Sunday, March 23, 2014

Paying It Forward: Bag-less For A Cause

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

I live in a small town. It has charm and all the essentials – restaurants, parks, town events, good schools, etc. - one preferring a tranquil, easy-going existence would want. It even has a health food store, a little gem that sprung up a few years ago.

The store has been wonderful resource for my family and has planted and sowed a dietary conscience in my hometown. I have even witnessed an exponential increase in healthier options sold at local, traditional grocery stores in recent years – a product, in part, of the little health food store that could.

Here’s another area where my local health food store has been a community leader: the usage of plastic bags. If you don’t understand the size and scope of the world’s plastic bag epidemic, I have two recommendations. First, get your super-consumer, shit-on-the-earth head out of your ass. Second, scan and commit to memory these statistics from If you remain unmoved and disinterested in making better personal choices, well, I’m sorry for interrupting your pathetic existence. I’ve rudely caused you to miss about thirty seconds of the Kardashians and half-dozen mindless Facebook posts from your “friends” all in the name of saving the planet – such a frivolous pursuit. 

For those readers that just left, good riddance. For those that remain, thank you. Let me share this simple saying: you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. I don’t know who I poached it from, but I use it often and plan to chisel it in my children’s brains during future “teaching moments.” Needless to say, when it comes to the viral usage of plastic bags, my local chain grocery stores – Food Lion and Giant - are part of the problem; my health food store is part of the solution. Food Lion’s and Giant’s cashiers frequently act annoyed when I flood their food conveyor belt with reusable canvas bags.  It upsets their shallow-thinking rhythm ever so slightly. Instead of simply slipping open another plastic bag and rudely tossing my shit inside, they now have to grab, open and situate a canvas bag; it is a task that takes an “outrageous” two or three additional seconds. Hell, I’ve gotten so used to the sink-face looks (think an I-just-smelled-shit expression) or eye rolls that I just bag my own groceries. Sorry for the bother, checkout person, it’s just that I’d rather not defecate on mother earth today. They probably consider me a silly dreamer, but I’m certain I’m not the only one.

Here’s my proof: my health food store prefers the usage of reusable bags and incentivizes customers to bring in their own carryout reservoirs. The program works like this: bring in your own bag and the store gives you a wooden nickel. The nickels, with an in-store donation value of five cents apiece (or roughly the cost associated with the bag you need), can then be dropped into one of three containers associated with local charities on your way out. Simple. Beautiful. Powerful. Capitalism with a eco-conscience.

I often wondered about the impact of this program. Earlier this year the store set up a small display table that answered my question: roughly $350 was donated to a local park, a soup kitchen and animal rescue from nickels collected in 2013. Think about that. No, really think about that. It equates to approximately 7,000 bags that did not get tossed in the garbage, local waterways or your housing development’s ditches. It represents fossil fuels that went unused and animals that didn’t suffocate. It represents 7,000 customers – and I was very proudly one of them many times over – that stashed a few reusable bags in their car and grabbed them on the way into the store.

I’m applauding all the participants and the little health food store in a tiny little town that made it happen. And…I’m wondering what the fuck is wrong with the all major grocery store chains and retailers and devil-may-care consumers in the world that aren’t with “the program.” There is no good reason why similar programs aren’t in place for every retailer in this country. Frankly, it should be law.

You’re either part of the problem or you are part of the solution. Decide to be part of the solution. Don’t walk into any store empty-handed. Grab a reusable bag. Please.      

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