“are you some sort of Greenie or something?”

cityhippyfarmgirl

My standard response when buying something in any kind of shop is, “No bag thanks.” I often say it with a slight edge to my voice, as take my eyes off the sales person for a mere second or a distraction from a small child and they are stuffing those goodies straight into that bag of plastic. Far too much enthusiasm round these parts for you to be taking home a little souvenir plastic.

Recently, after buying a few items in a shop I blurted out my standard line and was met with…

“What, are you some sort of Greenie or something?”

I looked around me. Everything seemed to look the same as when I had stepped into the shop, everything still looked very 2013 and yet that comment seemed to come straight from 1983.

I was appalled. Is this how far we had come? That only a Greenie would say no to plastic bag?? I indignantly said yes, yes I was and stomped out. (And for the record the shop in question was also a health food shop….a health food shop!)

cityhippyfarmgirl

So there the comment sat with me, weeks and weeks after. What hope did the planet have if it was still a bloody battle not to get a plastic bag for your purchases? (I had also had another comment in the same week from another salesperson expressing sincere surprise at my lack of plastic enthusiasm as so many of her customers always took multiple bags.)

While my issue with having plastic bags thrust in my hands is small in comparison with all the other environmental issues going on in the world, I can’t help but think it’s still far too easy to put our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is happening.

Too easy to ignore the fact that these seemingly small steps are someone else’s problem.

Too easy to ignore the fact that we are living with a greedy fossil fuel industry, that’s having gaspingly scary consequences.

Too easy to dismiss what will happen in our future as it’s just so unknown… But is it? Is it so easy to dismiss? This is the sort of thing that keeps me up late at night wondering what the hell sort of future I’m passing on to my children.

cityhippyfarmgirl

This week author and environmentalist activist Bill McKibben is in Australia for his “Do the Math” tour. For tickets, dates and places please see here. More reading on 350.org

He will also be appearing on Q and A tonight (if you are in Australia.)

(this movie is set in the United States but has global maths figures that are and will effect all of us.)

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43 thoughts on ““are you some sort of Greenie or something?”

  1. It’s ludicrous, isn’t it Brydie? I’ve noticed that often we’re the only ones with reusable bags on the rare occasions that we go to the supermarket – the “fad” seems to have died out. I think people are less worried now that they can get biodegradable plastic bags at the supermarket, but they miss the point – it’s still one more thing to throw away!

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  2. Great post Brydie. Couldn’t agree with you more. I bought 6 apples recently, and the shop keeper rolled his eyes and grumbled whilst lifting them onto his weighing machine that ‘It would be a lot easier for me if you put these in a plastic bag before you got to the till’. I replied ‘yes, but it would be a lot harder on the environment’. He muttered and looked at me as if I had two heads. I was almost amused, but really, as you said, what an unbelievable attitude to have in 2013!

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  3. I think that Heath Food Shop needs some new staff!

    In Wales (part of the UK) shops are forced to sell plastic bags for 5 pence / 8 cents and the number used has fallen by 60-80% which is fantastic.

    I once had a similar conversation when someone tried to force a bottled water sample on me in Harris Farms. They couldn’t believe I thought Tasmanian bottled water was a bad idea. The use of plastic and unnecessary food miles just seemed so alien to them.

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    • Bag numbers apparently do fall as soon as you have to pay for them, as people are not so much apposed to the tiny cost but are actually forced to think “do I need this bag?” It just should be a standard rather than a choice of whether a shop will do it or not.

      Tassie bottled water? I’m sure it’s lovely (as everything in Tasmania is) but no…a big fat no.

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  4. So funny because in Canberra shops plastic bags are banned, and you have to supply your own or purchase heavy duty reusable bags at the check outs. Biodegradable bags can be used but for a cost of about ten cents . Everyone has squishy fabric bags tucked into their purse, or if forgotten, you see whole shopping trolleys of loose groceries as people will bag their items as they put them in the car boot where most of us since our green bags.
    We are the trial for this ban, and I heard that it will probably be rolled out across the rest of the country eventually. That will show that rude shop clerk Brydie!

