Earth Day 2018: Ending plastic pollution starts with me

This week, Malaysia enlisted a strategy to cut down plastic waste in grocery stores.

A British supermarket group Tesco unveiled the ?unforgettable bag,? a bag with a bar code that provides customers discounts for reusing their shopping bag for every trip. The bag has been rolled out in 11 Tesco stores in Malaysia?s capital Kuala Lumpur and the southern state of Johor in an effort to shift away from single-use bags and reduce waste, Reuters reported.

Ironically ? or strategically ? Earth Day 2018 on April 22 is focused on ending plastic pollution. And I am convicted.

For years, I have been telling myself I will do better ? tomorrow. One of my friend?s roommates in college would meticulously go through their trash, picking out every piece of paper, cardboard, glass Prego bottles, plastic water bottles ? she would even go through the public trash cans around campus and carry the plastic water bottles back to her apartment to take to the recycling bin. I kid you not.

I watched this for four years, thought she was a little crazy, put it out of my mind. (I mostly use reusable water bottles ANYWAY, I would tell myself.)

When I go to the grocery store, I usually grab a handbasket instead of a cart. This way, I can only buy what I can carry. In reality, this leads to me struggling to lift the basket onto the conveyor belt at checkout, but it?s a money-saver in theory.

I struggle again when I try to carry five or so Wal-Mart bags in one trip from my car to my apartment. Usually I end up dropping one or two bags in the hallway before I make it to my door and have to take another trip anyway.

After unloading my groceries, I stuff the plastic bags under the kitchen sink like any sane person does. The right side of my bottom cabinet has no room for anything but maybe another five Wal-Mart bags stuffed into the crevices of the sink?s pipes.

Why do I do this?

While I feel more guilty throwing plastic bags in the garbage than I do just letting them take up room in my house, I argue that bringing them back to the store to reuse or better yet, purchasing reusable bags in the first place, just takes too much time.

I have friends who make their own toothpaste. They also make their own deodorant and hand lotion in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the bottles store-bought ?necessities? are packaged in.

As the idea of the ?unforgettable bag? gets underway, it will be interesting to see what impact that has on the use of plastic bags in Malaysia. Maybe the idea will come to stores in the U.S. I mean, California was already the first state to enact legislation that imposes a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores in 2014. Who?s to say what ingenious ideas we could come up with to slow down the impact of waste on our environment.

According to Reuters, 70 percent of customers have their own reusable bags, but leave them in the car instead of bringing them into the store. We can no longer let convenience be an excuse to clog our streams and landfills, litter our beaches and make marine life sick.

I almost didn?t write this article. If I write it, then I have to let other people hold me accountable for it. I have to hold myself accountable for it. But that?s the point, isn?t it? For 23 years I?ve neglected being passionate about caring for the earth. I don?t think I can live like that anymore.

I don?t expect to overhaul my life overnight. Just like learning how to exercise, eat healthy or adjust to any other changes takes time, it?s going to take time for me to remember to stop the grocer from putting my items in plastic bags. It?s going to take time for me to remind myself to separate my plastics, or better yet, avoid purchasing items packaged in a lot of plastic in the first place.

As small business week approaches next month, this is also a good time to remember that buying local has a smaller ecological footprint than purchasing at box stores because local items of course travel a shorter distance. It?s also a good time to get excited about local summer farmers markets. (Will this winter ever end?)

Who knows? Maybe someday I will even be at the making-my-own-toothpaste level of conservation.