Thursday, April 17, 2008

Plastic Bag Fetish - my big green environmental post

I have been thinking long and hard about the environment this morning. One reason is because Julie requested that we Hmmm it, one reason is that I read the daily chip-wrapper, and one reason is that it crosses my mind fairly often. There are probably other reasons, but they spring to mind.

The only problem with me thinking long and hard about anything is then I get all worked up looking at all angles of a problem, find new nuances, get agitated at a stance on it and start arguing with myself - it is quite wearing and doesn't solve any problems at all.

This is why you tend to find posts here about my bellybutton, my garden or my family - I just get all confused and argumentative about bigger issues and it ends up in serious therapy that blogworld cannot help me with.

(Hang on - even that requires a therapeutic moment of calm. Hmmm)

Deep breath - points I have covered this morning and WILL NOT blog about - sustainable farming; carbon offsets; cows; car travel; nappies; cities; footprints; agitating; deforestation; alternative energy; desalination plants; damning rivers or vegetarian egg alternatives. Just believe I have some very strong views on all of them and argue a lot about them within myself.

I do, however, have a take on one thing that I can focus upon and give you my view without getting too upset.

That is the humble plastic bag.

Do I believe in them? No. Do I use them? Some. Do I have an OCD hereditary thing going on with them? Heck yes.

As regular readers know, I grew up on a cattle property 50 km from the nearest town big enough to boast shops. With such a background, I failed to learn certain things. I didn't know that most people used money for shopping - everyone used accounts. I didn't know that people actually chose clothes and shoes in shops - my mother brought everything home on appro for us to try. And I didn't know that people got their groceries in plastic bags - ours always got boxed - wrapped in newspaper if it was a fridge item, but that was the extent of extraneous packaging.

Oh, I was not so naive that I didn't know of the existence of plastic bags. I had more than ample knowledge. As my mother's little helper, I got the joy of hanging dozens of them out after they had been washed in the washing machine - my mother was a great one for reusing things - and as my mother's little helper, I got the joy of reversing them and rehanging so the sun could do its wondrous antibacterial job - and as my mother's little helper, I got the joy of folding dozens of them after they had dried and sorting them into their bags to be used again and again and again until the day that they finally perished.

And as my mother's little clone, to this day those plastic vege bags get rinsed, washed, pegged, reversed, folded and stored for reuse in my house (unless V finds my stash, and then the chain gets broken).

I am not as green as I should be. I eat meat and sometimes the fruit and vegetables that I get are not locally sourced and organically nurtured. I drive a car, sometimes with only me in it, over long distances and sometimes for no better purpose than "I want to". I have been known to buy packaged materials, even foodstuffs for the freezer, my only reasoning being that it would be handy.

But I am green enough to feel guilty about it.

So I have a line that I draw in the sand. I don't OVERDO plastic.

If I buy fruit and vegetables, unless its little things like beans, cherry tomatoes or strawberries it doesn't get its own itemised little plastic bag. The checkout chicks store-employed cashiers love that approach.

I have green bags (and blue bags and even black bags) that I have PURCHASED for the intent purpose of not getting another plastic bag. Heck, I have even PURCHASED more when I have forgotten to take them to the shop and my budget allows. And double heck, I have so many that I have LENT my green bags to mere acquaintances in the shops when I overhear that they have forgotten theirs.

And on those odd occasions when both my memory and my bank balance fails me and I am absolutely required to bundle my goodies in a store offered bag, I try and make them cram as much stuff as possible into as few as possible (really, those checkout chicks store-employed cashiers welcome me warmly). And when they get home, they are tied and reused as garbage bags or given to charities.

So okay, I am not saving the planet today - but please, when you paint me brown, can you tint me with a LITTLE khaki?

And maybe we could move that spectrum a little greener, after I read this about the plastic bag - I am going to hit publish, and then put that stash of green bags down into my car and save the planet doing this weeks groceries MY WAY.


Lin said...

Ouch, using plastic bags is one of my major guilt-inducing sins. I almost always forget my green bags. I had to stop buying new ones because I started running out of storage space. I do try and re-use my plastic bags, but since I bought a bigger bin and we don't get pooey nappies anymore, I just can't find as many uses for them anymore.

