June, 2011 – “Thanks But No Thanks”

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Living Greenbryan-hayes

“Thanks But No Thanks”

By Bryan Hayes

“No, thank you.”  I don’t need a bag. I told the cashier.

“But, you have to have a bag.”  She responded.  “It’s a law in Florida.”

Now I am not sure of the legality of such but I did not feel the need to carry my newly bought socks and underwear in a plastic bag.   It also seemed to be rather useless to do so, and considering, the large consumption of plastic bags (we go through 92 billion plastic bags – each year) having a negative impact on the environment, it is always my intent to reduce my use as much as possible.   Maybe she never really thought of the impact that plastic bags have.

I have come to the conclusion that we never know where someone else’s head is at, and where they are coming from.  We can only control what we do. So even though I said nothing to her at the time of the transaction, maybe this would be a good time to do that.  

Maybe her frustration was actually about her having to work on the weekend, and she really didn’t want to be there.  Maybe she did not realize that plastic bags are not exactly biodegradable.  It has been estimated by scientists that a single plastic bag takes 500 to 1,000 years to biodegrade fully.   Maybe she did not know that plastic bags are made from petroleum, and we Americans use an extra 12 million barrels of oil just for plastic bags – every year.    It could be that she simply did not realize that approximately 88% of plastic bags that we use never get recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency in a 2007 study.

Now providing this information in the middle of the store may have caused a small riot by those waiting most patiently in line behind me.   But sometimes it is not that people don’t care.  It is simply that they don’t have the information and they aren’t fully aware of the decisions they are making.  

Maybe the next time I go into the same department store for socks, the same clerk will have read this and this time the transaction will have a different outcome.   Maybe she will thank me for declining to have a plastic bag and give me the reasons why it is a sound environmental decision.

Bryan Hayes is an actor, amateur photographer, business consultant and full-time lover of all things living.  He will be co-hosting a new show “Greenology 101.”