Monday, May 24, 2010

Paper vs Plastic Update

There was an article in the New York Times today regarding Paper vs. Plastic; a NYT update I suppose as they have given coverage to the issue over time, as they should. Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a tax on plastic bags; smart; if you really want people to pay attention, hit them in the pocketbook. You can read the NYT article HERE.

The highlights of the article are that in the few California cities that have banned plastic bags, such as San Francisco, many shoppers have moved towards paper bags offered by retailers instead of plastic, and reusable bags; and that efforts are now under way to eliminate the paper bags. I don't fully understand why stores feel they must offer a bag at all; in France they just don't offer one, and people caught on right away. Would it offend shoppers to hand them their items without a bag? Would they figure it out next time? Perhaps. One of my peeves is people who proudly say "we resuse our plastic bags." I can give you studies that show that reusing those plastic bags, including the Trader Joe's ones, lead to mold and other bacterial buildup; nothing is better than a washable reusable bag; the baskets are washable and hygienic as well.

I used to beat the drum that we should be more European, and use baskets and reusable cloth bags, but of course we are not in Europe. In France they don't offer a bag and that settles it pretty fast, but can we get away with that here? This is a larger issue, but let me ask that when you look our your living room "Grand Salon" window, do you see a view such as this:

No, we are not in Europe, and we are also generally not aware of the destination of our household waste; it disappears beyond our door. My friend Rachel lives just outside of Beaune, and they have a dechetterie for the town, as most towns in France. That's the Dump; and everyone is aware of what goes in there and who is depositing it. You bury your compost at home, you burn certain waste, and you do not take home any more product than you need. When you buy eggs, you bring back the same egg crate from the last time. Merchants give you little or no packaging; you don't get a bag for every purchase at every store; otherwise, the dechetterie takes up way too much space. We are so spoiled in places like urban highrises, the trash of any sort goes anonymously down the trash chute, to become a wall of black bags by trash day, filled with who knows what. We pretend to ignore it, but it's there. In New York, the household trash is sent to other states; in the US most of our recycled plastic is exported to China. What is wrong with this picture????

This is the outdoor part of the market around the corner from our house in Beaune: Saturday is the "big" market and Wednesday is the smaller market, to get you through the week. The best vendors from the region come here on Saturday; it's all organic, it's local, it's as fresh as can be; it's one of the best markets in France, to me.
Even if I have to go to the grocery store, Casino, there is little packaging and I only buy what we will eat in the next day or two; here is my basket on the way back from Casino; this is the inspiration for the lined Aix basket, here in natural linen; my current stock is lined in cotton but soon will be lined in flaxen linen; that's our front door behind, which I wax and clean and polish with care when we are in residence;
Even at Casino, everything is fresh; look at this display in the produce section; I will post on it later; note that the carrots are shown in a regional basket.
We aren't in Europe, and we can't be held to their standards, but it is my sincere hope that we all try to be conscious of our consumption and waste, and try to consume locally. I got an email alert that someone special received her baskets today, and I am on edge to know what she thinks of them....!!! There is little time left in the giveaway, I hope everyone will enter!!

1 comment:

  1. When I first moved to Crete I can't stress how much of a spoiled American I was. I complained about EVERYTHING. I mean I actually had to hang my clothes out to dry after the washing machine was finished. Sheesh! Then one Monday I spied my 85 year old neighbor, Sophia, building a small fire over which she proceeded to place a large cauldron filled with water. For the next few hours she washed and scrubbed her clothes and linens then hung them out to dry. I stopped whining and proceeded to have the grandest 4 years of my life.
    I was shocked and overwhelmed when I moved back to the states as I had become so accustomed to recycling almost everything.
    We need to change. Plastic will slowly swallow up our oceans and our earth.
    Our Ikea here has a strict "No bag" policy. People have accepted it. Once the big cities get on board with it, it is only a matter of time.

    Keep fighting the good fight.