Friday, September 26, 2008

A good thing too far....

The Wall Street Journal ( in its brand spanking new look and feel) has an article about the current schwag of the moment, the reusable shopping bag. Companies love them since they are great advertising vehicles. I know I use my "Citrix", "Blackberry" and "O'Reilly Mac OS X" and "Esurance" reusable bags all the time. They really are a nice alternative to the relentless number of t-shirts that are often given away (something about high tech firms and t-shirts), but the point of the article is that now that everyone is giving them away they are starting to be, ehm thrown away. Additionally, finding a truly green bag is hard to find (and truly green is a loaded statement, there are tradeoffs. I tend to be big on biodegradability since it returns carbon back in for sequestration. Some tradeoffs the article explains are:

Finding a truly green bag is challenging. Plastic totes may be more eco-friendly to manufacture than ones made from cotton or canvas, which can require large amounts of water and energy to produce and may contain harsh chemical dyes. Paper bags, meanwhile, require the destruction of millions of trees and are made in factories that contribute to air and water pollution.

The added challenge is getting people to actually use the bags. Even here in "progressive" Northern California:

Earlier this year, KPIX in San Francisco polled 500 of its television viewers and found that more than half -- 58% -- said they almost never take reusable cloth shopping bags to the grocery store.

Phil Rozenski, director of environmental strategies at the plastic bag maker Hilex Poly Co., believes even fewer people remember to use them. Based on consumer surveys conducted by the company, he says roughly the same number of people reuse their bags as bring disposable bags back to the grocery store for recycling -- a figure he puts at about 10% of consumers, according to industry data.

Changing behavior is tough, at my work I'm involved in the Green Team where we did a "Chuck the Cup" event The reality is even among the most well educated, convenience and the rush and gush of our lives makes it difficult to be green. But with stylish "Yahoo! Green Team Mugs" we're trying to make it easier. I'm looking forward to seeing the statistics on whether we've made a difference. I think we'll get a start, but I also know with an alternative most people will go for the convenience. One friend's husband works at an office where they simply got rid of the disposable cups and bought a stock of mugs. But that's a small office where the culture was changed quite quickly.

I have tons of canvas bags, polypropylene bags and a ton of mugs. I just gave one away that I got from a community service organization. Hope it gets reused. But at some point it becomes clutter and clutter goes to landfill. Ahh the power of free to get us to to grab things, like reusable shopping bags.


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