Environmentally Challenged: When Doing Good for the Planet Isn't Appreciated

Mama Greenest hits a snag when using reusable bags at the self-help checkout lane in the grocery store



A very irritating thing happened to me in the grocery store this weekend. I had stopped to pick up a handful (or bagful, as it were) of stuff and was checking out in one of the self-help lanes when a store employee came over and started putting my things in plastic bags. I pointed out to him that I had a reusable bag and so he stopped and walked away, leaving nine or ten (small) items in four plastic bags.

I finished checking myself out and as I went down to un-bag my groceries I turned to the woman directly behind me, who had a cart piled high with stuff, and asked if she would use my unwanted plastic bags. She stared at me as though I had just asked her to pay for my toilet paper and answered incredulously “No.” She watched me as I began to transfer my purchases into my canvas bag and then snapped, “Why don’t you just put the plastic bags into your big bag?” Now, maybe I’m just a smug hippie, but it seems pretty darn obvious that if I bring my own bags it’s because I don’t want to take the ones from the store. I politely told her as much (minus the smug part) and finished my re-bagging. She went to wait in another lane.

Now, excuse me for a moment while I dust off my soap box: At this point in our climate crisis I want so badly to believe that people are paying attention and making different choices. Every day presents us with dozens of opportunities to minimize our impact, from where we choose to get our food to what we choose to throw away. We cannot afford to be frivolous and wasteful; it’s literally becoming a life or death situation. I spend so much time trying to remind my daughter that it’s important to reuse things, to not let the faucet run, to not waste food or paper. All the little things is what will make the biggest difference in the end. It wasn’t so much that the woman didn’t want to reuse the bags — though that alone does offend my inner smug hippie — but that she thought what I was doing was a waste of time. Doesn’t inspire a tremendous amount of hope. Of course, it could just be the universe telling me it’s time to stop shopping at that store so I can start my summertime local challenge. More on that next week... 

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One mom's plan to raise a kid — without raising greenhouse gases

About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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