Friday, June 13, 2008

No-Bag Lady

By Jessie Dye

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a huge, swirling island of plastic the size of North America, the center of an enormous whirlpool called the North Pacific Gyre. It is where the residue of our overconsumption comes to rest, or rotate as the case may be. Deadly for whales, turtles, birds, and plankton, not to mention the future of humanity, it is the non-biodegradable garbage dump of the world. It depresses me, and I don’t want to contribute to it any more.

So, I’m giving up plastic bags, finally. For the last week I have refused all plastic bags offered to me as I went about my daily business (as if I needed these bags in the first place!). No lectures, no explanation of the Gyre in the center of the ocean, no patronizing or faux-enlightened attitude, just no bags for me. A simple, Miss Manners-style “no thank you, I really don’t need a bag” was sufficient. I put a vitamin bottle in my purse, carried groceries home in cloth carriers, and walked out with books under my arm and hardware in my hand. It made no difference in my life and at least ten plastic bags did not make their way to the north Pacific, twenty if you count double-bagging. Some grocery clerks applauded me; a pharmacist said she wished more people didn’t take bags. On several occasions the person behind me in line didn’t take a bag either, watching my example. It seemed to be catching; a lot of people don’t want all this excess packaging but can’t seem to stop it. I did, and I’m proud!

A delicate subject for those of us who have dogs is the need for poop bags on a regular basis. Ah, but only a few weeks ago on a hike I ran into a wonderful woman in Discovery Park who actually exercised a ministry of dog-poop bags. As she walked, she happily distributed bio-degradable bags to those of us out with our pals from the Canis Familiaras species, giving us a better option to protect the Gyre.

In the end, refusing excess baggage to reduce the size of the North Pacific island of garbage may be as futile as stocking up on canned soup in the event of nuclear war. It doesn’t matter; I am only responsible for my own choices and called to lift my own prophetic voice on behalf of God’s creation. Still, changing public policy makes a bigger difference in reducing trash and I am tickled pink at the wonderful leadership of Seattle Mayor Nichols who recently introduced a bill to our City Council to ban plastic bags and Styrofoam. It seems the entire countries of Australia and Austria do this, as well as many others whose names are not as alliterative. If they can do it, I can do it. And so can you. Just say, “No thank you, I really don’t care for a bag.”

1 comment:

thepfaffsays said...

There's a twelve-part series on YouTube about the Garbage "Island." If you have the time, it's worth watching.