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      • KInd of. They are banned from using single use non-biodegradable bags. They can sell the biodegradable bags and they can use special heavy duty (reusable) plastic bags that they also sell. It has made a difference, but not as much as I would hope. They main difference seems to be that they ask if you want a bag instead of automatically using it and that is only at the big shops. The smaller chain shops still seem to automatically use a bag (I understand they use a acceptable heavy-duty re-useable plastic bag and cover the cost of the bag instore).

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  5. Crazy! As previous comment points out in the ACT (and the NT) you have to bring your own bag or pay for a reusable plastic or cloth one. Having just come from the NT I’ve seen how “normal” it becomes to take all your bags with you and the only people who seem to have a problem with it at the checkout are the tourists who get caught out. Bring it on in the rest of the country I say. I had the opposite experience the other day in a shop here in the US where the sales assistant thanked me for putting my purchase in a bag I had brought with me.

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  6. Hi Brydie, Here in Adelaide, it’s like Canberra. You have to pay for plastic bags & people really do bring their re-useable shopping bags as a result of it, or pack into the boots of their cars from the trolley where they’ve, like me continuously, forgotten to take their shopping bags from. Its disgusting that you’d get such an ignorant comment from a health food shop assistant. I agree that that staff member deserves replacing.

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  7. Those plastic bag pushers make my blood boil too. Even when I have a bag in my hand they want to give me one, and then, the ones that really get me, some of them will throw out the refused bag if they’ve already removed it from their stack! What?! So even though the bag won’t end up in my bin, it still goes to landfill. Grrr….

    But we keep trudging on with our little greenie steps, because all of us greenies together have a fairly decent sized foot

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  8. I carry bags with me. I think the funniest/strangest place where they give me a hassle about using my own bags it at farmer’s markets. They are constantly putting things in plastic while I am holding out my cloth bags to be filled. So they try to put the plastic bags into the cloth ones!
    The last time the lady said she didn’t want my veg to get all mixed up?
    We can all just keep on trying- someday- perhaps it will be normal. Hopefully soon- before our environment is totally destroyed.

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  9. If using green bags for every grocery shop makes me “some sort of greenie” then I’ll take that moniker with pride! I use green bags every time I shop (and I’ve even left the supermarket mid-shop to retrieve them from the car on the odd occasion I’ve forgotten them). I have two reusable fold up nylon shopping bags (one large and one small) that I keep in my handbag which I use for other purchases. I must admit I’ve also received some strange looks when I’ve said “no bag thanks” and pulled out my own. Refusing plastic bags is such a simple and easy way to help the planet – I too am amazed that so many people don’t think of doing this.

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  10. Astounding for a health food shop. I have a trolley that I take to the shops and I can put all my purchases into it without a bag – except for frozen or fresh meat purchases – sometimes I pack those into plastic because of the risk of leakage! xx

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  11. Up here in Northern NSW we usually get asked if we want a bag first. As I do most of my shopping at Aldi, the question does not arise as they have never had plastic bags. I have 3 plastic containers I always take with me, along with the cool pack having 30 mins drive home. Joy

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  12. Glory Hallelujah: coming on site rather late I SO rejoiced in the comments! No; in the Southern Highlands of NSW supermarket [ex Aldi] plastic bags still are still of royal status! But if there are communications such as ours and each one of us is strong enough to say ‘no’ openly and loudly, perchance in a year or two or ten, on an exponential scale, matters will actually change 🙂 !

