Celebrate! It’s in the bag

THE FIFTH COLUMN

A while ago, I wrote a radio spot for a leading retailer to promote a celebration sale they have each year. The idea was to stage an everyday scenario of a shopper at the checkout till asked by the cashier, in a flat tone, whether he or she wants a bag for their items. If the shopper says “Yes,” the celebrations begin. The cashier calls out: “A bag everyone! He wants a bag!” Bells ring out; fireworks go off; champagne bottles pop. Voice-over says pay-off line. Spot ends.

I won’t write the same spot should the retailer approach me again.

Going out for pizza the other night, I drank my cola tonic and soda water through a thick cardboard straw that, unbelievably, only sort of became soggy. I’ve seen wooden cutlery in takeaway joints. Wooden.

The world’s attitude towards plastic is changing. It could be too late but it’s changing. My attitude is also changing (I hate all plastic except really good Tupperware). I just have to translate it into action.

Coming around the corner of my home’s scullery, just above the dustbins, I often catch a glimpse of the plastic bag we have up there stuffed with other plastic bags. The thing gets fatter each day. I usually look away quickly and remind myself to remember to take, next time I go to the shop, the environmentally friendly bag made of fabric that’s hung on the key rack by the front door for exactly that reason.

I always forget it. I think the only way I’ll remember that bag is to tie it to my car keys or wrap it around my wrist like a lanyard.

I have another one lying in the back of my car next to the Sta-Soft refill. I never take that one either, so now I end up saying “Yes, I’d like a bag” and cringe each time the cashier asks and stuff it in with the rest when I get home. It’s truly amazing how many of those things you can stuff into another.

Having said that, my plastic bag in the scullery runneth over. It’s time for a change. If the shops are not willing to switch to the brown paper bags they have in the movies, that change will have to come from me.

What to do? A note on the front door — “Remember the carry bag, seagull murderer” — could work. Another note on my car’s windscreen — “Polar bears are swimming to Brazil. Remember the carry bag, dumb-ass” — could do the trick.

I’d probably still forget it though. I get used to Post-its reminding me of really, really important stuff super-quick. It’s going to come down to a rewards system, I think. What can I, the consumer, get out of saving the environment one trip to the shop at a time?

Is it a free Coke from the shop? Maybe just a pat on the back from the floor manager: “Well done, guy. We’re counting on you.”

Or maybe it’s a celebration? Bells, whistles and people jumping from the closets the moment I lift that carry bag from the key rack. A Boeing fly-by, cameras, flashes and my picture in the local paper. An announcer running around my house with a megaphone: “The bag, everyone! He’s taking the bag!”

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