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A bag lady’s legacy

A little over a year ago I wrote a column about trying to make the transition from plastic bags to cloth bags only (see below). I’m glad to say that it’s been months and months since I’ve forgotten my cloth bags when grocery shopping. I consider this change a present to Mother Earth and encourage everyone to give her the same gift!

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Today I walked out of the supermarket carrying my groceries – some chicken, a frozen dinner, a bag of cat food, and a bottle of salsa. (Sure I can’t convince you to come to my house for dinner?)

Passersby looked at me like I was a thief. And no wonder. I was carrying the items in my hands – no bag.

You see, I’d gone into the store yet again having forgotten to carry one of the three cloth bags that I keep in my car. I’ve been using cloth bags for months – in grocery stores, bookstores, bakeries – ever since hearing Jane Goodall lecture last March. The bags are always there, riding shotgun, ready and waiting for use, but as sometimes happens, today I’d forgotten to grab one as I jumped out of the car.

In the past, I’ve always figured, “Oh, it’s okay to use plastic every once in a while — I always reuse them or put them in the bin for recycling.” Responsible girl and all that.

Then, yesterday, local earth-steward/Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist Meg Lowman had to go spoil my illusions of little-miss-earth-friendly me.

If you read Lowman’s August 26th column, you learned that a single plastic grocery bag takes 1,000 years to decompose.

One bag? One thousand years?

I had run to the computer to verify Lowman’s statement. Not that I didn’t believe her, but because I couldn’t fathom that this bit of information is “out there” – common knowledge – and that by and large, none of us are even aware of or concerned with that fact. (Or is it just me?)

And, as Lowman pointed out, the question isn’t really “paper or plastic” – because paper isn’t a heck of a lot better when you factor in how the production and transportation of paper bags chews through trees and fossil fuels. And did you know that plastic bags contribute to sea turtle deaths because they mistake the bags for food? I love sea turtles and apparently, I’m killing them!

Today, not even twenty-four hours after reading Lowman’s column, I was standing in front of the cashier who was asking “Paper or plastic?” and I’d once again forgotten my cloth bags on the passenger seat of my car.

“Enough is enough,” I told myself. I don’t have a right to forget my responsibilities to this sweet planet that gives life to magical sea turtles, awesome oak trees, and gentle, lovely butterflies. (And yes, I know how hokey and un-hip that sounds, but it’s true.)

“Paper or plastic,” the cashier repeated. “Neither,” I replied, as I scooped up my groceries and juggled them out to the parking lot.

I got more than a few stares as I walked out holding groceries that looked as if I had lifted them without paying. I felt funny for sure, but at least I knew my forgetfulness wasn’t going to have a thousand-year reign in some future-world environmental meltdown.

Paper or plastic?

Like Lowman said, it’s just not an option anymore. At least not for this bag lady.
All rights reserved M.C.Coolidge 2011.

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Posted on December 19th, 2008Comments RSS Feed
One Response to A bag lady’s legacy
  1. There is always at least one tiny self contained bag from ACME bags in my purse. But when I forget my bags for a larger order – I just ask to have the groceries put back in the cart rather than bagged with paper or plastic. After I pay and have receipt in hand- I wheel the cart out to my car and fill the bags as I unload my cart (just like at a Sam’s Club).

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