No Bag Please! Earth Day & Every Day

In a flash, the cashier had placed the collander into a large plastic bag. "I don't need a bag, I can carry that," I said.

"Oh, I've already used it, it's easier to just leave it in the bag," came the response. I started wondering, how many bags get wasted needlessly based on this kind of response?  Since then, I've been waging a little individual campaign, trying to cut down on the number of bags used on my behalf and occasionally encouraging stores to cut down on the bags they use.

I figure it would be a good Earth Day project to get more serious about this and launch a campaign to prevent 1 million disposable shopping bags from being needlessly used in the next year.  There are three simple actions involved in this campaign--and I invite you to officially join me over on the related "Save 1 million+ bags" Facebook cause page I set up.  1)  If you are purchasing items that you can easily carry, say "No bag, please."  Of course, bringing re-usable bags to the store is a great way to cut back on disposable bag waste.

2) Encourage companies to to join the campaign by committing to make no bags the default option for small purchases.  I ask them to simply educate their staff on the role they can play in helping the environment by working with customers to reduce disposable bag usage.  And to establish a norm of having their cashiers say something like "Can you manage without a bag?" when a couple of easily carried items are purchased.

3) Ask individuals in your network to join.  Ask them to join the cause on Facebook, and if you're Tweeting about it or doing a Foursquare check-in, please use the hashtag #nobagpls. Please add a comment here or on Facebook to let me know of any companies that commit to supporting the campaign.

SCI is not an environmental organization, so why launch this campaign?   Well, this isn't a major organizational initiative to be sure, more of a personal campaign.  But there are some important connections to our work:

*We are all about leveraging social networks for social impact. At SCI, we create change by training and supporting people to be effective "Social Capitalists"--that is, people with the ability to work with those in their social networks and community to make a difference.  This campaign seems like a good opportunity to demonstrate and experiment with ways of effectively make a difference.

*Paper or plastic, 1 million less bags used would be a good thing.  While there is actually some debate online about the merits of paper vs. plastic bags (though I suspect advocates of the latter might be tied to the plastic industry), it seems pretty clear that cutting down on disposable bag use would be a good thing.  I'll assume you agree, but if you want more info on the subject, here is a Greenfeet blog post that breaks down the negative impact of both paper and plastic bags. 

*Small change matters. OK, I must say the recent Boston Globe article subtitled "Why Tweets Won't Save the Planet" motivated me to write about this.  I won't get into a complete counter-argument here now, but let me say I come down heavily on the side that little changes we make as individuals can make a difference, including leveraging our power as consumers. Granted, cutting down disposable bags by 1 million or more isn't going to move the needle on global warming.  But first, one needs to appreciate the intrinsic value of small steps.  More importantly, I believe when we become more conscious of our use of resources in small, daily interactions; we are more likely to also be mindful of the issues when voting.  Thus, individual & network action on a small thing like saving bags can help effect long-term policy change both in government and corporations.  

OK, enough writing, let the campaign begin.  I hope others will join me & add their own innovations to this effort! Please share your experiences and ideas here and/or on the Causes page.