Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Is it easy being green?

This morning I was watching the "The Morning News" and it has been proposed that LA follow the lead of some European Countries and charge 15cents for each plastic bag one uses at a retail store. This, they explain, will help reduce the consumer use, reduce the landfill, encourage recycling, and avoid a tax.

In the same hour on another network they are promoting carpooling, and following up that report with a promotion to encourage the exchange of standard bulbs with the curly "eco-friendly" bulbs.

My experience with bringing my own bags has been both great, and well, not so great. I really got into the whole canvas bag idea. I have a ton of them that I have collected over time. But I can't get the entire family on board. Some do, some don't. At best we aren't consistent. Some don't like having to keep them in the car and then having to carry them around a retail store. Some feel like a "bag lady". Some feel weird because they get "the look". I get that. I have actually received curious looks from retailers, especially in malls and larger retail stores. The security gets perked up a bit if you're scanning the merchandise with a handy-dandy bag ready to fill. There is a social weirdness of having a tote full of canvas bags while shopping at Nordstrom's. Is there a bag large enough, or convenient enough to have handy if all the sudden you find that large crock pot, a pile of kid's clothing, or that cute leather coat?

The other problem for me has been from the folks in line behind me. When they see me pull out the canvas it is as if I have just laid another full shopping cart on the belt. It takes about twice as long for a bagger to fill the odd sized floppy fabric bags that don't fit in their bag assisting hangers.

As of April 22, Whole Foods is removing all the their plastic bags. They decided that Earth Day would be a grand day to kick off their program. In addition to leaving plastic at the curb (so to speak) they offer a large bag made from recycled plastic for 99cents, or (and this is good "or") they will refund you 5cents for every bag you bring in to use. It's not a lot, but hey, it's 5 cents!

Target and a few other retailers have also offered cheap alternatives to plastic, although I rarely see them being use. ( I have to say I LOVE the Target bag because it zips into itself like a small makeup pouch and can be stashed in a purse while shopping. Less Dork/Less Security.)

More and more I am reading how terrific the new eco-friendly bulbs are. Heck they are even given out as door prizes or laid free in your mailbox as promotions from retailers. The good is they are supposed to last much longer, use less energy, thus making less of a mess in the land fill, and less money from your wallet. The problem? They are considered a bio-hazard when it comes to land fills. How do you dispose of them? What happens when one of them BREAKS!?! That's a huge problem!

So where are you all on this? Is your family on board? How do you carry your bags from store to store, and where do you store them so that you remember to take them with you? Does it drive you crazy when someone is in front of you at the counter and it takes more time to fill their canvas rather than the plastic? Do you consistently use your own bags? What do you think of the 15cent fee? What are your thoughts on "eco-friendly" bulbs?

add to sk*rt


chronicler said...

I was way ahead of the curve on this one and it bit me in the behind at one point. We were shopping for jeans with the girls. One of them was taking an inordinate amount of time in the dressing rooms. The store would only allow the "dressor" in the room. I could only hang around the racks at the back and hope she would come out eventually. Well, I had on my leather coat, which was heavy and beginning to really bother my shoulder, so I removed it and put it in one of my bags.

Evidently one of the store personnel saw me and assumed I had stolen something. After we had checked out I was accosted outside the store by five people nearly knocking me down. I was surprised and they began going through my bags as if it was filled with plutoniuum, out there on the sidewalk. I kept asking what the rpoblem was and when they were done, and didn't find anything out of the ordinary, they said an employee had witnessed me taking something without paying for it.

Whattt!!???? I would never do that I explained. The employee said I guessed that they had noticed and somehow returned the item without anyone seeing. They then said oh well and walked away. No apology at all. Just a huge amount of embarrassment on my part.

Now I am very careful when I bring bags to a store. I never put anything in them until I am at the register. I see people filling them while shopping all the time and want to warn them but don't.

Crazy story but that is the kind of stuff that happens to me. ugh.

lighbulbs? I am not jumping on the CFC bandwagon. They're like soy, lots of hype but when you get down to the nitty gritty of discovering all the layers of problems using it, it is no longer worth it. It is better to do other effective greening and leave the bulbs to themselves.

S'mee said...

Chronicler, Holy Smokes! Leave it to Beaver! When I was in retail we were trained to be EXTREMELY careful about making the accusation. We had to be out of the store, 2 witnesses, security, and if we were wrong or couldn't prove guilt right then and there we had to apologize up the wazoo to avoid being sued for unlawful detention, and a bunch of other junk. Shame on them.

I think I'm with ya on the bulbs.

Slice of Pink said...

I have small reusable bags that fold up so they are small enough to fit in my purse and I am not embarrassed to use them at the grocery store, Nordstrom, whatever. Although, sometimes they will not fit a large or heavy item.

I also use the eco-friendly light bulbs. They can be recycled at lots of places--IKEA and Home Depot are two--and you only have to recycle them when they burn out after 8 years or whatever. Seems worth it.

S'mee said...

Slice of Pink, thanks for the heads up on recycling at Ikea and HD, that's awesome. Yeah, I'm not embarrassed, but the kids are, oh well. I did however get the glare again today while at the market. The bag boy look right at me and said:"These are stupid." at which point the clerk said "That was rude, excuse him." I was fine with it, but it does get old.

