Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

I'm all for protecting the environment....I really am.

I am opposed though, to corporations cashing in on it, making themselves look great and doing it all at the expense of the little guy.

For example....beginning today, one of our grocery chains will be charging .05 per plastic bag. Their claim...they are concerned about the environment and want to do their part to keep all those plastic bags out of landfills.

Fine....I'm with them so far. Except.....they're already charging me, indirectly for those grocery bags. Those prices are included as overhead and included in the price of groceries. Hmmm.....will I now get a discount when I don't use those bags? Will they decrease the price of groceries because their overhead will now go down? I'm not holding my breath. (and just a note here...we do not have chains such as No Frills or Food Basics who charge for their bags but in turn have lower priced groceries to reflect their lower overhead. Here grocery stores are all on the same level with prices being pretty much the same all across the board)

Next on their agenda, in order to help save the environment, they want us to purchase their reusable bags. Ok....these bags are .99 each. We would need about 10, I'm guessing, so that works out to $9.90. So now, on top of making money on me for the plastic bags I no longer get, I have to pay additional money to the corporation for their reusable bags. (For example we probably average 15 plastic bags per week. At .05 per bag that works out to $39.00 per year they're charging me for, included in their overhead costs, plus another $9.90 for reusable bags...and that's assuming these bags last me all year.)

Hmmmm....how long will these bags last? Forever? If not, I will need to buy more....again more money for the corporation. (We buy 8, 2 litre cartons of milk every week...how long will those bags stand lugging them?)

When these bags wear out or the handles break....what will I do with them? Throw them out in the garbage?

What about when the juice tin leaks all over the bag. Or the ground beef leaks all over the bag. What will I do then...wash the bag? Doesn't that require energy (hydro for the washing machine,) water and soap being flushed into the environment? etc. Perhaps I should just throw that bag out....and then what...into the landfill it goes and I can just go buy another one...wow more money for the corporation.

But....it gets better. The corporation has said it will make a donation, a large donation to a charity. Again...that looks good on the surface...what charity wouldn't benefit from such a large donation?

But wait a minute....doesn't the corporation get a tax write off for this donation? And....it's not even their money they are donating...it's money they've made charging for plastic bags they no longer give out (or charge for again) or money they've made from selling reusable bags.

Not bad....charge for an item then don't give it out...unless the customer still wants it then charge again. If the customer doesn't want it...then charge more money for another similar item. Then out of all that money, make a huge donation (which works out to be what percentage of money actually taken in?) and then get a tax write off for doing so. Not bad, if you can get away with it.

I really think, if the corporation was truly interested in the environment....they'd give out those reusable bags for free (remember....they've already charged for the plastic bags and without having to get them week after week it would work out the same, perhaps even less, for them). Either that or reduce grocery prices. Again...I'm not holding my breath.

Which brings me to another point....I wonder *where* those reusable bags are made? Canada? I certainly hope so....I'd hate to think a corporation who is so concerned with the environment is having them trucked in from somewhere else.

7 comments:

Jacqueline said...

Excellent points!

Renee said...

You have some good points here Linda. Sounds like you could write an editorial about it all!
We have some very strong reusable bags that we use some and we also request paper and not plastic when shopping so we can recycle....but we are not charged here in Iowa for bags? I keep wondering what is going to happen to our world with all the landfills, etc. It is a huge problem that needs years to fix I think!

Becky said...

So true...

Miranda said...

I understand your cynicism, but I find it depressing and defeatist. As someone who has been using cloth bags for at least couple of years now, I can tell you that I am totally sold. I turned over gradually, buying one bag a week for a month and a bit. Six bags have prevented the production and landfilling of hundreds of plastic bags. I have had one fall apart -- it was a freebie I got somewhere. The others have stood up very well and have already withstood multiple washings. Yes, if juice leaks, you wash them, just like you would a dirty T-shirt. You wouldn't think of throwing a T-shirt out to save the energy cost of washing it so why would you throw out a cloth shopping bag? Yes it costs to run a load of wash, about 20 cents for a cold water load. But since the bags are so small, they hardly affect the laundry I'm doing anyway. Over 2 years I've probably spent no more than 20 or 30 cents on washing all my bags three or four times.

The bags hold much more because they're bigger and stronger than their plastic counterparts. I spent $260 on two weeks' worth of groceries for our family of 6 yesterday and the bags items all fit in 6 bags. If you don't like the idea of buying your bags from the business that's now charging you extra for the plastic bags that used to be free, buy them elsewhere. But you'll pay more. At $0.99 your Sobeys or whatever is probably selling the cloth bags at a loss.

Of course businesses are rarely going to "go green" unless it is cost-effective for them. What do you expect? They're businesses, after all -- they exist to turn a profit. But you have a choice, and they're putting in place a pricing structure to encourage you to come down on the environmental side of that choice. Personally I don't have a problem with that. But then again, I made my choice before there was any such pressure and maybe that's why I don't resent it.

At any rate, grocery-store pricing pressure or not, I'd heartily encourage you to go with something reusable for your groceries. Sturdy cardboard boxes can work well, especially if you can find some that nest inside each other for storage and fit on the rack under your cart while you're shopping.

At Home on the Rock... said...

