of Frangos and waited to pay for them. Fending off the saleswoman’s Macy’s credit card pitch proved quite distracting, however. I didn’t even realize the box of chocolates and receipt I had hurriedly stuffed into my purse were enclosed in a single-use plastic bag until I was halfway to the train.

Drat! I thought, cursing that pushy Macy’s lady before realizing that it’s my own responsibility to watch my plastic usage like a hawk.

A second avoidable consumption of plastic came over the vacation itself. On a whim, my fellow travelers and I decided to head to the local farmer’s market in the town we were staying to pick up something to make for dinner. My boyfriend and I volunteered to put together a salad for the group, and I couldn’t help but pick up a half pound of the delightful-looking shiitake and oyster mushrooms for a simple sauteed side.

Of course, I’d left my tote bags at home, being one who likes to pack as light as possible. I got as much produce into my purse as possible, but there wasn’t room for everything. So this necessitated adding two more plastic bags to my list this week: one, the flimsy produce kind; and the other, the dreaded single-use kind.

So this week was not a particularly good one on the plastic-usage front. And not necessarily because I racked up any more in plastic usage fines than I normally would. In fact, I only ended up taxing myself 46 cents more than last week, and the reporting period itself was longer than the previous one, due to the holiday.

The fact that I consumed two of the single-use plastic bags being banned all over the world was disappointing, but mostly a symbolic failure. After all, every discarded piece of plastic is a detriment to the environment, whether it has earned the official ire of armchair environmentalists or not. But my failings this week have more to do with a lack of mindfulness and preparation than anything else.

Some readers have expressed frustration with the fact that I’m only banning plastic bags from my life for a month, but that’s not really a complete understanding of the task at hand. The point is to become fully cognizant of every bag I toss. Some are pretty unavoidable, like the bag my bagels come in. But much of avoiding plastic bag waste merely requires awareness (and some forethought), which I clearly wasn’t tapping into at Macy’s or on my way to the farmer’s market.

Sure, plastic bags are convenient, and convenience is an American virtue. But convenience is best appreciated when we’re too busy to think and plan ahead. And I doubt anyone wants to have to explain to successive generations that we didn’t try and save the world because we just didn’t have the time.


Be sure to check out the first and second articles in the De-Plasticize Me series on the BuzzFlash Blog.
Image courtesy of dno1967′s photostream on Flickr.

Originally published at BuzzFlash.com.

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