“Plastic or Paper?”
Those words shocked me out of my shopping haze as I slipped out a debit card from my wallet. It took me a second or two to understand what the cashier was asking me— which did I prefer, plastic or paper bags? I glanced at the plastic bag in my hand that I had gotten from a previous store and I cringed. I felt terrible! I have been a terrible environmentalist and steward of this earth during this Christmas shopping season!
I quickly chirped out, “Paper, please!”
As the girl continued to put my items in the wonderful paper bag, I kept thinking about the reusable bags I had in the trunk of my car. It’s funny, too, since my county charges five cents for every plastic bag, it should have prompted me (and a lot of other people probably) to bring out our beautiful reusable bags for Christmas shopping. Finally done, the girl pushed the paper bag toward my direction. A big smile spread across my face and I said, “Thank you!”
Whether she meant to or not, I was genuinely thanking her for reminding me to be more conscientious and aware. I walked out of the store with a fresh perspective. As I looked around, what I saw scared me a little…
On a Saturday and a week before Christmas, you can image how packed the local mall was with people. Once I stepped out of the store, my eyes automatically went to the first plastic bag I saw. And then another, and then another, and then another… I glanced crazily in every direction, and my head started to swim thinking about the number of plastic bags being used across United States during Christmas! Since I cannot even start to comprehend the number googolplex, I would say googolplex number of bags were being given out across America.
I was musing about all these things when I was in line at American Eagle Outfitters Inc. The family in front me started speaking to each other loudly in their own language, and that is when I noticed the black flashy polyester bag at the mother’s feet. The reusable bag was bulging with stuff. If it had not been for their loud discussion, I think I would have been too caught up in my own thoughts to notice. The situation was way too coincidental to be true. Just as I was thinking the world is going to snot because most of the population do not use reusable bags for Christmas shopping (an exaggeration of course), there that lady stood—restoring my faith in humanity.
I do not know if I was outright staring or maybe making faces at her or something, but the lady looked at me weird with a questioning look in her eyes. I was caught, but I decided to use this as an opportunity.
I smiled at her and said, “I noticed you are using a reusable bag. I think that’s awesome! You’re being an awesome example. Thanks.”
She just smiled and nodded politely. I think I would have acted the same way if someone just weirdly called me out on using a reusable bag. In fact, I would have thought they were checking out my bag to rob me…
I awkwardly readjusted my purse’s strap on my shoulder. I could not help myself when I blurted out, “It’s funny because I was just thinking of writing an article about using reusable bags during the Christmas shopping season.”
I thought by saying that I would justify my weirdness and randomness, but saying it out loud made me feel even weirder. I started to sweat a little. What is wrong with me? I made it awkward in the first place and now I am telling her that I am going to write an article. Stop being so random and weird!
Well, the very nice lady again just smiled and nodded politely. And for some reason, my brain kept telling me to ask to take a picture with her so that it could be the featured image for my article.
Don’t worry, I didn’t. But it would have been totally cool. Am I right? (Yeah, I know not everyone would agree.)
This Christmas I learned there is no excuse for using plastic bags when I have perfectly good reusable shopping bags of my own. The lovely foreigner lady’s action spoke to me more than any of the articles I have read about reusable bags. She has encouraged me to officially reduce plastic use in my lifestyle. Thank you, lady, whoever you are.
The Christmas shopping season has passed, but it is not the only time when plastic bags are given out by the millions. People use shopping bags every day. Plastic bags are a part of our culture now. Not only are they a part of our culture, they have affected our culture drastically. And not only ours, but almost every other culture on the planet. Plastic in general has completely changed cultures. Its usefulness is like no other, but it has also been useful in harming our earth.
Watch these short videos about plastic bags and plastic in general.
I have made a new year’s resolution: to only use reusable bags and reduce my purchase and use of plastic items. What will you do this year to help the earth? What will you choose…paper or plastic?
Also, if you would like to learn more on how to cut back on plastic here is a cool article on One Green Planet, “10 Life Hacks to Help You Cut Plastic Out of the Picture”
Enjoy! And Happy New Year!