Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Power of a Cloth Sack

I first noticed sideways glances and puzzled looks. Sometimes there were expressions of slight confusion from clerks: "You don't want a bag? You sure? Uh...ok." All of this makes me feel a bit giddy about the burgeoning revolution that could be in the works. We all know that the more than 500 billion (billion!) plastic bags consumed each year are terrible for the health of the planet. For a good reminder why, read this. That's why I have gradually tried to make the move to bringing canvas or hemp bags with me everywhere I go so that I never have an excuse for getting one of those pesky bags. I recently got a few of these on sale and I love them. I've found that if I always have a couple of bags rolled up in the car or in my diaper bag, it's really easy to use them. I still do use plastic bags for some produce at the supermarket so that I have pooper-scooper bags for use when walking the dog. (I know that there are biodegradable alternatives out there that I should look into as well.) All in all, bringing a reusable bag is an easy solution to a host of environmental problems.

Perhaps as important a reason to me for utilizing reusable bags when I shop is that it is a simple way to share my values with neighbors, strangers, and those I casually interact with during trips to the local market or drugstore. It's another opportunity to model the change that we want to see in our communities. Much like our choice of car can be a visible example of what our values are, walking home from the store with a canvas bag full of groceries or whatever items we've purchased shows others that we value the environment and that easy alternatives exist.

A note about cars as visible tokens of our values: I mentioned before that we drive an SUV that we purchased a few years ago for a variety of reasons. Would we make the same decision now? Probably not. Sometimes I feel incredible guilt about driving an SUV - and rightfully so. I'm acutely aware that driving - especially a vehicle that gets poor gas mileage - is up there as one of the single worst contributors to global warming and pollution. Thankfully, I can take mass transit to work and we only need to use our car for short city trips and when we travel to see family out of state a couple of times a year. I'm certainly not making excuses for owning an SUV. I doubt that my conscience will allow me to keep it forever. Part of my path is to figure out what changes I can make in my life as I move along the journey of learning and struggling to be the person that I hope to become. I'm not at the destination yet by any stretch. If we're honest, very few of us really are. But the revolution is starting with acts as simple and radical as choosing to bring a bag from home on our holiday shopping trip and supporting each other as we choose to make the small changes that will lead to the bigger ones. Onward!


  • At 4:14 PM, Blogger Siel said…

    Hey Lauren -- I definitely agree that small steps are the way to go. Thinking about changing EVERYTHING at once is enough to give anyone an immobilizing panic attack.

    (That said, I'm glad you're thinking of getting rid of the SUV someday. I hope to get rid of my car soon too. Check this out.)

  • At 5:08 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    Hey Siel -- one of the things that I love about the blogosphere is getting encouragement from others, as well as ideas for small (and not so small) changes that we can make in the way we do things everyday.

    The Umbra column is quite apropros! She always reminds me to think about the highest impact decisions. I've been meaning to get this book that she often recommends.

    I'll definitely feel better about my ecological footprint when a fuel-efficient vehicle is in my driveway. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to try to avoid using the SUV whenever I can. Roger has had some good suggestions for challenging our prevailing assumptions about car use.

  • At 9:03 PM, Blogger Andrea Rusin said…

    Excellent post. I have a feeling when this car needs to be replaced, the long-suffering spouse is going to lobby for no car. Just renting one when we absolutely need one. At this point, I'm hoping he'll compromise up with a hybrid vehicle. But maybe by then I'll be ready to ditch a vehicle. Long shot....

  • At 3:09 PM, Blogger Anna said…

    Lauren et al,
    Great dialogue, a similar post here on Pleasant Revolution.

    We can sometimes get so consumed by small lifestyle choices that we overlook the larger looming ones – like transportation. Speaking of, I highly recommend the
    Xtracycle to replace SUVs for short city trips, an SUB, “Sport Utility Bicycle”, and the coolest ride around.

    That being said, I’m still working on encouraging people to bring personal cups and totes on their coffee/market outings, because I think it touches on a much larger theme: our disposable mentality. Things are no longer built to last, but to be thrown away.

    And because it baffles me how few “eco-conscious” consumers make this simple choice. I constantly watch the parade of plastic bags exit Whole Foods and wonder how people fail to make the connection.

    I have a theory: that once people make the switch, they will realize how easy, hip, and painless it is, and start seeking other areas to bring their own – a mason jar to Jamba Juice, To-Go Ware to Baja Fresh, silver spoon to the ice cream store, why stop with the bag?

  • At 4:09 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    Hey Anna. Thanks for some great links! Funny, I just got home from Whole Foods and was also amazed at how few people had reusable bags with them. One of the reasons that I love the simple but visible environmental choices is that they are contagious - especially for people who aren't ready or able to make the bigger changes (e.g., transportation, housing, etc.). And it does become addictive, doesn't it? I saw To-Go Ware on Julia Butterfly Hill's Circle of Life site ( and have been wanting to get some. In the meantime, I packed some silverware and cloth napkins for our holiday road trip.

    And if we need another reason to avoid those damn plastic bags like the plague: I was walking in a beautiful wooded park today and there were plastic bags strewn about the stream and the brush alongside it. It makes me want to scream!

  • At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Fast Freddy said…,,22749-1904828,00.html


Post a Comment

<< Home