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  13. bags = easy. try going to coles or woollies and arguing with the deli staff about whether they can put a purchase in the shiny clean jar you brought along yourself. Scorecard? I have once talked a Coles person into doing it for me but never had luck at Woollies. Usually end up being told by the manager that it’s against health regulations. 🙂

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    • Steve you rebel, that’s awesome! It’s really not that tricky. If they weighed your container and then just weighed what ever you bought it would surely save a ridiculous amount of needles plastic. Health regulations ppfffft 🙂

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  14. I’ve had to ask others to bring plastic bags into our shop for the occasions when people ask me for a plastic bag! They seem to get a surprise when I put their goodies in a bag that has some other company’s logo. As a rule I don’t offer a bag unless the purchases are unwieldly or awkward and the person has no bag. Then they are offered a brown paper bag which I remind them is good for packed lunches, heating bread rolls in the oven (the heavyweight craftpaper bags), children’s drawings, serving as wrapping for presents, lining kitchen shelves and, if worst comes to worst, recycling. 🙂

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  15. Hearing you Brydie. I am a huge fan/user of reusable bags and I refuse plastic where ever I can. I get my groceries packed into cardboard boxes as we live in a remote area and normally do a fairly large grocery shop. The boxes are almost always useful to use again for all sorts of things. If we had our groceries solely packed into plastic bags we would literally drown in plastic. Great post.

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    • Old boxes are good, as their goods have already been delivered in the same boxes. Why more supermarkets don’t have a stash of all those boxes for people to use at the checkouts I don’t know. Not as visually pleasing? Sounds like a pretty pissy excuse.

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  16. We do the bag thing here very happily and no one has ever said anything like that to me in a shop, but I live in a city where we sort our domestic refuse into plastics, glass, tetrapaks cardboard, food waste etc for doorstep collection and there is a different attitude maybe. The thing about recycling is that it has to be part of the whole mindset. We have ‘bags for life’ in the supermarket, heavier duty bags with sturdy handles that you pay maybe 10p for and then if it breaks or wears out then the store will replace it and recycle the old one for you. Also stores like my local veg shop will charge you a plastic bag, but give you for free a cardboard box (the sort the produce has come in from the market) to take your purchases home. So if the shops and the city refuse system actively encourage you to recycle, reuse etc your carriers then it works! No one thinks it’s odd to go with your own bags, jute, plastic, string. I would say loads of people do it now locally. You also get money back for using your own bags, a discount incentive, carrot not stick!

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    • same in the US! At least two big chain supermarkets give you 5c off your grocery bill for each reusable bag you provide.

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  17. I’m currently living in Nairobi, Kenya and experience this same plastic bag battle here. Reusable shopping bags are available in the supermarket but I rarely see anyone with one. Each fruit and vegetable purchase needs to be weighed in the fruit and veggie section and so I need to stay alert else I find my bananas, my avocados or any other purchase quickly lumped into a plastic bag. I need to quickly reassure that putting the barcode sticker on the fruit/vegetable will be fine. I’m stoked for Tasmania and hope the ruling will soon be brought in for my home state QLD. I remember being a astounded when traveling in Europe nearly 10 years ago that a shop would charge for its bags – fortunately my thinking has changed. I’m a strong advocate now of such a policy!

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    • Pam Girl, thanks for taking the time to comment. I remember the same thing from being in Europe a long time ago, that all the super markets were charging with their big durable bags, and that was just it. While some businesses here have done that (recently Target, Best and Less come to mind) the duopoly supermarkets we have should be leading this…and years ago!

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  18. The ‘charge for a plastic bag’ phenomenon seems to have died out here in Melbourne, at least in the various stores I visit regularly around the town. The only store not to provide plastic bags is Aldi, although they do have strong bags to buy if you come without. They offer cut up cardboard boxes and/or lids to use. I usually bring my own shopping trolley or smaller bag for lighter loads. I’ll be watching QandA tonight; thought his name sounded familiar. BTW, keep saying ‘no plastic bag’ please even ‘tho you may feel you sound like a cracked record; eventually it will sink in; however, why not bring your own bag and shove it under their noses at the checkout, very quickly, like I do!! I never get tired of doing that! LOL. 😉
    Love the green frog pic and the wisteria.

