Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bugged about bags?

A front-page article in this morning's Tribune portrayed a visionary, yet unwittingly controversial vendor at the Evanston Farmer's Market. It described how the farmer's un-earth friendly act of putting his organic, locally grown produce into more than 30,000 plastic bags a year was weighing heavily on his eco-conscience. So this year, when he decided to start charging people a quarter for up to four of these plastic bags, his noble attempt to reduce his impact on the environment was met with grumbles, complaints, and even outrage!
I have long seen the irony in doling out market-fresh fruits and veggies in scores of plastic bags, and personally, I applaud his efforts. I was just stunned to hear that the Farmer's Market patrons (who, by definition, are usually greener than the average citizen) would meet this action with so much resistance. Indeed, the online poll (at the time of this posting) revealed that 54% of respondents would refuse to pay extra for a plastic bag.
While I realize that the initial gut reaction most people have to new and unexpected charges is one of moral outrage, I see this as less of an attempt to nickel-and-dime struggling consumers and as more of an incentive to change the way we shop. Think about it-- these petroleum-based bags have littered roadsides, vacant lots, and dormant tree branches for years-- few people can argue that finding a way to produce (and discard) fewer of these bags is a bad thing. And stores like Aldi, and (more recently) Ikea and Whole Foods have proven that charging even a nominal five- to ten-cent fee per bag drastically reduces the number of bags their customers use. These bags are still available to consumers, but their convenience is no longer complimentary.
Another thought came to me tonight as well... Even though we can't control the price of a gallon of gas or a barrel of oil, and few of us can get by without using either at this point in time, we can control, reduce, and nearly eliminate our use of a product created from this exorbitantly priced resource-- the plastic bag. While the initial impact may be small, I believe the implications will be far-reaching.
The farmer in question estimates that he has reduced plastic bag use by 90%-- if he stays on track, he will have managed to keep roughly 27,000 bags from being wasted by the end of the season. That's pretty impressive! So to the market-goers of the North Shore (and everywhere!), please continue to support local farmers if you can, just bring a bag if you're able.

1 comment:

Advocate Momma said...

That is amazing how people at a farmer's market would have outrage at the whole plastic bag dilemma. Good for the farmer for standing up for a strong belief! Our farmer's market handed out a free reusable bag at the beginning of the season to all who came. I've been using cloth bags for over a year now and when and if I forget them when I go to the store, I just twitch when I have to take a plastic bag home. :)