November 20 2008 | Rise Above Plastics,
by scott harrison
Paper, plastic...or did you bring your Turtle Bag today?
True-life story, ghost-posted for author Anna Donlin
of West LA / Malibu Surfrider chapter (& Brazil) fame.
While waiting for my coffee at the Bristol Farms in Manhattan Beach recently, one of the store’s grocery checkout ladies came by to say hello to the barrista that was serving me. “Galveston is gone.” said the checkout lady after they exchanged hellos. She had just returned from visiting family in Texas after the recent tropical storm had hit there. Being curious, I joined their conversation.
The checkout lady noticed that I’d brought my own ceramic mug, which changed the conversation to plastics. I mentioned that the take out cup lids, as extruded styrene (Styrofoam), were not recyclable, and that me bringing my own cup was a way that I could reduce waste. She was impressed by the idea. Then the checkout lady brought up the North Pacific Gyre, beating me to it. “It’s awful,” she said, after asking if I knew what it was, swirling her hand in the clockwise circular motion of the gyre. “Yeah, the size of Texas,” I said. She then brought up an experience at the checkout where a customer didn’t believe there was any problem with using plastic, and was brusque about it, asking for a plastic bag explicitly. She gave him his plastic bag…
She got me thinking about the job of being a checkout person. How much plastic do they see used every day? Are they even aware of things or do they battle their conscious when handing out plastic bags like this woman does? How can they be educated/empowered in a Rise Above Plastics campaign?
Then there was one last thing the checkout lady wanted to tell me. Her niece in the UK and her schoolmates use recyclable lunch bags they call “Turtle Bags.” Turtle Bags because plastic bags kill turtles they say. Using the Turtle Bags save turtles. These schools and children have made the association. Let’s import the Turtle Bag idea! It’s much more fun and easier to say than “recyclable bag.”
I left with the checkout lady saying that she was now going to start using a ceramic mug for her coffee and with me declaring that I was so impressed about Turtle Bags story that I’m writing about it here. I love these exchanges where everyone learns something and leaves a little richer for it.