If you have not already seen the "Bag It" movie, log on to this website today, find a screening in your area (or better yet, host one) and watch it with your kids. It should be required viewing for everyone in the retailing or manufacturing business. And if it were shown in middle-school classrooms across the country, I’m convinced the next generation of consumers would never look at plastic the same again.
The moment the credits began to roll on the powerful, at times funny, 75-minute indictment of plastic, my two daughters, 8 to 12, were on the move.
First, they went to the kitchen where they embarrassed me by building a small mountain of plastic out of the bags I’ve accumulated and tucked in the cabinets over the past year. (“I try,” I told them. “But sometimes I just forget my cloth bags”).
Then, they went through the bathroom cabinet, scouring labels for anything including “fragrance” - an almost sure bet the plastic contains the toxic plasticizers they now know as “phthalates.” When the checker at the grocery store politely asks, “Would you like a bag for this?” they roll their eyes in unison and offer to hand-carry anything that doesn’t fit in our cloth totes.
Now they’re holed up in their room devising a campaign to convince their friends, and their friends’ parents to eschew single-use bags and carry their own stainless steel mugs.
All because of one movie.
The first-person documentary premiered on public television in April and has since been screened hundreds of times at schools and community centers around the country. It follows everyman and father-to-be Jeb Berrier (a Telluride-based talk show host) as he tours the globe to discover just what happens to those flimsy white bags we often spot clinging to our trees. His journey teaches him more than he’d bargained for about the ubiquitous, seemingly harmless stuff we call plastic.
Sure, as a health writer, I’d heard it much of it before: The average American churns through 500 plastic bags annually, using them for a grand total of about 12 minutes before discarding them. Collectively, we use about 2,480,000 plastic bottles each year, with many of them ending up in our streams and waterways. Meanwhile, the chemicals that make plastic bottles hard (BPA) or plastic toys soft (phthalates) have been linked to everything from small penis size to early puberty to autism.
To my kids, this was inconceivable. “How could we have let this happen?” asked my oldest, as she grimaced at footage of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a swirling plastic soup about twice the size of Texas) on screen. “Is this real?” queried my littlest, gasping at images of turtles gobbling tiny bits of plastic they’d mistaken as plankton. “Did you let us do that?” they asked, as they watched infants suck on baby bottle nipples softened with phthalates.
I realize the natural products industry has made great strides to limit plastic bag use, minimize packaging, and remove toxic plasticizers from its products. And already, numerous municipalities, including Philadelphia, PA, and Long Beach, Belmont, and San Jose City, in California, are moving to ban single-use plastic bags.
But watching this movie with my kids reminded me of some sad realities, and of how very much more needs to be done.
What does your store do to discourage the use of plastic bags? How has your company cut back on its plastic packaging? And what could we all do better?
For now, I’m reconfirming my commitment to minimize plastic in my life. (For 10 tips, click here). My kids wouldn’t have it any other way.