Posted by: David McKay | April 21, 2011

Plastic Bags: What can we do about them?

I went to my corner store today: the Quality Market on Washington Street — Route 302 as you head east out of town — in Barre, Vermont.

The guy in front of me at the register bought an 8 ounce block of cheese and a bottle of A-1 Steak Sauce.  The cheese was Cabot.

The two items purchased went straight into a plastic bag.  Not even a question or a discussion about it.  No thought.

And, I am sorry to say — not a word from me.  Not out loud.  I didn’t say, “Do you really need a plastic bag, sir?  Can’t you just carry those two items in your hands the short distance to wherever you are going?”

I was next.  I was buying a six-pack of beer.  Nothing else.  The woman at the register — I think she is one of the owners — asked me if I wanted a bag for my beer.

Why didn’t she ask the guy before me that question?

“No,” I said, “I never need a bag.”

Acknowledging that I know I need to voice my thoughts is a start — it is a step on the path towards making change.  The part that makes me hesitate — and you, too, I imagine — is gettin’ up in other people’s business.  I don’t go door-to-door trying to convert you or sell you encyclopedias.

I need to speak up.  So do you.  We all do.

I would like to make a request to those of you that take the time to read these words.  Would you please take the time to tell others about your attempts to make the world a better place?

Tell me — I could use some encouragement.

Responsibility is not convenient — it’s necessary.

Rethink.  Refuse.  Reduce.  Reuse.



  1. Perhaps the best way to affect change is by providing the example. I always carry canvas/string bags with me, hanging on my arm, when I get to the counter, the bag goes up on the counter with whatever I’m buying and I usually reinforce that with “I have my own bag, please use that to pack my stuff in.” Those around me, more and more, are bringing theirs in, too. (But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I wish I could remember to bring mine in, they’re always in the car!” I grumble about those folks…I’ve been known to leave my stuff and go out to the car when I’ve forgotten mine!)

    But I totally understand your reluctance to impose on others’ choices. Perhaps it’s not cool to say, “can’t you carry that in your own hands?” but rather to say, “have you noticed the cool bags at the checkout that are reusable?”

    • Thanks, Nana — I appreciate you making a difference! (And for reading my words — you make a difference to me by giving me encouragement).

  2. Hi David,

    I don’t think you should beat yourself up about not saying something to that guy – i think it’s best to live by example. But one thing i always do is thank those cashiers who ask me if i want a bag. I’m glad they are doing their part to help all of us. So work on the cashiers!

    I must say i think about you every time i have an opportunity to use a plastic bag or not. Sometimes i forget my reusables (sorry, i’m not perfect) and my kids will yell at me for making them help me carry 50 things to the car with no bag. You make a difference even if you can’t always see it.

    Here’s something i do to reduce plastic use. I keep silverware in my desk at work. It seems tiny but if i used the plasticware provided for everyone for free imagine how much plastic that would be over the course of the year. So that’s one thing for your readers to think about.

    Love you!

  3. We all need to speak up more often. Change doesn’t come until enough people change themselves. I posted the Midway video to FB and encouraged everyone to think of at least one way they can reduce their use of plastics. Thanks for your blog. Keep up the good work! ~~Rhonda

    • Hey, Rhonda, thank you so much for reading and reposting that video. It is daunting when I think about all of the plastic, but I am encouraged by knowing that change is happening… Thanks for reading.

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