I swear, when I get home I'm going to put ALL my green bags in the car immediately.

(In my defence, I do use bio-degradable bags in my bin, I don't put fruit and vege in seperate bags at shops/markets and I also urge the COC to fill the bags till they almost burst - and they often do because apart from being an environmental plague, they are also badly designed.)

Anonymous said...

Oh I hear you on the muddled thinking thing.. I am so like that too. Just when I think I have my opinion straight in my head I will hear something new or rethink it a bit and I am back to being all muddled again!

Anyway... on the plastic bag thing. I do so try to be good on this front, we have heaps of 'green bags' and mostly remember to take them. We do reuse the plastic bags we get.. though I don't go quite to the extreme of washing them, maybe I should!

Jayne said...

I sometimes forget to take my green bags with me, because I don't mean to do any shopping when I go to the library but the bargains can't be left behind when I happen to wander past the shops!
And we end up with more plastic bags.
So I'm crocheting the buggers into a large shopping bag atm!

Jen at Semantically driven said...

I confess I end up with more plastic bags than I'd like. I do usually remember to take my reusable shopping bags to the supermarket and I've still got the calico ones that don't sit up by themselves which the checkout people don't like because they're not as easy to pack. Just last week I told the girl that I bought it before the newer ones came out when she had a whinge. I can't see the point in chucking them just to get ones that are more convenient. I end up helping pack my items.

I rewatched a Kath and Kim episode from series 4 - the 'green' one and she rocked up to the supermarket without her shopping bags and muttered to herself that she'd buy some more.

Debby said...

Jeanie: ease up on yourself. Here in America, the whole idea of buying locally is radical thinking. Plastic bags. I go to a store that causes you to buy them. Each and every one. Because I'm a tightwad...I mean, frugal...I just keep a bag of bags in the trunk of every car we own.

Maude Lynn said...

This post made me think of my grandmother washing plastic plates and cutlery over and over. Used to drive me nuts when I was a kid. Now, I do it!

Julie Pippert said...

Great post...sounds like you are doing a lot, actually.

I do use my canvas and cloth bags for the smaller trips and we do get local produce through our CSA (we can grow year round here) adn I try to do many other things, as best I can.

However, I admit to getting plastic bags. Paper ones too.

We use them, though, endlessly. It's usually how we recycle actually.

Pencil Writer said...

So, you're kind of normal, huh? We know we should do good things for the environment, because that's good for all of us, but there are always other issues to contend with?

I LOVE the idea of recycling. It just makes monumental sense to me. Duh! But in the US outback (sorry, I realize that's Aussie speak) okay, boonies here, or backwoods of the South, it's just not available. Too much politics. Forgive us. We're too affluent a society and lazy. (Just ask my German sister-in-law. She's very keen on incessantly pointing out all US flaws when she's in my company/country. I smile and agree in part, but don't usually respond with my heartfelt thoughts because 1, I don't want to cause an international conflagration, and 2, I figure everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and 3, maybe one day her words will come back to haunt her, and 4, ain't nobody perfect, I don't care where they come from. Plus, on several levels, I do like her. And my brother adores her. So there you go. I remember Germany with great fondness. It was beautiful--except for the bombed-out buildings I remember seeing as a young child. And, I should note, we do have German ancestors in our family tree. Swiss-German, if I'm not mistaken. I can even speak a word or two of the language. But that's all I'm saying.)

For my part, however,I do have a compost pile. I reuse my own plastic bags. They make great packing material--essentially for free--for those items my husband sells on e-bay. And have you ever priced packing peanuts? I'm sure they're just plastic bags recycled. If not, why not?

The American Indians were great at not wasting anything. We could learn a lot. But I'm not eating buffalo inerds, ears, snouts, hooves, tails, etc. A person has to draw the line SOMEwhere. And I know for sure that the checkout chicks love you. There are so many kinds of love, of course.