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  19. I’m not sure where I read it, but I once saw something rather insightful about the plastic spoon. When you buy a coffee 9 times out of 10 you are given a plastic spoon on the side of your plate. It takes millions of years to produce the oil to make that spoon and it is used for 5 secs to stir a coffee then thrown in the bin!!!! My bag is full of little plastic spoons that I just can’t throw away! I re-use them over and over again at every opportunity. If you say “no spoon please” you get the strangest looks, and the looks become incredulous when I whip out a spoon from my handbag! All we can do is do our little bit and hope it catches on before it’s too late….

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  20. A great post! Love the photos, especially the bee with the wisteria. Mine has just finished blooming.
    Sometimes these issues can seem so overwhelming, that nothing we do can or will make a difference. The truth is that every little bit helps. “Think globally, act locally” is still true today.

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  21. I too am shocked by the amount of people that still use plastic bags. I have to bite my tongue if I hear people ask for one for a couple of items, I get so angry with them! I will go to any extent to avoid them – shoving groceries in my large hand bag if I forget my shopping bags. It helps to have a few kids too. They can help carry individual items to the car. I’ve noticed that they automatically say NO to plastic bags now too at the ages of six, seven and ten.

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  22. That comment would have sat with me for weeks also Brydie. Strange?! Most of the time I’m positive and enthusiastic about all the good I see – but those moments when I open my eyes to notice whats happening in the broader community – I feel nothing but sadness and frustration.

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  23. How sad that being ‘a greenie’ should still be seen as weird. I think that over here in the UK, it’s become much more ‘acceptable’ to say no to the plastic bags – I’ve come across quite a few places in England where they’re charging something like 2p for a bag, as they do in Wales, and many shops ask ‘Would you like a bag?’ even if they’re free – it does make people stop and think. I usually have a small rucksack or big shopping bag with me when I’m out in town and just put everything in there – I don’t know if it’s just round here (Yorkshire) but no-one bats an eyelid when I throw everything in together.

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  24. Hello dear lady; long time no see! Oh I do like this post Brydie. It’s encouraging to hear your readers are supportive and dismayed at the modern day ignorance of the shopkeeper. Sigh! I sense the ‘worry’ you have about the kind of world you’re leaving to your children. Me too – I think friends think I’m joking when I say “I don’t want grandchildren” – but I really don’t. It’s terrifying the way of the world. Plastic bags aside, my pet hate is aluminium foil. Hubby has drummed it into me that it’s not biodegradable and really really bad in the soil. When I watch cooking shows where they literally rip metres of the stuff to cover a dish – I go NUTS – Jamie Oliver is disappointingly one of those cooks. Gosh Brydie I’m sure everyone could write pages about how to reduce their carbon footprint on the earth. I feel good about one thing – I’m one very happy Prius driver – but that’s a whole other topic. Mariana xx

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  25. Ah, i am hearing you girl! I always think I have gotten used to the ‘greenie’ tag …but it still stings a bit because in our regional area it is still pretty much used as a label for some one a bit different and weird.. I have to say I am proud to be a greenie though and I so , so loved that you walked out of the shop- what a statement. I am enjoying the use of our local organic grocer now after experiences like yours …where everything is put in paper bags and boxes ( the people even carry the box out to the car like in the 1950’s!) . If you are ever in Maitland…go and check out ‘Organic Feast ‘ , you will absolutely love it.

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  26. I’m with you Greenie. Standig next to you saying no to bags. I’m hoping your experience was a one-off and that most people we meet will completely understand the no thanks to bags.

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  27. What a horrifying experience. Having just returned from the NT, we were amazed (and impressed) that they don’t use free plastic bags anywhere. If you want plastic, you buy a sturdy reusable one at the supermarket. Other places tend to use paper. I would love to know, though, what you use to line your bins?! We use cloth shopping bags mostly but every now and then leave them at home to get (free) plastic ones for our bin liners. I suppose they must make better plastic options for bin liners if you buy them…perhaps I should look (I’m clinging to poor student tendencies from 3 years ago, but probably can fork out for bin liners these days!).

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