Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Baby Steps

I am a Democrat, which means I'm contractually obligated to worry about the environment and do my part to "green" things up. I do feel that everyone can do something in their lives to make the earth a better place, but I don't think it's up to me to tell you what should fit into your lifestyle. I am also not going to lecture you for not doing enough, or for picking the wrong things to do. I'm no evangelist. I think that every little bit helps, so if you take the time to recycle all your Bud Light cans but you still drive a gas-guzzling pick-up truck, I'm not going to complain. No one can do it all- just do something.

Lately I've decided I need to stop using so many plastic shopping bags. (I can't put down the Ziplocs, though. Sorry.) At the grocery store, they default to plastic bags but if I mention it several times up front they will put my groceries into paper sacks. Then I recycle them. I've thought about trying reusable bags at the grocery store, but I come out of there with a lot of bags each week. I'm just not ready to figure out the logistics of that.

The other place I see a real need is at Target. They don't even offer paper bags at Target, so I was pleasantly surprised to see "official" reusable Target shopping bags. Another opportunity to save the earth from a couple of plastic bags on a weekly basis. Or so you'd think. Unfortunately, it seems Target did nothing to inform its staff of the purpose of the bags, leading to the following two experiences:

When I first bought the bags, I had the cashier ring them up first and then I started tearing the tags off "so we can go ahead and use them." The cashier ignored me and was steadily putting items into plastic bags until I said, "I think those can fit in here- let's use them instead of the plastic bags, okay?" She looked at me in utter amazement. "You want to put your stuff in those?" Wow. I explained to her that it was kind of the point, so she just shook her head and filled up my bags.

On my next trip, I handed the bags to the cashier before she started ringing things up. "I think it should all fit in here," I said, thinking that surely Target had sent out an employee memo by now. She turned the bags this way and that and finally said, "Where are the tags on these?" I told her that they were mine. "These are free?" she asked incredulously. Sigh. No, I explained, they are mine in that I bought them and now I bring them with me every time I come. They are REUSABLE. She seemed okay with that explanation and proceeded to take my dishwashing liquid, stick it in plastic bag and stick that bag inside my reusable bag. "No no no!" I quickly said. "But I don't want this to leak in your bag," she said. "But that defeats the purpose!" I countered, realizing again that Target had never actually bothered to explain said purpose to its employees.


Eventually we got the bags filled up, and I was able to convince her that I could just carry the big box of diapers by the built-in handle rather than by the handle on a plastic bag. (Like I said, it's about doing what you can. And I can't do cloth diapers. But at least I'm not carrying the disposables home in a plastic bag!) I'm starting to think I should write a letter to Target. I don't expect their employees to start using reusable bags, but I think they should have a general understanding of why someone else might.

My next goal? Move closer to my work so that I don't use a gallon of gas each day on my commute. But then I'll still have to use a gallon once a week to get out to Target. If I take my bags with me, that ought to all even out. At least that's the way I understand it to work.

11 comments:

RJA said...

If we didn't get the plastic bags then GK wouldn't have anything to play with.

Ginger said...

I had the same thought about using the reusable bags at the grocery . . . too much stuff, right? But as it turns out, the awesome bags my friend Kate gave me for Christmas (from Ikea . . . so she cheated a bit by using jet fuel to get them to me) are freakin' awesome. Two of them somehow hold my entire week's worth of groceries, look stylish in their black/white stripes, and stand up on their own on the front porch while I unlock the door. If you can find similar ones, I highly recommend them. (And the Target folks have even used them without incident, thus far.)

katherine said...

Reading your post inspired me to tell Keith last night, "I want to buy reusable grocery bags, and next time we buy light bulbs, we have to get the twisty kind." Baby steps. And thank you to Ginger for telling us about Ikea--I will only have to use regular unleaded fuel to go get mine.

Kristy said...

You should definitely send Target an email. That is crazy!

I bring home maybe 20 bags of groceries on my big trips, twice a month, and 5-10 on the weeks in between. It's hard for me to imagine how the reusable bags will work for all that on the big trips. I should at least ask for paper, though.

Stacey Greenberg said...

yes, definitely send an email to target!

and good for you!

plastic bags blow.

Kerry said...

I highly recommend the canvas bags at World Market. They are $2.99 each, they're HUGE and the bottoms open flat. I have six now, and get close to $200 worth of food in them. I still use the plastic for meat and usually throw them out, and paper for bread which we recycle for paper and cardboard. While paper bags are easier to recycle, they actually bizarrely make many times more pollution to create in the first place. Anyway, just do what you can! Know that the checkers at any store will hate your guts, but the Earth appreciates your efforts.

An said...

it's all about the ying-yang, i've often times think of doing some sort of extensive research relating to lack of balance between capitalism/global economics and the environment- but than my head starts hurting, need to keep it to a beer can/gas consumption ratio... any way plastic bags, i walk to the store w/ a back pack, the clerks hate me because i don't put any produce in plastic bags either- so tomatoes (which you love) lettuce (ditto) and everything else is all scattered- you wash them anyway, right? but it sucks, i always have my backpack capacity quota of what i can bring home... oh and by the way, preach the gospel of green- if people find it annoying, than they suck

RJA said...

I believe Al Gore has already done that "extensive research" for you. It garnered him an Oscar and a Nobel. And a boatload of cash.

When I go to the grocery I always ask them to double bag my stuff with plastic. I use the extra bags to wrap my baby seal meat before freezing.

Warren said...

Shmucks on Union has a bag recycle bin that we take all our grocery bags and other food plastic to.

Why should Al have to pay for George's bags--they're not really free, ya know. At Aldi you got to pack your own, or you can buy bags for 5 cents apiece. The stores should be charging the user for bags, instead of factoring it into their overhead and passing the cost onto ALL the consumers--bag gluttons and scrimpers alike.

MLGW said...

y'all might be interested in my latest post...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Schmuck's, they now have awesome reusable heavy duty totes ($1.25 each) that can be packed with twice the amount that a normal paper sack will hold. I have four that can easily handle $100 of groceries.

They even have a handy little loop that fits on the plastic-bag dispenser to make it easy for the bagger people. I loooooove them!