Paper or Plastic?

I have a degree in envrionmental studies.  I work as an envrionmental planner.

I cannot answer this question:  paper or plastic?

Fortunately, someone else has!  Read a recent article from about this nagging consumerist dilema:

Quote:  Guess what? That flapping plastic bag is a distraction from the much more important, yet all-too-often overlooked fact that you are driving. Driving a particulate-spewing, gas-devouring, pavement-loving machine. And that is the role of the paper/plastic debate for far too many casual environmentalists: an eye-catching distraction from far more threatening concerns.

And if you need more, read this too:

(I like the first comment which says “Count me in.  I leave the water running when I brush my teeth”.  :-))


~ by fluvial on March 19, 2008.

8 Responses to “Paper or Plastic?”

  1. Heh, the answer to that question should be, “Neither, i have my own homemade hippie shopping bags, also i walked to the store but i’m buying highly processed food that was transported from halfway across the world to this grocery store…. look, i bought organic rosemary from 300+ miles away when i could just be growing it in my backyard.”

  2. Oi. It never ends. I try to operate under a ‘do the best you can and don’t be a jerk’ policy.


  3. Indeed. I was commenting to Leah the other day that Whole Foods recent decision to go to paper bags only is clearly “environment theatre”.

    First off, the environmental cost of a paper bag is actually higher than that of a plastic bag. Much of the environmental cost comes from burning the gas necessary to move the bags from the paper mill to the store. Paper bags are much heavier than plastic bags, so they need more trucks to drive them around.

    And second, the last time I went to Whole Foods, they put twelve plastic bottles of water that came from freakin’ ITALY into those paper bags. Water! From Italy! If they — or, more to the point, their customers, like me — cared about environmental load we wouldn’t be buying freakin’ water from freakin’ ITALY!!

  4. I agree with the other commenters. WF should be one to talk when it’s impossible to find locally or even domestically grown produce there much of the time. I never know how to respond to that question.

    By the way, fluvial, there’s a question over on my blog about salsa and tango shoes that I would love you to weigh in on, since you do both salsa and tango. Thanks!

  5. Thanks for the comment Maria! I put in my $0.02 on your blog as well.

  6. But what if you’re working as a cashier, and you ask the customer what they want for a bag, and they say “whichever is better for the environment”? (It’s happened to me).

  7. That’s a really good point Halfawake. I guess (and this really is counterintuitive) I would plastic? Plastic bags are more likely to be reused and it sounded like Grist was saying that it’s less energy intensive to make plastic bags.

    But as an earth muffin, it really pains me to say that. 😦

    The answer? Let me know when you find it. 🙂

  8. At the time, I guessed paper, thinking it was more biodegradable. The customer said “are you sure?”, and I had no idea what to do :-).

    I think the true answer will vary from place to place and also depending on who you ask.

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