Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bag it!

San Francisco Bag, by Project Green Bag, Flickr
Why not start my blogging year with a rant? This year, as we think about all the ways in which we'd like to improve ourselves, let's not forget to think about what's good for others and our environment. 

A few months ago, Monterey instituted a ban on plastic bags and began charging for paper bags. Since I use reusable bags, I was not inconvenienced in any way, and since I fully support accumulating less waste and using less plastic, I was happy about the ban. 

But I often feel like the only one. I routinely hear complaints or heavy sighs when the cashier gently asks if the customer will need a bag.  One problem is that the many tourists here aren't familiar with the local laws. The other problem is that people, tourists or not, are pretty shortsighted. It's, "I'm mildly inconvenienced right now!" instead of considering this is better for our community in the long run.

Now the city is upping the cost of paper bags. I just saw a "news" piece on this where they interviewed two local experts on the matter (two very young adults  at the mall who were all of 20 years old) who illustrated my point beautifully. Their sentiments: "We already pay so much for the things we buy. Why should we have to pay more just for bags?" 

My response: 

A) You're buying--at the mall anyway--stuff you don't need. You're paying ridiculously low prices on items made in sweatshops by people (often children) who are paid slave wages. And you want to moan about a $.25 bag to hold these items?

B) You're not considering the alternative in this situation: use a reusable shopping bag. It's simple. Buy a bag for about a $1. Take it with you. You'll be surprised by how much you don't give a crap about a $.25 bag when you never have to pay for one.

Now, I'm not criticizing those who haven't made the switch. I understand change happens slowly, and it's hard to remember to bring your bags if you're not in the habit. I'm criticizing the people who complain about the law. This law will hopefully help us all develop better habits, but more importantly, the law is about protecting our city. This city isn't just here for my benefit and convenience. Our roadsides, parks, beaches, schools are for all of us. We must share and we must take responsibility.  


Laura said...

I love a good rant! I want to rant about this too. In Eugene they passed a ban on plastic bags in October, but it has yet to take effect. It also requires retailers to charge a minimum of 5 cents for each paper bag to encourage people to bring reusable bags.

I was so excited about this. I already use reusable bags and the grocery store where I do most of my shopping already got rid of plastic bags and only offered paper anyway. But the things people said! "Reusable bags carry bacteria." "Plastic is cheap, reusable, clean and made with waste gas." "So if we go to the store and buy a grocery cart full of food we have to fill that canvas bag up, take it to the car, come back, fill it up again, and again and again."

Change does take time, but man, I hope people realize what a great thing this actually is. Thanks for letting me get that out.

Domestic Kate said...

Some people here too were touting the merits of plastic bags. Hello, we still have them. They're not disappearing entirely. Restaurants still use them and the neighboring cities do too. And most of the rest of the country.

Do people not realize that they can buy more than one bag? Oh, and that they can clean them? Good grief. It seems like a pretty simple concept. I can't figure out why people need to complicate it.

Laura said...

No kidding. These people are grasping at straws to resist change. We're a nation very attached to our plastics, especially of the bag variety. But we've got to move away from single use plastic bags. They're choking our oceans.

rockygrace said...

Kate, here's a personal question - what do you put your litter box pickings in? :) Right now I use plastic grocery store bags (hey, it's repurposing!), but I'm not sure what I'll use if they go away ...

Domestic Kate said...

Good question! I ran into this situation once I stopped using plastic bags. I've started using biodegradable doggy poop bags, like these ones: doggy bag

Marshall's sometimes has them cheap and pet supply stores usually carry them too. Technically, they're plastic but made differently.

You have to be careful with them, though, because they are not designed to carry much weight (urine and litter get heavy). I've had one break, which wasn't pleasant. I imagine someone is making eco friendly bags for cat litter, but I haven't seen any yet.

I also try to remember to clean the litter box on the days when I'm taking the trash out, so I can just put it in the regular trash and minimize the number of separate bags. When I had multiple cats, I kept a small trashcan just outside the back door (but near the litter box) lined with a plastic shopping bag. At least that way, I filled up the bag before tossing it out--again, minimizing the number of bags I use.

I hope that helps, and if you find any other good solutions to this, let me know.

rockygrace said...

Thanks for the advice, Kate! When I have foster kittens in addition to my own cats, they generate a LOT of poop. A LOT. Last summer, I actually started carting it out back and dumping it in one pile out past the brushline, and I ended up with poop mountain - it turns out that litter-covered poop turns into a concrete-like substance instead of decomposing. Yeesh! I'm thinking your small-trashcan idea might work best.

To your non-cat-people readers: TMI, I know. I apologize. I just need to find a poop solution!

Domestic Kate said...

Surprising that such a small thing can produce so much poop. They also make flushable and other types of eco friendly litter. Perhaps they make some that'll break down in a compost pile.

Laura said...

If I may be so bold, here are my two cents on the cat litter/poop topic. I had a diabetic cat, Milo, who required insulin shots twice daily. We bought a Smart Cat Box (, which uses safflower seeds as litter. The box is set up so that the urine flows through slats and into a separate collection box so you can test it with those glucose strips. This also enables you to dump the urine directly into the toilet and flush it. As for the poop, it is easily scooped from the safflower seed litter and can also be flushed just like human waste.

The initial cost for this litter box system is more than a traditional box, but it was well worth it. The box is well made, lasts forever, and the litter lasts a lot longer too. I can't stress how much money we saved by using this versus buying traditional litter. And, as an added bonus, Milo loved this box. He was a very finicky cat, but he used the Smart Cat Box without any problems.

Sorry for the TMI, but I really believe that this is one of those great products cat parents should know about.

Domestic Kate said...

Yep, this is going to turn into one of my most commented-on posts, and it's all going to be about cat poop!

Thanks for the tip, Laura. Sounds like a good system. Does the urine smell if you don't dump it right away? I've ended up having to put my litter box in the living room (in a large rectangular cat-condo like thing), so odor is especially important to me.

Laura said...

Who knew cat poop was such an interesting topic?

Because of his shots, Milo got me into a routine and I cleaned his box once a day in the morning. I hate the smell of cat pee, but I never noticed a urine smell wafting from his box. I kept it in the second bathroom so it was convenient (for both of us). Now that he's gone my mom uses the box with her cat and keeps it in the laundry room. I've never noticed a smell with it. Hope that helps.