Bags Matter

I like going to our local farmers market Saturday mornings. It’s a short walk from the house. The vendors are diverse. Some vendors are Satan’s agents. They sell temptations (cookies, cakes, pies, bread, etc.), which I do my best to avoid. Most of the time I’m successful. But not always. Some vendors are God’s agents. They sell organic produce. And “real” eggs (laid by pasture-roaming hens that scratch and eat bugs). Some of the vendors look like everyone else in Carmel. Some don’t. Some are Amish or Old Order Mennonite.

I bought some organic produce from a teenage Amish boy last week. His family’s stand has a large sign touting their organic farming practices. I laid the produce on the table while I foraged for some cash. Meanwhile, the boy grabbed a bag to put the produce in. A plastic bag no less!

I stopped him, calling his attention to the cloth bag I was carrying. But I had to chuckle to myself. There was something odd about an Amish organic farmer using plastic bags. There are few things in life less environmentally redeeming than a plastic bag. The Devil’s handiwork to be sure.

Later in the day we walked down to Wright’s ACE hardware store. We purchased five small items. The clerk reached for a bag — a plastic bag, of course. I stopped her. “We can carry everything,” I said. “No need for a bag.”

Besides the humidity, the bag culture is the biggest difference between Carmel and Colorado, where we used to live. In Boulder, you have to ask for a bag. Most people carry their own reusable ones or, when feasible, simply forego bagging. Some clerks throw a scowl your way if you request a bag. “What the hell’s wrong with you?” they seem to be thinking. “Don’t you give a f#@*!” It’s as if a big “A” is plastered on your chest.

It’s different in Indiana. Here, it never seems to occur to clerks not to bag the customer’s purchases. No matter how small or few. The environmental ramifications don’t seem to be on the radar screen of anyone.

It may seem like a little thing. But it’s not. Little things add up. One bag becomes millions.

Extracting the feedstock for bags has an environmental impact. As does the manufacturing process. And the act of delivering them to their end users. The ultimate disposal of the bags has an environmental cost, too. As does the cleanup. And the damage to wildlife and the environment from bags that aren’t properly discarded.

Sometimes I call your grandmother a bag-Nazi, Vera. When I forget to take one of our cloth bags into the grocery store. And end up having to use one of the plastic bags that Kroger supplies free of charge. Sometimes she reprimands me. And rightly so. But I get over it. Quickly.

But maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should try harder to help transform Indiana culture. To help bring a touch of Colorado to these flatlands.

Making Indiana better. One bag at a time.

8/23/18: Good news: Kroger is ditching plastic bags. Unfortunately, it will be taking it’s good old time.

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