A meaningful, albeit small step by city
October 19, 2011
Hooray, no more plastic! Well, bags anyway. Well, free ones, that is. While I am happy to see our City Council and other concerned citizens push to take a much-needed step towards environmental responsibility, I personally am a bit annoyed by their choice of a scapegoat.
As many of you may already know, before becoming symbols of conspicuous consumption, plastic grocery bags were quite useful as, wait for it, trash bags! Now, if the government prefers, I suppose I will buy those fancy ones that come in that big shiny box, with the red drawstring and diamond fiber woven support structure, and I may even spring for the odor protection plan. And I’ll be guilt-free, as I understand they are made from 100 percent recycled VW bus tires. But seriously, I do believe that this was a good step, albeit mostly symbolic.
I’ve long thought that as the fortunate few who are able to call this hamlet home, we have a particular responsibility to the environment. For those who choose to spend their hard-earned money and precious vacation time here, we are a window into a different world, a different lifestyle. We may even be seen as trendsetters by some of the most influential people on the planet.
Our industry is tourism, and our niche is luxury amidst nature, but recently it has been comprised of much more luxury than nature. I ask that our hotels, restaurants and other businesses join together to find ways to buck the consumption driven trends of luxury and service, and be unabashedly eco-conscious. Rather than offering the same services, with supposed green products, let’s work to redefine luxury from a green perspective. I don’t pretend to understand the monumental technological and logistical complexities of such an ambition, but I do dare to believe that the realization of such a tourist destination is not only possible, but extremely marketable.
Now back to those bags. I’m not saying that anyone thinks swapping out disposable plastic bags for reusable ones will absolve them of their sins, but let’s also not give ourselves more credit than we deserve. Consider this: In terms of your carbon footprint, the production of five plastic bags is the equivalent to driving 33⁄4 miles, or consuming two plastic bottles, or eating one-third of a cheeseburger, according to timeforchange.org.
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Free plastic bags were an easy target, made enemy No. 1 not because of their huge and deleterious effect on the environment, but more so because banning them across the board has a relative lack of economic effect. I mean, we still need to buy groceries, right? Nonetheless, a good first step, but instead of worrying about the bag, let’s all stop to consider what’s in it and how it got to our little slice of paradise in the first place.