You know what I love? Standing in my local Woolworth’s car park and seeing people with trolleys full of re-usable bags, people clutching re-usable bags under their arms, and people balancing a loaf of bread, milk, a hand of bananas and a BBQ chicken in one hand while rummaging in their pocket for keys with the other. I genuinely feel happy while watching all this, and why? Because Australia’s two biggest supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, have just banned single use shopping bags.
You know what I don’t love? People bitching and moaning because they now have to a) buy bags, b) remember to bring the bags they already have, or c) precariously balance 25 items in their arms while determinedly refusing to buy bags because once they were free. I definitely don’t love people abusing and even attacking checkout operators because they can no longer get a bag for free.
If we struggle to transition from a single-use plastic culture, which is what I believe we’re doing, then how on earth will we transition from a fossil fuelled society to a renewable energy powered one?
People, we can do hard things. We can do easy things too, which is what this is.
It’s Plastic Free July, which for me is a good time to build on the progress I made last year and catch up in the areas I’ve slipped. Woolies removing single use bags from circulation is a huge help – no more bags! I’ve just been using those thick brown paper bags for my rubbish bags. I bought some calico fridge bags last year to store my vegies in, and we use containers and beeswax wraps to store food. I have three portable coffee cups, and forget straws and balloons – we are divorced with no chance of reconciliation.
Our family’s biggest source of plastics though, is the plastic our food comes wrapped in – and this is more of an intractable issue. Our closest bulk foods store is an hour away, which doesn’t make it a very sustainable option. There are little steps we can do here though. We can take containers to the deli or the butcher, and calico bags to the bakery. We can buy fruit and vegetables loose, and make deliberate choices to minimise packaging.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
We are already changing the world. I was chatting to a power plant manager the other day – I’m lucky to get to talk to all sorts of people through my job who have different points of view and different experiences. Living in a bubble where we constantly preach to the converted has limited effectiveness – and who knows, we may even learn something!
Anyway, this power plant manager, a man in his 50s who has been working in power plants for 30 years, told me he sees the transition to renewable energy sources as a given, and that he hopes he’s around to see it.
I do too.
He wishes government would provide certainty and that the fossil fuel industry would move faster, although while there is money to be made by pulling resources out of the ground, then he supposes that’s what they will keep doing.
I reckon so too. Who would have thought that a power plant manager and I would have so much in common?
So let’s not wait for change to come from the top. The government (and corporations) always follows its people, not the other way around. Woolies and Coles didn’t ban the bag for the fun of it, or even because they’re good corporate citizens, (although sure, as they control nearly 70% of the supermarket industry in this country, it’s not a big financial risk for them, and they may even make money out of it).
The point is, they did it because their research told them it was more damaging to their brand to keep the status quo than to change.
It works. Let`s keep doing our bit. Never give up, even when it seems hopeless.
As Dorothy Day said, “How can we be hopeless? There is too much work to be done.”