Going Green Commitment: Day 12…the meaning of it all: Paper or Plastic?

Monday, September 8th, Day Twelve of the ‘Going Green Commitment’ is a day that we examine the ‘proper paper placement’ in our home and try to determine how we can continue to work at leaving a smaller carbon print on our Earth and save the Spotted Owl. But seriously, leaving in the beautiful state of Oregon (pronounced oar-gun, not or-e-gone!) we are working towards preserving the amazing forests that we have in this state while balancing the needs of consumers both in Oregon and throughout the U.S. In preparation for ‘proper paper placement’ day, last night I found myself stopped cold in my tracks when the nice high school kid at the grocery store looked at me with his helpful, yet piercing eyes in the checkout lane and asked one of life’s most challenging and deep questions…

“Would you like PAPER or PLASTIC?”

Suddenly my world stopped rotating and my conscious began to sweat. I realized that, with my rebirthing of global awareness, I had not examined the ‘green’ choice for this important juncture of human living. What would be best for the Spotted Owl? Surely saving trees and choosing plastic would be best, and more convenient to put tomorrow’s sack lunch in. But what about the otters and fish in the ocean who would slowly suffocate and choke on my plastic grocery bag that wouldn’t decay or break down for millions of years? As my conscious began to pour bullets, out of my love for birds, I chose plastic to protect my friend the Spotted Owl, yet resolved to investigate this profound mystery of ‘paper or plastic’.

After extensive researching, the most helpful article I found on my dilemma was an article at MSNBC that outlined the appropriate choice of bags depending on where you lived. “Plastic bags threaten wildlife along the coasts, so if that’s where you call home…the choice should be paper. In the heartland…it’s plastic.” My heart sank when I realized that, living in Oregon on the west coast, my choice should now be paper. But I am determined to change this inconsiderate-of-earth lifestyle that has permeated my life thus far and put my love of the Spotted Owl in the hands of the fine and ever-wiser logging industry in the Beaver state. According to the article, “To make all the bags we use each year, it takes 14 million trees for paper and 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. The production of paper bags creates 70 percent more air pollution than plastic, but plastic bags create four times the solid waste — enough to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. And they can last up to a thousand years.” So while my millions of years is an exaggeration, the effect of plastic bags on solid waste in our world is another reason why I’ll be turning to Paper Bags.

Another brilliant idea that may revolutionize my shopping experience and could change yours; REUSE the paper bags from your previous visit and also, in my case, RECYCLE the same paper bag for my daily cold lunch. Excited to begin decorating my recyclable paper lunch bag, I can now be at peace when I face the kind, yet intrinsically intimidating checker who asks me one of life’s most difficult and meaningful questions. Let us know how you answer ‘Paper or Plastic?’ and leave a comment below.

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