Coming from Europe where many stores require you to pay extra for plastic 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 giving you as much unnecessary packaging as possible before you can stop them.
I receive fifteen napkins when I really need one; double bagging seems to be the norm; I get enough plastic cutlery to feed a small class; and the items I buy are then embellished with extra packaging to hold it securely in place. This seems to be the cultural norm in the US and I have therefore embarked on an experiment to see how the norm can be changed.
Here’s the experiment:
When purchasing a box of noodles in Grand Central last week, I quickly stated to cashier, “I don’t need a bag”. (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, I have cutlery in the office”. He stopped and then put the cutlery back.
By the time he reached for the napkins, he hesitated, paused, and then looked at me and said, “Do you need any napkins as well, maam?”. I then smiled and said, “Yes sir, just one, please.”
A great conversation then ensued about packaging 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.
Think of the possibilities…
We eat 3 times a day. This represents 3 opportunities a day to educate someone about waste. Tell your friends and family to say “no” to plastic bags and 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.