My local grocery store recently went bagless. That is to say, they will let you use your own bags (their re-useable fabric bags prominently displayed at all the check outs - only 99 cents!) or you can purchase plastic bags (biodegradeable, huge, thick things) at five cents apiece.
And even though the chain is projecting this significant move will result in a 55 per cent decrease in the number of plastic shopping bags it distributes and help to eliminate one billion plastic shopping bags from landfills in 2009 - which I'm all for, save the earth, rah rah rah - I can't help feeling a little....well....duped.
I've no problem with the cloth bags. Even remembering to drag them out of the back of the car isn't as hard as it used to be - the 'oh, damnit!' moment seems to be coming in the middle of the parking lot now, instead of when I'm inside the store, so yes, that's a success. The cloth bags are sturdier, more-packable (okay, I made that word up, but you know what I mean) and don't tip. They're loverly.
The problem comes when I get up to the cashier and discover I'm a carrier bag short of carrying everything outside.
When the cashier chirps 'Would you like to buy a plastic bag for five cents?' I'm dumbfounded. Didn't I already pay for those? Wasn't the cost of those (admittedly lovely large strong biodegradeable) plastic bags already figured into the cost of the food I just bought? Aren't you asking me to pay twice for something? Isn't that illegal??
I live in Canada. Food prices are NOT noticeably coming down, even at the chain that boasts the strongest private label program in Canada. (Actually, this particular chain showed a significant profit last quarter, even in the face of the highest food inflation Canada has seen in 27 years.) In other words, my grocery bill has not adjusted to reflect that the store is no longer using plastic bags. So why am I being charged for them at the check-out?
Wouldn't it be fairer to give a five cent discount for each cloth bag that was used in packing your groceries? The alternative being used now seems questionable - a sneaky way to make a profit while claiming it's all about the earth.
I know it's just a nickel. In the grand scheme of things - of cleaning the environment, of leaving the world a better place than when I entered it, of teaching my children to conserve/reuse/recycle - it's a tiny, tiny thing.
I can't shake the feeling, though, that I'm being fleeced. And I don't like that, even in the name of saving the world.
This is an original Canada Moms post. Jessica also blogs at daysgoby and tries to save the world a little bit at a time.
photo by andrewcurrie