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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Seattle Ain’t Green

posted by on November 13 at 8:49 AM

Seattle’s yellow—afraid to put action behind all those lovely green words. London is about to ban plastic shopping bags or tax them out of existence.

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I am just back from Ireland and they do NOT give bags in the stores. If you forgot and need one they charge you for it. I think it's a brilliant way to cut way way back on the need for the damn plastic ones. We should be doing that.

Posted by El Vee | November 13, 2007 9:06 AM

Ban ban ban ban,
Ban ban ban ban,
Ban ban BAN ban BAN ban ban ban,

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 13, 2007 9:13 AM

We never leave the house to buy our organic vegetables at the local farmers' market without our canvas bags. And we walk to the market, too. While singing songs about peace and the Earth Mother.

Posted by Michigan Matt | November 13, 2007 9:18 AM

PCC has banned them. Shop there.

Posted by DOUG. | November 13, 2007 9:27 AM

Last time I was in Holland, they also do not offer bags at grocery stores. They charge extra if you ask for one.

This seems like a simple way to drastically reduce plastic bags if they charged for them. How often would you ask for a bag if they tacked on an extra quarter to you purchase every time?

Posted by SDA in SEA | November 13, 2007 9:29 AM

To do this in Seattle, though, first we have to have a series of community meetings, try to build consensus, argue with the neighborhoods, discuss it in endless, empty council meetings, then vote on it, then vote on a referendum to override the vote, then vote again, then wait to see if the Supreme Court will overturn the vote. We've proven time and again that we're not willing to take any actual innovative leadership on, well, anything, instead choosing a slow and painful death through group consensus building, buried under a mountain of plastic bags. Long live the Seattle process.

Posted by Gutless Wonder | November 13, 2007 9:30 AM

BTBA - ban the bags already

Posted by keen for green | November 13, 2007 9:32 AM

banning plastic shopping bags is not as green as it sounds. though oil is used to make the plastic, the bags are actually more recyclable and eco friendly than paper bags. everyone seems to forget that paper bags come from trees. if we really want to be green, we have to ban bags altogether and have everyone bring reusable canvas bags. london's proposed ban on plastic bags is a weak and ineffectual step

Posted by maria | November 13, 2007 9:53 AM

if you ban plastic bags, what do i put my garbage & dog shit in? plastic bags i buy from the store?

ban styrofoam clamshells for carry out.

Posted by max solomon | November 13, 2007 9:58 AM

in amsterdam, you bring a cloth bag of your own, buy one of their cloth bags, or get the fuck out of their store.

Posted by dirty girl | November 13, 2007 10:16 AM

I recently read a bit on this topic. The US uses about 12 million barrels of oil per year to make plastic bags. Sounds like a lot. However, the US uses about 9 million barrels of gasoline per day. Getting everyone to drive just 1% less would save over 32 million barrels per year.

Comparisons with Europe may be misleading, as it's my impression that it's always been more common for people there to use their own shopping bags.

Posted by GeoGreg | November 13, 2007 10:16 AM

in amsterdam, you bring a cloth bag of your own, buy one of their cloth bags, or get the fuck out of their store.

Posted by dirty girl | November 13, 2007 10:19 AM

Is it really the best process to pick through every single consumer item and ban them one by one? Wouldn't it make far more sense to just raise the cost of waste and pollution, and then let people figure it out from there?

Posted by elenchos | November 13, 2007 10:22 AM

Paper bags consume more energy to make so they aren't the answer either.

I recently purchased these bags:

They're really small, so I've put on in all my purses/bags so I don't forget them. I bought them over a month ago and only once did I have to use in-store bags since.

Posted by la | November 13, 2007 10:29 AM

Yeah, every place is better than Seattle, but sadly Seattle is where all of you are stuck. Suck it up.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | November 13, 2007 10:33 AM

Yeah, what would happen to the dog shit picker-uppers? Do we really want dog shit in America's trash cans, un-protected by plastic?

Posted by Katelyn | November 13, 2007 10:52 AM

Dogs should wear cloth diapers.

Posted by DOUG. | November 13, 2007 11:03 AM

Plastic bags made from recycled plastics and reused are not bad.

