Monday, January 11, 2010

Bagging it

D.C. recently enacted a law that says if you get a plastic grocery bag with your purchase, you have to pay a $.05 bag tax for it. It's not a debilitating charge, and it's supposed to help keep the Anacostia River clean (for anyone who's ever seen the Anacostia, there are bigger problems than plastic bags, but that's apparently not the point). The Mayor and City Council, in their infinite wisdom, think this five-cent fix will solve the myriad problems in the river.

But what will it do for (or to) the rest of us? As a city dweller, I've long carried the recyclable bags that are sold just about everywhere (they're easier to carry when walking several blocks with groceries). This has, of course, resulted in occasional ribbing from my friendly checkout worker, when using a Whole Foods bag at Safeway, "What, our bags aren't good enough?" But a bigger issue is what on earth WH and I are going to use to line our bathroom trashcan with from now on? And what if you happen to run into CVS for toothpaste, toilet paper, and a Twix, sans recycled bag? That five cents could add up quick!

WH had some musings on this subject in his usual way: "How come going green always means something is going to cost me more money? What about if I choose to go green by not working more than four hours a day and keeping the lights off?" Hardly realistic, but I do wonder where these schemes come from. A hundred years ago, all food was organic and it certainly cost a lot less than organic food does now. Nearly everything was "local, sustainable," because people had little choice. Without running the risk of sounding like a grandma, it was a simpler time. But we know that organic, green, whatever you want to call it can be costly, and not always comfortable. Take for instance turning down the thermostat (nevermind that we don't have a thermostat, because we live in a 100-year old radiator-heated building) or using flourescent bulbs. Use a low-flow showerhead (did you ever see that episode of Seinfeld?). Mmmkay, so we put on a sweater and sit in the dark, which is a good thing, because there's nothing but bad hair days ahead. But the world will be a better place.

I don't mean to sound flip about it, but what is the balance between comfort and convenience that we must strike? WH and I don't own cars, so we're already ahead of the game. I'm not sure I'm the one who needs the lesson on greening my life, saving the river, and keeping waste out of landfills, but I'll take it. Because what other choice to I have but to bag it and give in?

1 comment:

  1. I don't know what it's going to do for the Anacostia, but stemming the growth of the urban fruit (plastic shopping bags) is a problem in lots of places. Take it from someone who is tired of having to patrol their front lawn for lovely droppings of urban fruit casually tossed from moving cars, by bus riders and even pedestrians! I say, go ahead and charge the five cents. Hell, shoot the litterers on sight!