Su Lum: Slumming | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

At the last City Council meeting, while discussing the banning of plastic bags in Aspen grocery stores, mayor Mick Ireland suggested that the councilmen should all try to go as bagless as possible for the next 60 days and to keep a diary from time to time about their experiences.

In the spirit of cooperation and curiosity, I decided to try a six-day experiment – to use the reusable bags that have been piling up around the house while I’m hoarding my plastic bags for the May elimination, and to keep a record of my progress.

I admit that I am “conflicted” about the plastic bags, which came on the scene very recently in my old-age-speed time. “Plastic or paper?” we were asked, and most of us said, “paper” because plastic was kind of a dirty word. Then, gradually, we were educated to understand that paper bags were killing the forests and that plastic bags, while taking longer to return to the earth, took up less room in the landfill. When asked, we began to say, “plastic.”

We then were educated to understand that both plastic and paper bags were killing the planet and we were encouraged to carry reusable bags made of god knows what – the sturdy ones surely contain petroleum products.

The problem with the reusable bags, from my viewpoint, is that you cannot pick up dog poop with them, and you cannot use them to line your trash baskets. I like the idea of forcing manufacturers to produce biodegradable “plastic” bags, but when we were given these at the Aspen Saturday Market this summer, ears of corn shot through the bottom of them, and it seemed clear that more research and development was in order.

But OK, I could do it for six days, and maybe I’d get in the habit and come to like it. We move on, sometimes digging in our heels, but we don’t want to go back to spittoons, either. Get with the program.

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Day 1- I got halfway through the market when I realized that I had left my politically correct bags in the car. Unlike our uber-athletic councilmen, I am enfeebled enough to be daunted by extra trips. I’ll start tomorrow. Not a thrilling diary entry.

Day 2 – I remember to bring my reusable bags, two of them. As I am about to toss a pineapple into my cart (not on my list), I stop and think, “Uh oh, better keep it down, you only have two bags.” This is an issue I haven’t heard mentioned yet – the damper that reusable bags will put upon whimsical shopping.

Day 3 – I forgot my diary, and by the time I got home I had forgotten why I went to the market, what I had bought or what my experience was.

Day 4 – Saturday Market, the last (sob) one on the season. Loaded up on lots of veggies, etc., which were placed in reusable bags provided by Hilary, my friend and sherpa.

Day 5 – Being well-supplied, I did not go to the store.

Day 6 – Decided to see how reusable bags worked at the self-checkout counter. Picked out a couple of clearly marked items that wouldn’t trigger a cry for assistance. No problem. When the voice tells you to put your items in the bag, you can hit the “skip bag” button, easy enough.

In principle, I am against all of our plastic packaging, including nail files in a hermetically sealed container that you have to hack open with a machete (this packaging was to reduce shoplifting and accommodate bar codes). The grocery stores may be the most identifiable problem, but they’re not the only problem.

In my day, dog (and horse) poop was considered fertilizer. We got rid of the smokers and – sniff, sniff – where did all that poop come from? Enter the popularity of the plastic bag. Take care what you wish for.

On cruise ships, the first thing you’re presented with is a Holland America fabric bag. They give out these bags for one reason only – to advertise their cruise line. If we’re going to go down this path, the merchants should turn it into an advertising gold mine, just as major department stores learned to do long ago. Every tourist should be given a Welcome to Aspen reusable bag with the hotel’s logo and a friendly warning about the ban.

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