I am, as my regular readers might have noticed, a bit of a pessimist. So, it is with great delight that I am able to inform you that I have noticed a trend that is ENCOURAGING, and in relationship to human wastefulness, nonetheless! I am talking about the proliferation of reusable shopping bags. I have been reusing plastic bags or carrying cloth bags for years (my mom started using them in the 90s). Just 5 years ago, I would get confused looks from store clerks, and they would insist on wrapping my meat in a plastic bag before putting it in my cloth bag. The worst, I remember, was when Grandma took Sim and I to Disney World many years ago - if we had a large plastic bag from an earlier purchase and were buying something from another kiosk, they would put it into a smaller Disney-branded bag, even when we tried to say we'd just put it in the bag we were already carrying.
Now, though, I see more and more people with reusable bags. It's more common for store clerks to ask if I want a bag, rather than assuming, when I am getting just a few items or an already carrying a bag. A lot of this spread seems to be related to the President's Choice black bags with green logos on them - they've somehow become cool. I knew the tipping point had come when I was walking across the parking lot in the grocery store and saw your average cool looking 20-something guy (cell phone, flip-flops, baggy shorts, golf shirt with the collar up) heading towards the store swinging his black grocery bag. If cool male university students are doing something that's somewhat inconvenient, as opposed to a more convenient option, you know it's become mainstreamed. . .
Despite my glowing optimism, there are still an awful lot of plastic bags going out of Loblaws every time I am there. We are making progress, and I think we're ripe for the next step - make people pay for every plastic bag they use. The plastic bag tax in Ireland actually reduced plastic bag usage by 94%! Plastic bags are the type of environmentally harmful thing that really only exist for convenience - we're starting to change the culture to favour environmental responsibility over disposabal convenience, and this trend will only continue if we consumers took a hit in the wallet every time they wanted a plastic bag.