The First Time I Didn't Buy More Sandwich Bags
I felt like Goldilocks in that grocery aisle. That container would be too big, and just be obnoxious. I could just tell. It wouldn’t fit in the Bath & Body Works bag I use as a lunch sack.
The other one was too tiny, likely meant for guacamole or some dip or something. And, I wasn’t packing dip.
I needed something for chips. Because, I have a chip problem.
Not that I eat a ton of them, but I really, really like them with a sandwich. Sandwich bags were on the other side of the aisle, but I wasn’t going there. We had run out. And, we decided to turn our backs on them. So, this was the first time I wouldn’t buy any more sandwich bags.
That sentence doesn’t sound as powerful as it is. But, it’s pretty big to change habits that have been in place for decades. I can’t remember first using sandwich bags, but I also can’t remember ever not using them. So, this was a new day.
I remember how this whole thing started.
I was pissed. And confused. And a little nauseous. I had just finished watching Before the Flood, a documentary on Netflix that tackled the ramifications of climate change, and I was, like, agitated.
And, I’m sure that was the whole idea. The special was so powerful, it made me feel like I needed to make changes that minute – even though it was nearing midnight. And then, minutes later, the gravity of Earth’s lot, thanks in good portion to humans, was overwhelming.
What could I do?
To start, I needed others to share in my disgust. So I told people about the special, and warned my boyfriend that he’d be ticked off, too, after watching it. And, he was. I still remember his face when we first started dissecting it.
Like, we knew some of the stuff. The melting ice caps, the trash in the oceans, the mountains and mountains of waste, the water bottles. But we didn’t know about the palm oil or the oil fields. And the politics and big money that go with all of it are just sickening.
But we just kept talking about it. In depth. We thought up amazing solutions to Earth’s problems, if only every human, and major electric company would get on board. We noticed new things in life, and shook our heads at endless displays of our collective laziness.
We stopped using grocery bags entirely, even if we forgot our reusable ones. We’ll just carry what we buy. We reimagined our backyard to include a garden and chickens, a project we’re in the middle of executing. And, we continued to educate ourselves and talk about the things we can do to make change.
And then, last weekend, I threw a Circle K clerk for a loop.
“Is styrofoam, like, bad for you or something?” he asked with wild confusion, as I reached his register.
I told him I wasn’t sure, but I knew it was bad for the planet, so that’s why I chose a recyclable coffee cup to get a fountain Coke rather than pull down one of those Polar Pop monstrosities that I know never decomposes, and quite frequently ends up in storm drains. They do, I’ve seen the photos. And it hurts to look at them.
He probably thought I was a total hippie, but he charged me the same anyway. And while we are kind of hippies, we don’t compost, we don’t wear Birkenstocks, and we don’t have dreads. Which is to say, we're not extreme. We're pretty normal. Except, we’re just increasingly aware. And, we give a shit.
Which means, anyone can do what we’re doing. And, anyone can care. If they choose.
So all of it brought me to this moment, staring at an empty cardboard box (which we recycled!) that used to be filled with sandwich bags. I added it to the mental grocery list, and recited it out loud, because it was habit.
Run out of sandwich bags? Buy more sandwich bags.
And then there was that loud scratch on the record. We have these moments all the time, moments where we wonder if there is a better alternative to what we’ve always been doing. That’s when we realized there was another way, because those single-use plastics are killer. Literally.
Try to digest this: Every year, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. Billions of those bags end up as litter.
Gross. Billions of bags. Holy shit. Billions.
So, me not using sandwich bags will not save the planet. It won’t. But it’s a start, and I’m pretty sure it will lead to some other idea for us. I mean, between us we have five kids who pull snacks and make lunches – using sandwich bags, every day. Necessity is the mother of invention, right?
We can teach those five to find an alternative. And maybe they’ll show their friends. So for the moment, by chip problem is solved. They fit just fine in a mid-sized, reusable container. And they don’t get all smooshed, and the container isn’t ginormous. And the bags I would have used aren’t adding to the planet’s trash pile.
So, it will be marginally smaller, unless people find their own Goldilocks moments. We can hope for that. Because, this is the only planet we’ve got.