Miranda...I do agree with you in principal. Like I said, I am all for protecting the environment...I really am. I will be using reusable containers...like you said cardboard boxes or plastic bins (I have a couple left over from Knob Hill Farms...not sure if anyone remembers those or not lol).

I won't be buying the bags from the stores though. I've seen the ones here and after a couple of times...they start to wear thin on the bottom. (Perhaps there are better quality ones out there) Like I said in my post....we drink 8 2 litre cartons of milk. We'd be lucky to get two cartons in a bag...so there are 4 bags right there.

I do realize the plastic bags clog our landfills and I do agree we all need to do our part...but the point I was trying to make was big business and government....I'd wish they would tell it like it is and be made to do their part too.

I still think there should be some sort of refund/price reduction etc. for cutting our use. Where we lived in Ontario there were grocery stores that charged for bags...but their grocery prices also reflected that. For instance a head of lettuce at Food Basics (a bring your own bag store) was .69 and at the Independent across the road (no extra charge for bags) it was $1.69--- so overhead costs had been clearly calculated in. (We always shopped at the bring your own bag place...good for the environment and good for our pocket book). A friend of ours who changed from the Independent to FB was sure the cashier must have made a mistake on ringing in her items (because her whole grocery order was that much cheaper.)

Also...what about all the food that is transported here ...food we are perfectly capable of growing here. Doesn't that have a negative effect on our environment (and our economy)? How come business is allowed to do this? Again...if it they sold locally grown food, that would be good for the environment, good for the economy....a win win situation. So how come there are blueberries from far away places sitting on my grocery shelf....when there are all kinds of blueberries grown here? (and I made this observation in the summer time).

And I just don't see how they are selling those bags at a loss. As I mentioned...they are collecting $39.00 from me (in hidden overhead costs for the plastic bags they are no longer giving). Then if I buy 10 reusable bags at .99 that's another $9.90...that's $48.90 they're making off of one customer who is getting 10 reusable bags for that price.

Also when we were n Ontario...at first we had unlimited garbage pick up. Then they went to three bags per week, now two. That's fine...but at the same time they continually put our property taxes up...for what? I was under the impression property taxes were to cover municipal services....if service went down, then costs should have gone down...but no (and I'm not talking small increases...we had an increase of $800 in one year). When we left, our property taxes were over $4,500.00 per year. We had less than an acre of property and very few services. (we have a lot more services here for a fraction of the cost)

Or another pet peeve of mine...they would tell us to cut our hydro use....and yet clotheslines in some communities weren't allowed (that has since be done away with but it was present for a long, long time).

Or we'd get a flyer in our hydro bill telling us ways to reduce our costs (as they were continually increasing those costs too). One way was to stop using the stove/oven and use the bbq. That was fine, until the next flyer would be about bad air days and how to improve the air quality....that flyer told us to stop using our bbqs....it just seemed to be a no win situation.

Appliances....the things they turn out today are garbage. We had a fridge that was my dad's first fridge. We sold it with the cottage....but that fridge was 50 years old at that time and still going strong. The only thing we/he ever had to replace on that fridge?....the light bulb. Yet....I constantly hear about buying new appliances that are not energy hogs, get rid of the old ones....yet they last 9 years on average. What happens to them then? (The last appliance salesman I talked to said appliances are now only made to last nine years.) Why...if they could make appliances in the past to last, are they not made to do the same now. It would cut down on our landfill problems plus save people money...but business wouldn't be making all those sales every few years....so again this never gets talked about.

That whole golden horseshoe area around Toronto....smoke stack after smoke stack spewing out garbage into the air...but again that never seemed to get mentioned.

It just seems it's ok for business and government to look the other way when they want and expect the little guy to do his part. I can't help but wonder how much better we (as a country or a world) would do if *everyone* worked together.

Ok...getting off my soap box now.

At Home on the Rock... said...

One further point Miranda...you wrote

"Yes, if juice leaks, you wash them, just like you would a dirty T-shirt. You wouldn't think of throwing a T-shirt out to save the energy cost of washing it so why would you throw out a cloth shopping bag"

you're right...I wouldn't throw the t-shirt out but then again the t-shirt company didn't run a huge campaign telling everyone how by buying their t-shirt would be so wonderful for the environment.
That is such with the bag campaign....huge media coverage, big displays at the entrances to stores about how buying those bags are good for the environment ....why not suggest we bring our own or how about having their boxes from the things that were shipped in, sitting at the front for people to use (No Frills used to do this). It's fine for them as a business to sell things and of course to make a profit...but they should tell it as it is, not try to hide behind the whole going green thing.

CARMAN THIESSEN said...

Oh my goodness Linda... this post is EXACTLY what my brain has been brewing over the past little while. I am SO NOT sold on this being a cure-all environmental issue. There is no recycling program inplace for these stupid bags and they DO NOT last. I am using the plastic buckets instead, it's easier anyway.

Also, I have always used the grocery bags for my garbage cans... now I have to BUY 'kitchen catchers'?! No way... I'll make random trips to Sobeys instead to make sure I have a supply of garbage bags...

I am quite convinced that the cloth bags are made unethically. There is no way they can be sold for a dollar and everyone gets what they deserve for their work. I am doing more research on this too... love the thinking minds!