No need to panic – you can still get your groceries in a free plastic bag in the state of California. The Senate killed the bill that would have banned them. The bill was designed to stop people from using and then tossing single-use bags without thinking twice about the repercussions: picture islands of plastic floating in the sea. You’ve seen the news reports, I’m sure.  Now, with that picture in your mind, it’s time to realize the choice is ours. We don’t have to rely on a “nanny state” to tell us what to do. We can look at the facts and act according to what we feel is important.

As I’ve written in blogs before, I try to do my part to protect the environment. I have canvas bags in the car and use them often. But not all the time. As I write this, I’m eating a salad – out of a plastic bowl with a plastic fork from my favorite sandwich shop. And yes, I carried it out of the shop in a plastic bag. I can’t help but feel guilty about it and can only hope my constant recycling at home helps ‘cancel out’ my impact tonight on the environment.

How far am I willing to go for my commitment to recycling? I could have brought the ceramic bowl I keep at my desk, for a take-out order. But it’s frankly too small, the store might have a health code policy against it, and if not, I just know it would spill in the car on the way back to the station. These things happen to me all the time.

Now I’m not thrilled with the idea of a “nanny state” but I understand human nature and sometimes, frankly, we could use a little noodging. Like me, many of us have good intentions, but our love of convenience wins more often.

In philosophy, doing something proactive, like banning a potential pollutant, would be considered doing something for “the greater good”. But it also requires overriding some personal freedoms. That is clearly one big reason this bill didn’t become law: many feel the rights and freedoms of California citizens are under attack and the “greater good” is open to debate and manipulation.

So here’s what I plan to do. First, I’ll try to remember what volunteers for an environmental group called Surfrider did: picked up more than 70,000 of these bags on California beaches in just one day. I also plan to share the fact that we Californians use more than 19 million plastic bags per year.  My plan is to teach my children that lesson, and point out the fact that plastic is made from oil.  19 million bags require 8 million barrels of oil to manufacture. The very least I can do is remember to bring my canvas bag into the store when I buy a salad, and then bring home my plastic salad container to be recycled. No new law required.

 
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