Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I stopped by one of Omaha's largest consignment sales twice last week -- on opening day and again on the final day when most items are half off. Basically, they are giant garage sales filled with nothing but children's things.

They're generally great.

This year was no exception. On Saturday, for example, I got 17 articles of clothing for $25. Great.

So I brought one of my reusable bags to the sale to put items in as I went along, and when I checked out I assumed I could put my things back in there after the price tags had been removed.

Two junior high-age girls were helping me and when one reached for a plastic bag, I said, "Oh, I've got my own bag."

She sort of paused and looked at her friend and then down at the plastic bag in her hand.

"I think we have to use this bag," she said.


No, that's ridiculous, I thought.

So I said, "Well, I'd really rather use my own bag."

And finally they gave in, warning me they'd have to tie the neon green ribbon to the handles of my bag then to prove I'd paid.

No problem, I said. And then I added, "I'm trying to save the environment by using my own bags."

I smiled.

And they just looked at me, blankly.



Jonathan said...

I will agree; this is a point where there is a great deal of difference between both ends of the spectrum right now. In my town in New Hampshire there is no recycling (unless you want to drive to a recycling center out of town). On the other hand, only 85 miles away where I work in Cambridge, MA there are multiple recycling bins in the office. Also, at both Whole Foods Market grocery stores nearby eliminated non-durable plastic bags (except for fresh flowers I think) and in addition to the expected recycling bins they even have bins for "compost" (this really surprised me).

I guess I can understand your situation because throwing stuff into neon ribbon marked non-durable plastic bags is a cheap solution for that event/place to sell a bunch of children's toys. I think it often comes down to economics; I telecommute a couple of days per week and save $20+ each day. Now if we could show an economic benefit to not using so much "throwaway" stuff maybe we can make some progress...

bryan said...

ah, welcome to suburban Omaha, where time-pressed parents just throw stuff away, because recycling takes five seconds longer. Glass? Oh, the city doesn't take it -- throw it away. Pop cans? The bin is all the way in the garage, and that's a long walk. Pitch it.

Please. We have a bin in the garage for glass. It gets emptied once a month. It's really easy. It's irresponsible to not do it.

Anonymous said...

That is troubling. So many people just don't get it, and yeah, they're young, but when I was that age I knew it was better to use reusable bags. I'm glad you stuck to your convictions and insisted (nicely) that you wanted to use your own bag. The more commonplace this becomes, the more other people similar to those two teen girls might not find it so strange. It's such an easy thing to do, I don't see why more people aren't doing it.

At the food co-op I go to, they have a borrow-a-bag system, so if you forget to bring your own bag or don't have one, you can borrow one or two and bring them back next time you go shopping there. That probably wouldn't work as well for big chain stores, like Super Wal-Marts, but it works really well for the co-op.

Katie said...

I gave my mom some stylist shopping totes last Christmas as part of her gift. She uses them in Fremont all the time and says that she almost always gets strange looks and comments. Lately, though, folks have started asking her where she got them. Progress!

Ashley said...

WOW. Funny, but frustrating!

chris said...

I'll keep working on those junior-high kids. I get after them all the time to recycle.

Sometimes you have to understand their brains. Someone told them, "Use ONLY these bags." And that's all their teenage brains can handle. So you throw them a curve-ball and they get all confused. Eventually they'll get it.