"Is plastic okay?"

At least once a week you'll find yourself in some kind of store, whether it be for groceries, new clothes, or something else. You've probably heard your cashier say "Is plastic okay?" hundreds of times in the past 10 years, or so much that you hardly pay attention to what they're saying anymore. We've all been there. But how often do we say "Yeah that is fine" without asking or thinking to ourselves why using plastic bags is fine? Probably a lot.

If you're my age or older, you probably remember your parents taking you to a store where the cashier would ask "Is paper okay?" or your parents came home with everything in paper bags. Slowly that phrase became "Paper or plastic?" and then it evolved into plastic as the standard. Nowadays, it is almost like you're the bad person for asking for paper, or that bagging in paper is an inconvenience to the cashier. But don't blame the employees, that is just part of their training.

You're made to feel bad about your environmentally positive choices because that is what these companies want you to feel. Simply put, plastic is cheaper to produce than paper. However, paper is still offered to those that ask for it because companies know that there are still people who refute using single use plastic, meaning that they might lose customers if they don't leave the option at least a little bit open.

Plastic may be convenient being that it can often hold more weight and usually has handles for ease of carry, but the life of a plastic bag is often short and ends up in a landfill, in the forest, or body of water. Fortunately, being mindful of our plastic consumption can make a huge difference. Some stores have taken the initiative to offer plastic bag recycling at no cost to you, most at least offer reusable bags for usually under $3, and a few even have you bring your own bags. Just the other day I was shopping at a local outdoors clothing store and the cashier, being an environmentalist, asked me if she could put my new products into the paper bag I brought my returns in. We ended up on the topic of minimizing plastic bags and at the end of our discussion she gifted me a reusable bag that folds and zips into the size of a wallet. It was refreshing to meet a like minded person in a country full of wasteful consumerism! Even on a bad day, you can at least say that you saved the earth and landfills of a plastic bag. If we could all teach each other these lessons and spread a positive message, we can slow down our negative impact on the planet and clean up what we have already created.

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