Friday, August 17, 2012

Remember Your Reusable Bags

I was at the grocery store the other day. The woman whose car was parked next to mine was unloading her groceries piece by piece into her car as I plopped my two bags into my trunk. 

I don't recall what the woman said that started the conversation. If she hadn't said anything, I wouldn't have commented.

About a year ago (actually, just over a year ago starting August 1, 2011) a neighboring city (where I do all of my grocery shopping) enacted a plastic bag ban. So, we are required to either bring our own bags or pay 10 cents per bag for paper bags. I had been using reusable bags for a couple years prior to this, so it was not a big change for me.  

The woman must have said something about the whole plastic bag ban. I said that the easiest way to remember bags was to leave them in the car all the time. That's why I always have them on hand when I go to the store.  

The woman replied that she hadn't had a chance to wash her bags. Then she launched into a long complaint about reusable bags harboring bacteria and the dangers therein. As she talked, I thought: 
  1. Bacteria is everywhere. That's what we have an immune system for. (I like George Carlin's explanation here, but warning: the language is rated R.) 
  2. Isn't there bacteria on the stuff we buy. 
  3. I've seen the checkers scrub down the conveyor at the check stands. They have the wipes for the shopping carts. Is there really that big a risk?
But mostly what I thought was that this was all an excuse. Because, when we really don't want to do something, we complain and find excuses. (I see it at school all the time.) So what I did was stand there and nod and hope that she would finish soon.  

Then she launched into a complaint that with no plastic bags at stores, now she had to buy more trash bags. She made a good point. I too used the bags to line my trash cans at home. And as she finished up her tirade, she talked of taking her shopping to another city.  

As I drove home, I thought about this woman spending so much energy being angry over this plastic bag ban. It can be an annoyance, but that's as much thought as I usually expend on it. And this reminded me that in the end, we are completely responsible for how we react to any given situation.  

It's easy to get caught up in the injustice or the idiocy of the world. We can spend all our time railing against it. Getting angry. Or we can choose to see that things are pretty good most of the time, and we can put forth positive steps towards making positive changes in the world. 

It's all in how you choose to look at something.  

So, on my drive, as I thought about this woman, I was grateful to her for reminding me of this. She chooses to be angry about the plastic bag ban. I choose to remember to leave my bags in the car (and wash them on occasion). And I was grateful to her for giving me a post topic, for until that encounter, I had nothing to write about.  

What are you grateful for today?  


  1. I'm grateful that I made it to another birthday. I'm only middle aged (same as you), but I saw that an author who was only 47 died last week (announced on NPR). I don't remember his name. I thought to, that's young. That's only six years from now. So yeah, lots of bigger things to worry about than plastic bags. Like being appreciative that you are alive.

  2. Solitude. No noisy neighbors all morning and afternoon, plenty of time to play the piano, read, do other things in quiet.

  3. How upset can someone get over helping the environment? Little seemingly inconveniences now will be better later. I agree with your philosophy about not getting angry over the minor issues.


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