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‘I have a bag thanks’

I, (Waveney), just popped down the road to get some rolls for lunch.  I went to Bakers Delight and, as is habit, took my own bag.  I asked the teenage girl serving if she would mind using my bag.  She looked utterly confused, like I had just asked her if she minded using a can opener, as she tentatively reached out her hand she said “All our bags here are free,” then with a smile added for clarification, “we give them away.”

Now, its true that I have been asking butchers, bakers and even the occasional Chinese take out if they could use my bag or other container since February 1st 2008, but I’m not sure I could honestly say its something I particularly enjoy.  My butcher in Christchurch was such a gem (Corner Stanmore and Avonside Road shops).  He would smile when he saw me coming, simply stretch out his hand to take my container and effortlessly recalibrate his scales whilst commenting on the weather. But since moving to Auckland we haven’t had great small-retailer luck. It seems to prickle some people and fluster others. Others are happy to pander to the weird customer but just don’t get it.  Neither Matthew or I do the ‘weirdo’ thing very well, we just want what we are doing to be normal, no fuss. But instead the practice of using a plastic bag just once, before its starts a 500 odd year journey of polluting and decomposing, is normal.

So, wishing I’d been organised enough to bake rolls this morning, I say, “Thanks.  But its not about the money, its about the plastic” Her blank look returns, I add “Plastic lasts for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years so I’m just trying to use a little less of it.”   She fills my bag with rolls, and says that’s “4.90.” I hand her my card.  And then, she says: “So you’re against plastic but you use a plastic eft-pos card?”  Well! What was going through her head? “Plastic has rights?” or “If you can’t save the world then its OK to contribute to screwing it up?” I’m genuinely annoyed, tempted to unleash years of tertiary study on this unimposing teen.  I stand there with options scrolling through my mind: Wrath? Laughter? Lecture? – I go for pleasantries. We both wish each other a nice day.  But as I turn to leave, I think better of it.  I say that because of the way our world is, it’s pretty much impossible to live without plastic and that I was simply trying to minimise it’s usage.  When I make it home with my rolls I tell Matthew all about it, expecting sympathy, but he thought it was hilarious.  At least one of us still has a sense of humour.

Perhaps you already know of some environmentally switched on small traders who would welcome the opportunity to create less waste?  If so, comment below. If you’d like some information on how to cut down your usage of single-use plastic bags when shopping for fruit, vege, meat, fish and bread then click here, or go straight to the rubbish free store to buy reusable bags . And don’t worry, if we all do it then it will be nice and normal in the twinkle of an eye!

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  1. Waveney, September 13, 2010:

    I met the nicest butcher today. Here’s the shout out: Bob at Bob’s Quality Meats, 11 Mokoia Road, Birkenhead Shops, Auckland. Ph 480 9526. He does bacon too. Yummy! Take your own container and hey presto – rubbish free bacon delight! Go Bob.

  2. Nicolette Hale, September 13, 2010:

    Too funny – i’m with Matthew on this story, very funny. Don’t worry – shop at Bin Inn and bring in all your bags and containers and we won’t think you’re a weirdo! All Bin Inn staff and owners know to tare the weights of containers and bottles. Great story!

  3. Mrs Green @myzerowaste.com, September 13, 2010:

    This would totally depend on my mood, but I’m more likely to feel like you, Vaveney. Ok it IS funny, BUT it’s also really serious and if the teens don’t get it, they are our next generation so where is our hope. Maybe she’ll talk about you behind your back as the ‘weirdo’ but maybe one of her enlightened friends will ‘get it’ and be the one to educate her. So you’ve sown a seed ;)

  4. kelly, September 15, 2010:

    I was once told by the department store Farmers, that I couldn’t use my own bag, I HAD to use one of their ones, hence I now shop at Postie plus when need be and they are more than happy for customers to use their own bags.Just as a matter of interest, have you heard of the bag ladies from Golden Bay?

  5. Waveney, September 16, 2010:

    No we haven’t heard of the Bag Ladies – do they have a website, if so can you flick us the link? The last three times at Save Mart (a second hand clothing store) I’ve been told that I have to take a bag as well, but have managed to talk them round each time. The workers all said it was a management policy, and had no good reasons to defend it!

  6. Majeeda, September 18, 2010:

    I love the way you put this: “Neither Matthew or I do the ‘weirdo’ thing very well, we just want what we are doing to be normal, no fuss.”!!

    I’m sure some people would be really surprised to hear it judging by the way I choose to live, but it’s true. I do not do this to be different – I have other reasons. :)

    This was a funny post and I’ve been there. It is uncomfortable but as another commenter mentioned you may well have planted the seeds in her. She probably won’t forget you and one day another person may explain it to her in a way that gets her thinking and changing or she might read something that inspires her. I think when we go about our daily lives we don’t really get to see the little ways that our lives impact others because it doesn’t always happen right away (unfortunately).

    I did have a similar thing a couple of days ago getting bread (unbagged) in one of the big supermarkets. I forgot to take a small bag so I just put it on a large reusable bag and said I was going to put it inside…I could tell the woman was very uncomfortable (which made me uncomfy too) but it was ok. We managed.

  7. Majeeda, September 18, 2010:

    Oops – that was meant to say that “I don’t do the weirdo thing well either”!!

    Sorry ’bout that.

  8. kelly, September 24, 2010:

    Waveney the link for the Golden Bay bag ladies is:
    Every small step counts:)

  9. Waveney, September 27, 2010:

    Great, thanks! I’ve updated the guide here: http://www.rubbishfree.co.nz/information.php/info_id/70

  10. Normal, September 27, 2010:

    Hi, was so refreshing to read your comments about ‘the weirdo thing’. I also find that the simplest of requests which slightly deviate from ‘the norm’ really does seem to irk some shop assistants for some reason. I also feel that I weigh up the pro’s and cons of engaging in conversation to see if I can enlighten assistants to why I am making such requests, but the look on their faces is enough to tell me that its not going to make a difference to them anyway. Its like they actually want to be annoyed.. perhaps they need this to justify why they don’t like their jobs ? who knows.. anyway.. its nice all the same to read that others go through the same head-space experience :-)