April 22, 2005: Missing the point on Earth Day

Over the past five years, NYCO’s Blog has gone through a couple of databases, some of which are now offline. This is a former post which is being restored to the database via public reposting. An update is below.

Today is Earth Day. I was surprised to read recently that Onondaga County apparently has one of the biggest Earth Day participations in the country in terms of how many area groups pitch in to whatever the county puts on.

Friday is also my grocery night. (What an exciting life I lead!) I frequently ask for paper bags at the grocery store. Evil, tree-killing paper bags. Why? Because I hate the recyclable plastic bags. Hate them. I don’t know why we’ve been subjected to them, probably because they’re cheaper to produce, more compact for storage and perhaps recycle easier. But boy, they sure suck. They are just plain difficult and awkward to carry in large amounts.

And there are always large amounts. What takes only two well-packed paper bags to carry in one trip from the car, usually takes 7 or 8 plastic bags, with just a few items per bag. Furthermore, carrying plastic bags is a pain in the ass, they’re uncomfortable to carry, and after a long day of the rat race, I find it actually a pleasure to carry my groceries into the house in one trip with some ease and dignity. Paper bags make me feel human. (And aren’t they recyclable too?)

Unfortunately, most grocery employees these days (yes, even at Wegmans), trained to throw 2 or 3 items into a single plastic bag, don’t know how to pack a paper bag. Which means that they throw just a few items into each paper bag, leaving me with 7 or 8 paper bags, and defeating the purpose of my asking for them.

It seems to me that the big problem today is not a lack of desire to recycle, save trees and so forth, but the simple lack of being able to think and plan ahead. Thinking and planning ahead is the core of wise use of our resources; it’s not just about saving trees at all costs.

When I see a 16-year-old who doesn’t know how to properly and efficiently pack a paper grocery bag, but just wastes as many plastic bags as she can because “they’re recyclable,” the point is being missed. In a huge way. For all of our slogans and policies and enthusiasm over recycling, we still believe that technology can relieve us of the responsibility to simply use our brains and be mindful.

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Two years later, Wegmans would introduce reusable bags. Don’t have anything new to add to this… except that I now go to the grocery store on Saturday mornings.