Thursday, June 18, 2009

PAPER OR PLASTIC?

Another blogger's musings about carrying shopping bags brought to mind my own attempts to GREEN my little bit of things. I try vainly to remember to put the big bag filled with regular-sized bags into whichever car I'm going to the grocery in. I get into the store, into the checkout line, and THEN wish I'd brought them in from the car---any other minute in the process, and I could have run out the shusssssh of the Exit and grabbed them up, but having stood, hostage to the latest bright blurbs in the adventures of Brangelina or the how-I-did-its of the newest O, I could not cause further delay to the long, snail-pace line behind me.

And so, as I prepare to depart the house, I mind-list the necessaries: bags, glasses, keys, card-and-ID, and list. The grabbing of the smalls is a breeze, as I put on my shoes, feeling the fresh-from-the shower comfort of cool cottons and Altoid breath, hair neatly up and smooth, the going-somewhere fresh of the day and the out-the-door brisk walk to the car. Blithely bagless til it's too late, and I'm mumbling my stairs-bags-trips mantra to the unheeding clerk beeping the items across the go-nowhere belt.

Too many plastic bags are overflowing the HUGE wall-hung bag in the pantry/laundry room. Our grocery has handy hanging rolls above the produce, set there like the valances on Miss Scarlett's portieres, and I wind off a great long stole of bags, wrapping them around my neck. As I choose the produce and bag it in that gossamer cling, I tear off each one in turn, til the babyseat is overflowing with poufy tops spouting above the lemons and avocados and tomatoes shining through the thin clear film.

Then, the meat department, where little floor posts hold vertical rolls for those pesky leaking trays of chicken parts, pork chops, and icy naked birds bound up in their own slick corsets. The brain cramp comes in trying to get each tray situated just SO in the bag, the price scan facing the clear side of the plastic, though I KNOW that little old magnetic thing can read through walls, if necessary. Two like items are set back-to-back, as I try to position the barcode as well as possible between the bits of green tracery on the film.

And at checkout, my worst bit of brainburn comes when they say "Paper or Plastic?" Though there are signs blaring everywhere touting the use of paper and the evils of plastic, I say "Plastic." Then the compulsion comes to blurt the same mantra I say every week, "If your paper bags had handles, I'd use paper. I have to carry the groceries up the steps and down a flight of stairs to get to the kitchen, and with paper, I can carry only one bag at a time." Do I really think that's going into the cashier's head as she peeps the endless flow of items past her little cheeping sentry? Do I think she cares?

Nope, and I say it anyway, to assuage this need-to-excuse. She could care less if I requested FIVE bags per item---she's not bagging the stuff. And still I choose plastic, still I explain. I also sometimes feel this manic urge to say it quite loudly, for the information of all the folks eyeing my un-eco choice as if I'd just taken a crosscut saw to Pooh's house.


And at home, there's no need for the flimsy produce bags, so they go into the trash, wadded into the space of a peanut. The nice thick white ones are for saving, for all sorts of uses---birdcage cleanouts, for carrying lunches or snacks, and all the other quick-carry needs. And during my unfortunate knee problem a couple of years ago, I discovered the handy way to tote stuff up and downstairs when you’re being ultra careful---hang a bag on your arm or throw it down “tump” to the bottom.


So plastic it is, crammed with hard things and heavy things and things that bump against knee and elbow like a poor man's rock-and-sock cosh; the bread loaf folds itself upward in its private bag like a cocooned caterpillar, and keeps the curve through its many open-and-closes. And the loaf or pack of buns captured in the closeness of the poly-bubble with the dryer-sheets' fragrance is ruined before it reaches home.

I'd rather have paper---I like the IDEA of it, the fleetingness of it, the sturdy crisp brown-ness of the bags as they stand like starched clothes, fresh from the iron. I like a neat array of them slotted between the freezer's side and the baking-pan rack. They're handy for lining cake pans, for draining fish and hushpuppies, for holding the corn-from-the-grill a few minutes, and the shucks for disposal, for dredging chicken to fry.

Something about that fold-down and shake of a big paper bag, the whooshy sound of the chicken shaken within, and the little cloud of flour emerging as the folds are unfurled, reminds me of cooks in my past, and the repetition of such an age-old ritual rounds out the generations, somehow, in a very satisfying way. And the scent of that sizzling chicken only adds to the charm.



6 comments:

Tonja said...

wonderful post...this one had me laughing. I go through the same delemma. A few weeks ago, I was shopping at TJMass and they had run out of plastic...so they were giving everyone their own bright red...save-the-planet bags. Now I have4 of them...but getting them back into the store is the problem. I have them in the car. They did come in handy when I cleaned out my classroom, though. They held quite a few books and CD's. So now they sit in the back of the CRV waiting to be brought in and emptied. Then maybe I'll use them for their intended purpose...or not...

~~louise~~ said...

And I thought I was the only one who left the bags in the car. How do you feel about using a shopping cart? I've decided against both! If I had my way, I would never go grocery shopping. I couldn't have described by aversions anymore eloquently than you and I certainly would not have had such a keen sense of humor. Wonderful post Rachel. I enjoyed it from the bottom of my single brown bag tucked on the side of the fridge.

FYI: There once was a girl named Mattie who had much to do with a paper bag invention. I posted about her at my Tasteful Inventions blog. I think you may like it. They called her Lady Edison and she was 12 years old.

Now, on to the Jell-O

racheld said...

We need to start a Bag Lending Library type thing, and all help each other. I'm getting very attached to all the ones we have, especially when they're sagging full of books.

And Louise,

I'm all for shopping carts, Hon, except where I'm from, we mostly call them a "buggy."

Nice to see you here, and I'm going to catch up with Lady Edison as soon as our movie's over---Chris awaits me. I'm supposed to be up just starting the DW. SHHHH.

What say you on the BUGGY, Tonja?

Kat said...

My cloth bags ride around in my trunk and I'm forever forgetting to take them inside the store. If I think about it (yeah right!) before I'm through shopping, I make myself go back outside and get them. But, alas, usually I'm in the line and they're asking "paper or plastic" and then I mentally kick myself yet again for forgetting. I try to keep them on my front passenger seat to remind me and that does help, but for one reason or another, I end up putting them in the trunk and the cycle begins again.

Hey racheld...I call it a buggy too.

Hugs!
Kat

Rebecca said...

We stopped using our bags at the grocer's- we don't buy trash bags anymore- just use the bags we receive at the grocer's! We still use our reusables- at the thrift store, at the library. Such are the times we live in!

racheld said...

We subscribe to the old "use it up---wear it out" philosophy which stood our forebears in good stead.

Hugs to you and your Kiddle, Rebecca!!