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Reluctant Environmentalist

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The Reluctant Environmentalist

Post #1: Fleeing Plastic Bags
April 18, 2008


It's not easy going green.

For years I’ve been dragging my feet. There's an ocean of advice out there about being environmentally conscious. Help! What to choose, where to start? I thought I'd wait for someone to write a Nice, Short How-To.

Then one day I read an article about little plastic bags -- the ones stores give customers, to carry stuff home.

Oh, dear. The article said our country uses millions of barrels of oil a year to make 100 billion plastic bags. Most end up in landfills, where they sit and refuse to biodegrade. (That is, rot –- they refuse to rot. Little secret: Rotting is good; it helps renew nature.)

So I thought, I'll start here. Long journey begin with first step. I'll steer clear of little plastic bags.

The next day I go to the drugstore. I buy Tylenol and a Chinese New Year card for my nephew. The clerk blows on her nail polish and says, "Wanna bag?"

Aha. No, I tell her, I don't wanna bag. They're hanging beside the counter, hundreds jammed onto a metal hook.

But the rain begins to fall harder. My pockets are full of credit cards and sore throat lozenges. Maybe I should just take the bag? Can't my teeny mission wait till tomorrow?

Nope, it can't. I stick the Tylenol box and the crisp white Chinese New Year card inside my winter coat and slip them down my long padded waterproof sleeve. They're snug inside my tight cuff.

At home I extract the crisp-no-more white card from my sleeve. It's damp, with gummy edges. OK. My nephew will enjoy teasing me.

I open the Tylenol and recall that video, The Story of Stuff, that Lisa Roberts (a force behind the Red to Green website) showed to me: Are we all robots carrying Stuff from store to landfill? Yes, I resisted a plastic bag -- but now I'm holding a Tylenol box and a plastic bottle, headed for landfill. Hmm.

Not too victorious, am I?

At this moment I decide to record my reluctant environmental journey. I'm new -- green -- at living green, but I can at least leave a blog trail. Folks coming late to environmentalism, like me, may be comforted by my setbacks and fumbles. Plus I'll do my homework, picking up tips and blogsites along the way.

New and Tips from the blogosphere, where the world is at war against plastic bags:

In Sonoma County, CA, they're on the point of banning plastic bags. San Francisco has outlawed them. Go to A "nurdle" is a "prefabricated plastic resin micro-pellet," namely plastic-bag detritus in the ocean.

In Britain, The Daily Mail launched a "Banish the Bag" campaign. China will ban plastic bags this coming June. In Canada, they’ll collect your plastic bags at the curbside. See this and more on

EnviroWoman, in her second year of living plastic free, advises against plastic-bagging your produce on the way to checkout. See

In Ireland, when they began to charge 33 cents per plastic bag, use dropped by 94 percent. Here's a good blog:

Fumbles and Stumbles:

So I swore off plastic bags, and they began to chase me down.

I spotted a plastic bag hanging from my arm as I left the bookstore. How did that get there? I had been giving the clerk my email address. . . . Zap. Lose focus for a second, and the plastic bag hops onto you for a ride to the landfill.

Yesterday I went to the dentist. Back in my car, with my teeth newly scrubbed, I saw what had crept in beside me: a coral pink plastic bag, holding fluoride toothpaste. It told me, "Enhance Your Smile."

A better person might have re-ascended the stairs and returned the slightly-used pink bag to the nice secretaries.

At the airport, we bought two small Subway sandwiches for the flight, wrapped in loose paper. Did we want the sandwiches in a plastic bag? "No!" I burst out, as my partner cried, "Yes!" What to say?

You learn by going where you have to go. Oh all right, I cribbed that phrase. It's from a poem, "The Waking," by Theodore Roethke. He was waking up to plastic bags. Must have been.