The best choice is those cloth bags you reuse. But I'm too lazy.

At least half of the time I walk my groceries home, or if I have a car, it's on my way, tho.

Paper bags can also be made from recycled paper content.

Locally produced bags are the next best choice, especially if you reuse them sometimes, after those cloth bags.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 13, 2007 11:21 AM

@8: Yes, paper bags come from trees, but those trees are cut down to make 2x4s. The paper comes from leftover sawdust and cuttings. Paper bags may not be as green as cloth bags, but it's not like we're laying waste to forests to produce them, either.

Concerning plastic bags: We definitely need to reduce the number of plastic bags we use. I don't think banning them is the right idea, but encouraging the use of cloth bags (made of hemp from South Dakota?) is cheap, simple to implement, and relatively painless for consumers.

Ikea already charges about 5 cents per plastic bag you use; they also sell sturdier, reusable plastic bags for 50 cents each. The Red Apple on Beacon Hill has reusable nylon bags for $1 apiece, and they take 5 cents off your bill every time you use them.

The only issue I have with using my cloth bags is forgetting to bring them. But it sure is an easy way to cut down on trash.

Posted by Greg | November 13, 2007 11:41 AM

We reuse almost all of our plastic bags, to line our garbage can, and almost all of our paper bags, to line our food-waste can (which goes in the yard-waste bin).

If neither of these are available, we'll have to buy them separately. Net gain: zero.

Posted by Fnarf | November 13, 2007 12:13 PM

It's not just the energy it takes to create them, or their recyclability (that a word?); but the fact that they make very, very bad litter. SF recently banned them (but with so many loopholes, they'll be around a while longer), but they are floating everywhere in town.

Not to mention there's a continent-sized floating trash-island in the middle of the pacific that doesn't need anymore help getting bigger.

Posted by Dougsf | November 13, 2007 1:06 PM

Am I the only person in Seattle who has never thought of Seattle as even close to being green? Have you SEEN the number of SOV that are out driving around? And we should be worried about plastic bags?

#11 is right on with his stats. Worry about the big problem of too many damn cars on the roads.

Posted by Just Me | November 13, 2007 1:07 PM

When I lived in Ireland and England, respectively, everyone seemed really well pleased with the effects the bans had. The only boo thing was my first time in a London store when I didn't know about the ban.

Posted by Kat | November 13, 2007 1:08 PM

I think @6's point has been made. In the search for the perfect answer with no drawbacks, nothing ever gets done here. Can't even agree on something as stupid as plastic bags.

Posted by left coast | November 13, 2007 2:10 PM

@11 & 22,

As left coast points out, there is no one perfect answer to reducing landfills and energy use. Just because cars burn more oil doesn't mean we shouldn't wait till that problem's fixed before we start solving another. What a useless attitude!

But as long as we're talking about reducing plastic use, we should think about plastic water bottles, too. The rate we're going through them just isn't sustainable.

We need to slow the fuck down with our consumption habits on every front. And stop whining about it, while we're at it.

Posted by Irena | November 13, 2007 2:37 PM

I think @20 had it right on the money.

Besides think of all the dogs.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 13, 2007 2:52 PM

The trees cut down to make paper bags are all grown on tree farms. Using plastic is like eating only meat because you don't want people to cut down wheat. The problem with plastic bags isn't the oil, its that they never go away. The wind blows them all over and they last forever. At least paper stops blowing around after one or two rains. Reusable bags are better, even better, buy less stuff. Most people are overweight.

Posted by Mike | November 13, 2007 3:10 PM

You can't ban plastic bags! That violates consumer choice, the central tenant of democracy!!!1!

Fuck you, consumer libertarians, and fuck your consumer freedom. As a citizen of the planet earth, I don't grant you the right to choose. Use reusable bags, bitches, or fucking die.

Posted by Jay | November 13, 2007 4:52 PM

Speaking of dogs, how much landfill space is taken up with individually plastic-wrapped dog turds that will last forever, thanks to our upside-down culture?

Posted by Peter | November 13, 2007 5:51 PM

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