My neighbor B.P. (not to be confused with the infamous oil company) suggested at a community meeting that we needed to stretch our recycling efforts. She demonstrated her suggestion by holding up plastic berry boxes that she stated could be washed and returned to the store. Audience exchanged dubious glances. "You could also," she continued, "take them to the Farmers Market and put your raspberries in them."
I thought that was hilarious. Then checked myself. Wasn't it my idea back in 1998 that New Yorkers could kitchen compost with red wiggler worms? Didn't I use similar little plastic boxes to create the "world's smallest kitchen composter." Many laughed, suggested it was undoable. Challenged, especially now a resident of the most sustainably-conscious city in America, Portland, Oregon, I would try out her idea.
More than that, Saturday, June 17, 2010, would be my uber-effort on the container front. In keeping with the local ethic and encouragement in stores, we've become more dutiful carriers of canvas bags. Still find it a bit uncomfortable to simply drop the unwrapped aspirin bottle into my purse and not wonder if the "Thief!" electronics will sound as I leave the drugstore. But the Farmers Market at PSU is the place to feel righteous about dispensing even with canvas: I have seen people do it.
You know how everyone is very polite in PDX? That's how it was with the young man at the blueberry table. Explained that I was just going to transfer the berries from the little green paper box to my plastic one. "Think they will fit?" I anxiously asked Ron. "Sure." He's patient too. Well, they fit but it's a trickier maneuver than I'd imagined; quickly gathered up wandering berries as the line behind me grew longer.
Lost a few berries, felt womanly righteousness. Spent more time than usual in figuring out how to arrange food. Took along a shoe box in the Zabar cart...yes, there is one plastic bag for the apricots/peaches. Ran out of canvas...gets more complex around items that need to be held while selecting, then weighed on purchase.
Maybe B.P., a former elementary school teacher, and I (once one of those too) could do is design a class, "Transformative Sustainability," a/k/a "Right-thinking Bagging Techniques for the Older Person." Respectful, conscious of age-related limitations.
Watch for an announcement in the Oregonian where a major grocer's anti-plastic-bag initiative hit today's front page. [Be sure to read the online comments following the story...are they what you'd expect?]