'Paper or Plastic?' The End of an Era

There are phrases that are so common that we never pause to think about what is actually being said. Phrases like "May I take your order?" and "Paper or plastic?" have become clichés of the capitalist society we live in, but in the suddenly environmentally conscious 21st century, the latter phrase we have all come to know from our local supermarkets is at the twilight of its existence. In response to the many environmental concerns that they cause, many supermarkets as well as cities have begun to limit the availability of plastic bags. So, as we end an era of "Paper or plastic?" and a new age begins, should we embrace our environmentally wise move towards a cleaner earth? Or do we fear the unknown, afraid of losing our right as Americans to choose whatever bag we wish, having to rely upon our new grocery totes...our own totes?

Logically, one can see the reasonable answer to this question by asking one's self another question: How lazy are you?

The environmental impact that plastic bags have had on the world has been staggering in the last 20 years. With landfills and our oceans clogged with waste, plastic bags not only degrade in a manner that pollutes soil, but what also must be kept in kind is the vast numbers of wildlife that are injured and killed every year from plastic bags. From purely an environmental standpoint, if you wish for your grandchildren's children to not go to a beach where the waves are essentially a combination of plastic bags resembling waves, lowering the availability of plastic bags seems like a good idea. In addition to the environmental impact, the amount of material that is needed to produce plastic bags is stunning. The bags, made from a thermoplastic present in oil, require so much oil to create that, due to China's ban of free plastic bags, China is set to save 37 million barrels of oil every year simply the lack of production, according to a CNN report.

Of course, the pros of banning plastic bags, which include saving our planet, saving wildlife that resides on our planet, and saving materials needed for plastic bag production, would obviously trump any cons, right? Well, that's where the question "How lazy are you?" comes into play.

The one downside of not using plastic bags comes from the fact that we need something to carry our groceries once we are ready to leave, and since humans were cursed with only two arms and two hands, a different bag seems necessary. Grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's offer an easy solution with reusable bags available for purchase inside the store. Bringing bags from home or purchasing satchels not only is environmentally conscious, but also can act as a fashion statement for those looking to stay hip at the local market. While bringing one's own bags may seem like an annoying extra step, knowing that your actions are helping keep our planet cleaner for future generations should silence any complaints you may have.