Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Tyranny of Ecofriendliness

A friend who follows municipal politics more closely than I assures me the city isn't actually going to ban plastic grocery bags; it was one item of many on a list of brainstormed ideas to reduce landfill use. Nonetheless, I don't like the implications at all. I supported the municipal smoking ban. It's a profoundly unhealthy habit, but more than that, I just don't like those who would pollute my local airspace for their own addiction. I don't tremendously care about the action itself, but it's the infringing on my right to be free from the effects of their particular vice I despise. I don't accost smokers on the street and splash scotch in their faces, after all. However, in retrospect, the smoking ban went too far, into social engineering on a grand scale. It's given the idea to city government that infringing on personal choices for the sake of the generically-defined Greater Good is acceptable - and the threshold of harm that begs municipal intervention seems to have dropped in potentio, if not in practice. Yet. Kudos to Councillor Jan Harder for being a voice of reason in the face of blue-sky feel-good silliness. Mayor Chiarelli mentions that some stores in the area don't use plastic bags. He's right; both Food Basics and Costco give customers cardboard shipping boxes to reuse, which I'll agree is an ingenious way of reducing nonrecyclable plastic use. The boxes would just be recycled anyway; using them for retail purchases gets one more use out of them before being recycled. What he doesn't seem to acknowledge is that large boxes instead of bags are only useful for those driving to the grocery store, preferably with a minivan or SUV. I don't drive. I don't have a car. I walk the eight blocks to Hartman's and back, and it's hard enough to carry one visit's worth of purchases - somewhere in the $25 range - with handled plastic bags. I'd have to go shopping twice as often if the store was restricted to using paper sacks. City council can have my plastic bags when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers.

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