August 7, 2007
This week's column could be titled "Use - Don't Use" and was inspired by one of my oldest and dearest friends. He wrote me and mentioned that I should say something about plastic bags. You know what I mean -- the bags that you get at the store to put your groceries in when they say "Paper or plastic, sir?"
I remember the first time I saw them. I was living in Toronto in about 1979 and I thought them so unusual then, but now they are anything but strange (nobody called me "sir" then, though). It seems that each of us now uses a plastic carrier bag on average for only 12 minutes. The EPA estimates that we use about 380 billion bags worldwide each year.
Wow! 380 billion (billion with a "B"). That's a lotta bags...
It's funny because I have been taking bags to the grocery with me lately. Not sure what made me decide to do this but it's pretty easy. The local grocery seems unsure what to make of this but the Whole Foods in my neighborhood actually gives me a five cent refund. Not a lot, certainly, but a nice gesture.
It's easier than you think. I have been reusing paper bags that I get and have some cloth bags that I bought. If I forget, I have been asking more for paper bags and keeping them to use again. You've all heard about the environmental impact, and this is a good motivating factor, but the bottom line is that it just makes sense and is pretty easy to cut back.
There's a lot of great info at http://www.reusablebags.com and there's even a town in England where the merchants are going "bag free." The town of Modbury began this on May 1st of this year and you can read more at this website.
So, not really "Eat - Don't Eat" this week but "Consume - Don't Consume." Don't Use plastic bags at the grocery and Use (or reuse) the bags that you already have.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.