The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
September 7, 2007

Weekend Discussion Question: How Far Would You Go?

Today (Saturday, 9/8/07) at noon, Egan Sanders, the “Bagonaut,” will be lowered by crane into a canvas bag 8′ tall by 6′ wide outside the Sam’s Club in San Angelo, TX. He will remain there for 24 hours “to raise awareness of the environmental challenges that plastic shopping bags present.” Volunteers at the event will hand out free canvas shopping bags in exchange for non-perishable food donations for the local food bank. At 7pm, movies will be projected using the giant canvas bag as a screen.

If you live near San Angelo, TX, please stop by and say hi. I’ve communicated with Egan, and he seems like a down-to-earth guy with real concern for the environment and a great sense of humor. He also espouses a philosophy which I heartily endorse:

Plastic is not the enemy; it is a useful material that has created many products for our society. Plastic bags are not the problem – it is how we use and dispose of them that is the issue. With our increasing population and worldwide industrialization we need to face the fact that unless we make changes we will create environmental problems. We are the solution.

What I like about his sentiment is that he chooses not to demonize plastic itself, which is an inanimate material, but instead to focus on the choices and actions of the human beings that created the plastic and have the power to change the way it is used and disposed of. This idea has created some controversy for him, which can be a good thing if it gets people thinking!

Which leads me to this week’s question. How far have you gone or would you go to bring awareness to an issue that is really important to you? Have you ever been outrageous, ever demonstrated in public, or participated in any kind of consciousness-raising event? If not, what do you secretly dream of doing, even if you might feel you are too shy or not in a position to actually do it?

Just how far would you go?

5 Responses to “Weekend Discussion Question: How Far Would You Go?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A few months ago, at an airport, I was hungry while I was waiting for my flight. So I walked a few yards to a sandwich shop and ordered a veggie sandwich. I noticed that for the customer in front of me, the sandwich maker placed the sandwich on wax paper, then rolled it all up in a bigger piece of paper, then put it in a waxy sleeve thing and then in a plastic bag. I was hoping to avoid the nonsense packaging. I told the sandwich maker as he was applying the second layer of paper, “I don’t need any sleeves or bags. You can give me the sandwich as it is.” She said, “Oh, Honey you need the bag.” I said, “No really, I don’t. I’m just going to walk right over there and eat it. I don’t want the bag.” She got really confused and “pshed” and said, “No, here’s a bag.” She put my sandwich in a sleeve in a bag and handed it to me. I got really angry. Usually when this happens to me I walk away with the bag. But not this time. I said, “No. I do not want these bags.” and I took my sandwich out of the bags and placed them on the counter in front of her. She was very shocked.

    That might not seem like a big action to take, but if you knew my non-confrontational manner, you would know it was a bog step for me. I’ve organized a lot of “green” events on my campus (Green Move Out where students can recycle and donate their unused stuff before they leave for summer; campuswide light bulb swap program (flourescents for incandescents) for example), but refusing that bag took WAY more effort for me than any event I’ve helped organize. I realize that this didn’t affect many people, but hopefully the sandwhich maker will listen when the next person asks her to not use a plastic bag.

  2. Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank says:

    Marika, you have already influenced me to be more responsible in my meat consumption! So keep up the good work.

  3. Anonymous says: know that my thing is not so much plastic (although your information and insight is causing me more awareness within my own plastic life) but my thing has always been animals. cuz i lub them! i don’t do a lot of…pickets or events so much, but i try to do a lot on my own. i did write my own letters to Nike, atlanta falcons, and the NFL commis regarding michael vic. i just wrote my angry letter to amazon last week demanding why they still sell videos/magazines, etc promoting dogfighting/cock fighting and i still need to write my letters to Idaho (where im from) encouraging them to make dogfighting a felony (it’s a felony in EVERY state but two…my backwoodsy homestate and i think wyoming is the other..) and I’m still needing to call Wendy’s customer service hotline and ask why they refuse to use free range eggs even though Burger King has begun too. i also make donations to different organizations (plus side..they are tax deductible…down side..there are a MILLION and one similar organizations that need $). I also try to donate my old pillows, sheets, blankets, newspapers to the animal shelters along with extra dog food when i can afford to buy a bag or two.

    I also try to let those around me that ask questions and WANT to know information about animal cruelty, slaughter house/usda information, etc. I try not to push it on those that like to remain oblivious but offer info and tips to those that ask. i thought about starting a blog showing all my animal friendly tips and things i do personally…but bottom line is im a bit lazy and chances are i won’t keep up with it.

  4. Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank says:

    Michelle! I wish I had known about BagFest before it happened. I did enjoy reading about it after the fact. And I think you did make an impact on people.

    Don’t knock theatrics. Sometimes we have to do things in a big way to get attention. Our own private actions are good, but being able to influence others is even better. It’s like the shampoo commercial… she told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on…

    (I wonder how old you have to be to remember that one?)

  5. Michelle Verges says:

    Though I’ve not been crane-lifted into the world’s largest reusable bag to raise awareness about the consumption of plastic bags, I did organize an event called BagFest last April at Indiana University, South Bend.

    BagFest had a similar spirit to Bagonaut’s Big Bag Event. There were several festival activities: Speakers from Wal-Mart,, Rocky Mountain Recycling, and South Bend Waste Paper came to discuss their role in reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic bags; Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, was the featured speaker; there games and activities for kids; live music for adults; and of course, refreshments for everyone to enjoy.

    Plus, everyone was encouraged to bring their plastic bags to this event for a bag pile-up. In four hours, 72,571 plastic bags were collected for recycling. One person brought 1650 bags with him! And everyone who brought 50 bags (or more) received a free reusable bag.

    So the turn-out was great. More than 400 people from the community attended this event. BagFest was also listed as a venue for Step-It-UP, which raised public awareness on reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

    Gosh, I feel like I’m tooting my own horn around here! But to be honest, it took a lot of work to make this event happen. And I sometimes wonder if this event made a difference among my students and the community members. I guess I’ll never really know the answer to that question. (And that’s okay.)

    This project has profoundly changed the way I live, both professionally and personally. And although it took a spectacle to raise public awareness on this issue, on an individual level, I don’t think we need the theatrics–we just need to believe that by doing our small part (i.e., bring your own reusable bags), collectively, we can make a difference.