Coming from Europe where many stores require you to pay extra for plastic grocery bags, it has been quite a surprise moving to a country where packaging is given to you like confetti thrown at a wedding.
Here in America cashiers have the habit of automatically giving you as many disposable plastic grocery bags as possible — but you can stop them.
Skip the Disposable Plastic Cutlery and the Paper Napkins, Too
I get fifteen paper napkins when I really need one. Double bagging the disposable plastic grocery bags seems to be the norm. I get enough plastic cutlery to feed a small class. and the items I buy are packaged in so much extra packaging to hold it securely in place. This seems to be the cultural norm in the US. So, I embarked on an experiment to see how the norm can be changed.
Bring Your Own Reusable Cloth Shopping Bag
When purchasing a box of noodles in Grand Central Terminal last week, I quickly stated to cashier, “I don’t need a bag. I brought my own”. (You have to be quick as they bag at lightning speed).
The man then quickly grabbed some plastic knives and forks so I jumped in and said, “I don’t need them, either. I have cutlery in the office”. He stopped and then put the cutlery back.
By the time he reached for the paper napkins, he hesitated, paused, and then looked at me and said, “Do you need any napkins as well, ma’am?”. I then smiled and said, “Yes sir, just one, please.”
A great conversation then ensued about disposable plastic grocery sacks and waste. He told me that he agreed there was a lot of waste in the U.S. and I informed him of a few facts.
The next time you’re in a store and the cashier tries to load you up without thinking, start a conversation yourself.
Say No to Disposable Plastic Grocery Bags Three Times Each Day
We eat 3 times a day. This represents 3 opportunities a day to educate someone about packaging waste. Tell your friends and family to say “no” to disposable plastic bags and paper napkins when they purchase food. Together, we can change the cultural norm of the thoughtless giveaway of packaging to those times when only absolutely necessary.