Love to read your blog. Thanks, and have a great, green day. PS: Can I just say that AlGore cracks me up? In my humble opinion . . . I won't say it. I can't. (I have) but I'd have to repent seriously if I put in print for the entire world to see what I thought of the individual who, after all, openly admited to inventing the internet. Need I say more?)

Tracey said...

I'm a lot like you Jeanie. I do use my green/black/pink/red bags as much as possible, and I'm getting better at it as it becomes a habit. I still use the plastic sometimes as I use them in the bin. Mind you, that is less these days as our council has moved to a green bin system that takes all food scraps as well as garden waste. So now I'm back to wrapping the kitchen scraps in newspaper like I remember seeing my grandparents do! That said, my Nan became plastic bag obsessed... she'd store things in about 3 bloody plastic bags!

One thing I've done (at the suggestion of a checkout lady once!) is that if I do leave my green bags in the car, and find myself in the supermarket, then I just put everything back in the trolley loose, and pack the stuff myself into the green bags in the car.

My next big hurdl...challenge... is to use my bike more to go places instead of driving my car!

Alison said...

I'll definitely join the muddled thinkers club. lol
I'm pretty good with green bags. The store I shop at charges 30c per plastic bag, which they donate to a conservation or earth care charity. I like that idea.
I have a weakness for zip lock bags though. I was them out when I can, but I tend to go through quite a few.

jeanie said...

Thank you all for your comments - you made me feel more human.

I love some of the alternatives being offered here though - crochet? packaging? I love the blogosphere, it makes my mind work!

In the article I linked to, the writer said "The invention of the plastic carrier bag was in the first place dependent upon forgetfulness. Unlike most of the most abhorrent inventions, it was not invented to do anything new or better."

So true - I actually applaud the idea of paying a levy on plastic bags - it might help me to remember!!! $3 is pretty steep (unless it is tax deductable), but I think I would remember for 50c.

Lin said...

Hey, I went to the supermarket 3 times since I read this post (oops, just revealed how disorganised I am! lol) and haven't used one plastic bag. I'm very proud. And it also has reminded me how far more practical those green bags are compared to the flimsy plastic ones that cut into your fingers when heavy.

So there you go, you did your extra bit for the environment by reminding me to do mine! :)

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, I've lived with your thinking, so I know what you'd be like if you started knitting or crocheting anything - they'd end up half finished, stored in a plastic bag somewhere. Just joking Joyce.

There's still one thing that I've never understood - why the tying of knots in the bags?

For other readers, Jeanie ties her plastic bags in knots. I always know when she's been around cos I find them that was when she's left. Frustrates me no end having to untie each one (to line bins, take lunch to work or pass on to other unsuspecting friends).

jeanie said...

Lin - yay - a bigger change to the world than I had imagined.

Anonymous - the knot is so, if the plastic bag escapes, it is far less likely to suffocate an unwitting child, dolphin or turtle. Simple really!

Aniqa said...

Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realise there was a danger of a local dolphin, turtle or child coming into contact with the contents of our kitchen (in either Leichhardt or Balmain).

Do I now face a risk of this happening in Stanmore? And do you know how they get in?

jeanie said...

It falls into the "better to be safe than sorry" category - by invitation only and probably. You never can tell with the calibre of hippy in Stanmore.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge battle going on between the proponents of recyclable oxo-biodegradable plastic and non-recyclable hyro-biodegradable plastic. Oxo-biodegradable plastic is conventional plastic that biodegrades; Hydro-biodegradable plastic is made out of food. The argument for 'hydro' is that it is sustainable and compostable. The argument against is that there is so much plastic being made that if we made 54,000,000 tons of plastic bags and wrappers a year out of food instead of oil, that millions would starve. 54,000,000 tons is about 7% of the world's wheat + corn yield per year. Already, over 850,000,000 people are hungry. Plastic is mostly made of oil by-products, so we'd just have to throw the by-product away if it wasn't made into plastic-creating still more pollution. If we make it into recyclable, biodegradable plastic, it becomes soil, and the environment wins without starving the poor in the 3rd. world. Soil is a precondition for converting carbon into cellulose, thus sequestering carbon and reducing global warming and its countless attending ills.