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A Green Herring

August 27, 2009

I'm Not A Plastic BagOne of the most frustrating aspects that I find about the self-proclaimed Green Movement are the red herrings.

For a little idiom 101– a red herring refers to a tactic of misdirection.  For example, a murder mystery might overemphasize one character with the intention of under emphasizing the murderer.

In this case, I believe that this-is-not-a-plastic-bag bags have become a red herring.  It’s not that I don’t think this is a good movement.  I do.  Yes, bring reusable bags!  Yes, minimize a superfluous waste!  Hooray!!!  It’s that it feels like nothing else is getting done because of the inflated amount of attention that gets drawn to this one, tiny topic.

Rather than using the conceptual knowledge– move away from superfluous non-recyclable non-reusable packaging– people appear to be stuck only on the move away from plastic bags.  It’s like a fixation.  In the mean time, nothing is being done about the way food is packaged.  Nothing is being done about the way drinks, pens, toys, toilet paper, cleaning products, cameras, and on, and on, are packaged.  It is as if, because the items are in a reusable bag, the items themselves are not wasteful.

The reality is, however, even if you use a plastic bag, over 98% of the waste generated comes from what is inside the bag.  Bob Lilienfeld, editor of the Use Less Stuff report, in a August 7, 2009 interview with NPR said that, “the bag is not the environmental bogey-person that everybody thinks it is.  If you look at the entire grocery package that you bought, the bag may account for 1 to 2 percent of the environmental impact.” (Tovia Smith, How Green Are Reusable Bags?)

Again, I am in no way advocating the use of plastic bags, but what I am saying is that maybe it is time to move on.  Or, if it’s not time yet, it is at least time to multi-task.  Not to get nutty with the fish analogies, but I think of it like “teach a person to fish and he/she will eat for a lifetime…”  You get the idea.  (On a tangent, PC and grammatically correct proverbs just don’t have that same ring to them…)

San Fransisco recently banned plastic bags.  I think this is great!  Let’s put a lid on this issue once and for all, and start to tackle the next issue:  like packaging in general, or better yet, plastics!!

Let me know what you think.

Keep spinning.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Nathan permalink
    August 28, 2009 6:49 pm

    I agree with Amber. The reusable bag is obviously a great idea, it just isn’t mainstream. WIth everything else celebrity realls sells the point. Also, I see that you have linked a petition to stop the printing of yellow pages in the UK. Is there any work on doing the same for the states? I believe that is a great idea. Crossing into the digital age has definately rendered the books obsolute (for the most part). This is an excellent idea and hopefully it snowballs into something effective.

  2. August 27, 2009 2:31 pm

    I think you are so right. The problem is that the “I’m not a plastic bag” movement is easy for people to bite off and chew, an easy, small change that they can use to make themselves feel better about the environmental impact of their lifestyles. And, it’s a change that doesn’t involve challenging the way things are as much as, say, taking on a large food corporation and getting them to use less packaging. That seems much bigger than just using the cloth bags for sale at every check out stand. It’s a band-aid. Not entirely useless, but helps people mask over the larger problem.

    It’s as if there is no mass public buy-in unless it comes conveniently ‘packaged’ and easy to do. And that is just frustrating.

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