Flutterby said...

I have TONS of those Target bags! They had them on clearance awhile back and I got a couple dozen of them. I gave away several at Christmas time. I am thinking if that little snot of a bag boy said that to ME I would have decked his smart little ass. That was so totally rude and to a CUSTOMER?? I would have ratted his little ass out in a heartbeat. But I am just mean like that, lol. I do use compact fluorescent bulbs. There are safe places to dispose of them. They have also made a huge dent in our electric bill. And we always end up recycling more than we throw out. We've had to request a larger bin for the recycling for every week while we could easily get away with trash pick up every other week.

Kate said...

Hi S'mee. Using cloth bags is easier in England because we don't have bag packers at the checkout! I am always careful to make clear my bag is empty when I start to pack it, but I do know what you mean - it's easy to feel like a potential shoplifter, even if you aren't! I think most people here use eco-bulbs, but general recycling is different all over the country. In our town, the facilities are among the worst, with doorstep collections of paper, cans and glass only. Plastic is very difficult to recycle - we have to take it to the store, but they don't empty the skips so plastic bottles are everywhere.
As you are using packing boys, have you considered those square bags that stand up by themselves? They would speed things up. Or folding boxes? Have a great day! xx

S'mee said...

Flutterby, hehe, you're killing me. Don't think I didn't have a few things in mind for that bag boy...

Thor has been on the florescent for YEARS, seriously we did them before it was an eco-choice. I hate the look the colour of th elight pretty much everything about them, but we do them for the cost. Hah! Now we are green as a benefit. I still think in the long run it doesn't matter, but when it comes to money, Thor gets the larger vote. hehe!

Kate, It's great to get another perspective, especially from a different country! Thanks! (Grampa was born/reared in Gloucester!)

I hear you on the recycling! In our neck of the woods they give us two rubbish bins, one blue for "trash" and one green for "recycle". Sounds like a great idea until you go to the land fill and notice that all the trucks dump their loads in the fill regardless of recycle or rubbish! : P

As far as the square bottom bags, I actually have many choices, the fold into themselves smaller pouches, the square bottoms (yup, a fav), and then the larger square bottom totes. Those last ones are great. They were free hand outs from companies trying to promote their wares; but they're HUGE! : >

Lex said...


Australia has been on board with the no plastic bag thing for years. Almost all my friends and family have canvas shopping bags (which are sold in all the major supermarkets). I keep mine in the trunk of my car so I never forget them.

In London I carry a rucksack to the supermarket because I don't have a car here and I have to carry all the stuff home. Nobody here blinks an eye at this.

I'm actually an ex-supermarket worker, so I pack the groceries into my bags myself, twice as fast as the shop attendants do.

Hooray for canvas bags! Just one small thing that can make a difference.

Red said...

Hi S'mee, I've changed most of my light bulbs to the lower energy ones that last longer. I love the idea of bringing your own bag; I bought one. The problem I have, it's hard to break old habits; I either leave it at home or in the car. But because I do, I use paper instead, it makes me feel like it's better! :-)

S'mee said...

Hey Lex! You know, I am beginning t think we here in the US are waaaay behind Europe and Australia in this department. Shame on US! We are the largest contributer to many of the pollutants. Hopefully things will change here soon and I will no longer get the weird looks or comments!

Red, Yeah, I am always forgetting to pull mine out of the car; or like the other day... I didn't get it out of my purse in time and the bagger had my things all packed up before I was even checked out! Yikes! I need to keep them visually close by and then remember to place them on the cart BEFORE the groceries! hehe!

Huckleberry said...

Hey S'mee, great topic. I personally use the CFB's for the same reason as Thor; They have made a sizable dent in my energy bill and I like that. As far as are they really really "greener" who knows? How much oil or energy does it take to make them versus a incandesent? Bio-hazard? what isn't batteries, cleaners, now light bulbs. At least there is a reconizable effort to recycle and make convenient to do so. Think about the computer you use, your cell phone, and the tv you watch. All considerd hazardous waste. While these CFB's aren't perfect you can say I am on there bandwagon so far. If I am saving money by using less energy, then I am also helping out by reducing the energy I am using. The electricity we use is made by burning oil, natural gas, or coal, and using hydraulic power, but by using less I am doing a part. I also think my generation is committed to being "greener", so while this is not "the" end all answer, it is definitely a step in the right direction, and if we support it maybe it will inspire more corporations to come up with more responsible and greener ways for us all to operate and live our lives comfortably. If you want to question something claiming to be "green" , but may not be what is all it is cracked up to be look at this new and hugeley supported idea of ethanol fuel for cars. And hybrid or electric cars may save more fuel but how more lead, or other chemicals will they dump out into our enviroment. It is a tough go any way you look at it but it is fun to see how we might answer this enviromental challenge.

S'mee said...

Thanks Huck, I just wish this comment had been earlier in the week, I think it would have spawned a pretty good discussion...but then again you've been pretty busy! <3!!!

I'm still trying to get Thor to buy that cute little Mercedes hybrid, cross your fingers.