As one who quietly flies an ecofreak-flag, I’m always looking for new ways to save money, reduce my personal impact on the planet, and annoy my husband. I drive a teeny-tiny car and live in a teeny-tiny house. I replaced most of the lightbulbs in my home with the cute lil’ piggytail ones. I don’t eat meat. I recycle. I compost. I reuse my bathtowel, even when a little ass gets on it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do have my vices. I like to lay on the couch picking chocolate chip cookie dough bits from my ice cream while watching I Love New York. I enjoy a good bottle or three of wine. I even wear leather. (In the magical world in which I live, this leather comes from hamburgers that will be made for Wendy’s regardless of my own meat-free diet, so I have no ethical problems with this arrangement.)
But still. If there is a tree in the vicinity, I’ll be hugging it. Environmental charities filed me in their “Sucker” folder years ago. Envelope decorated with wide-eyed woodland creatures begging, “Please, don’t forget us?” F#ck it. Where’s my wallet. Photo essay on sea turtles getting tangled in fishing nets and drowning? If I cut you a check, will you make it stop?
Ding-dong. Who’s at the door, you ask? Why, it’s Betty White and Jane Goodall, and they’re both openly weeping! Contact American Express and ask them to extend my credit line. This could get ugly.
Anyway, I have many, many “incentives” from the environmental groups I support. (At last count, this came to about ten groups.) Some of these incentives are canvas tote bags, which I mainly use to cart Daisy’s stuff around. It recently occurred to me that I could bring these to the grocery store and eliminate the need to build my own personal arsenal of plastic bags that could burst from my closet and smother me in my sleep during a windy night.
This weekend we began to hear an echo when we opened the fridge. The moment of truth had arrived: We needed to go grocery shopping. Would I bring the four canvas totes with me to the grocery store and risk looking like a hippie? The forces in favor of conformity (paper or plastic?) were strong. I’m not one to rock the superficial boat. I’m a closet, checkbook activist. I’m not a “Bring Her Own Bags to the Store” environmentalist. Or am I?
Let’s read on to find out…
I told Jason of my bag-replacement plans as we were about to leave.
He sighed and gently suggested, “Maybe you should just go alone.” His wife’s environmental crusade weighed heavily on his shoulders. Why couldn’t she just eat meat and sign up for TruGreen Chemlawn service like the rest of the world? Life would be so much simpler!
I chose my response carefully. “If you stay home, you won’t get any treats.” I affected an air of nonchalance. (Treats = anything not from the natural foods aisle.)
He sighed again, still skeptical of my little project, but headed to the car: my dear, dutiful spouse. So easily bought with a tub of Blue Bunny Take 5 ice cream.
At the store, the tension mounted. My four totes seemed to scream from the cart: “hey, look! A Hippie! Get her!”
(Actually, what they more likely shouted was, “Hey look, an Oprah fanatic!” Because wouldn’t you know it? A few days before I actually bring my canvas totes to the store for the first time to cut down on the plastic bag tsunami, Oprah told millions to do just that on her Green Living show. Only she recommends using the official Oprah tote.)
But I digress. As our cart filled, my heart started to pound. We were approaching the check-out lane. My store is notorious for chatty and observant checkers. Would they snicker at the goofy hippie and her canvas totes from The Wilderness Society and Natural Resources Defense Council?
Casually, I began to load my purchases on the conveyer belt.
And then…the question. The inevitable question finally arrived: “Paper or plastic?”
My head almost exploded. But somehow, I held it together. “Actually,” I said, breezily handing my totes over, “Could you use these four bags, and when they’re filled, go with paper?”
The bagger grinned. “Sure!” Hippie, he seemed to be thinking.
Jason hung behind me, nervous. Time stretched on as the bagger fumbled with my totes. “Huh,” the checker said, examining my bag of cheddar veggie crisps. “I’m glad we got these back in stock.”
“Me too,” I said, lamely. Let’s get a move on, Chatty Chad. Thank god I wasn’t buying any tofu. Finally, FINALLY, the last of the items had been rung, my checking account lightened, and the transaction completed. All four totes were bursting at the seams (literally). The bagger did have to use one paper bag, but I was thrilled with the outcome. Copps, I salute your respect for the customer. This week, anyway.
So Happy Earth Day-Week from me, my filthy, green, bell-shaped jacket, and my compost tumbler. No picture because it's raining today. You'll just have to use your imagination.
PS: I have also been experimenting with unplugging many of my energy-vampire appliances when not in use. A fun thing that happened when I turned off the powerstrip below my computer was that I "accidentally" cut Jason off during an X-Box game. Ooops! Sorry honey!
In closing, please enjoy these completely unrelated but complimentary photographs of a squirrel wearing a plastic easter egg helmet.