Reusable Bags: The Final Frontier or Just a Start for the Environment?

May 16, 2013
There is never a dull day in Washington. For this reason, causes of the day are in constant collision among politicians who want to defend the country, cater to voters’ interests and save the planet at the same time. Actually, is saving the planet really on politicians’ minds? It’s hard to tell in many cases, but there are many mayors and governors across the U.S. who do act on green initiatives. Still, replacing destructive plastic bags with reusable shopping bags is a long way off in many major cities. Should we be discouraged? In many ways, getting a mandate for eco-friendly reusable grocery bags is the goal of many environmentalists – and with good reason. As plastic bags continue to occupy space in landfills and harm animal and sea life all around the world, finding a way to cut down on this waste seems crucial. Yet giant cities like New York and Chicago are not on board. When will the mayors of these cities insist reusable shopping bags become the norm? There are many pro-business politicians around the country, yet none are more successful than Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York City. Bloomberg’s name is synonymous with business, as the company he created remains the authority in financial news. Yet Bloomberg has been hesitant on banning plastic bags, unlike his peers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Bloomberg has done good work in the recycling department, but New York needs to make reusable tote bags a requirement when heading to the grocery store. Would it be an anti-business move? Absolutely not: Stores can order wholesale grocery bags with their company name on it, guaranteeing every time they take a trip to the store, people will see that name and logo. Whole Foods Markets have instituted a no-plastic-bag policy and it has been highly successful. They even give discounts to shoppers who bring their own bags and offer reusable bags for $0.99. It truly is great advertising. Bloomberg has done many good things, including banning smoking indoors and ending the use of trans fat oils in restaurants, yet there’s so much farther for him to go. Why aren’t eco-friendly grocery bags replacing the thousands of plastic bags in the hands of New Yorkers every day? No matter how big an effort, and what a victory it would be, it’s still only the beginning of a long list of bad habits that needs changing. A ban on plastic bags might not come so easy, but as environmentally aware consumers, we can take the initiative ourselves to conserve our planet. Ending plastic bag use – one-by-one – is the first big step.