I’m sick at heart this morning. I was going to write a post about how empowered I felt after taking my washing machine apart and putting it back together again. But I’m too upset by the actions of the California senate this morning to give a crap about that.
Last night, I fell asleep in my living room chair while watching episodes of Ugly Betty on DVD. Early this morning, Michael woke me up with some ugly news: California legislators struck down AB1998, the California plastic bag ban bill that so many of us have been excited about.
I wrote about AB1998 back in May right before it passed the California Assembly. I was so full of hope. The bill looked like it would go all the way. Even the governator had committed to signing it. But the American Chemistry Council spent these last few weeks buying politicians and releasing scary commercials (full of lies) to convince voters and legislators that banning plastic bags would pretty much cause the downfall of California civilization as we know it.
LIES of the ACC
I didn’t write about this video when it was released because I thought it was so over the top that no one would be influenced by it. I’ll show it to you now. I guess I was wrong.
One big lie in this video is that banning single-use plastic bags would cut jobs in California. In fact, I visited a plastic bag factory this weekend, a company that manufactures heavy guage plastic bags — not the type that would be impacted by the bill — and the owner told me that there are virtually no producers of t-shirt bags (the kind you get for free at the grocery store) in California. It’s all bull.
What’s more, the bill contained provisions to provide reusable bags to low income people, so arguing that it would be a burden for the poor is disingenuous as well.
WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?
We have to get on the stick, people. We can’t just wait and assume that a bunch of environmental groups are going to solve this problem for us. We have to make our personal actions count. We’ve got to get outside our comfort zones and use our influence to halt the production and use of single-use plastics.
1) Stop using single-use plastics yourself. Just stop. No excuses. Forgetting bags at home is not an excuse. You don’t develop a habit by letting yourself off the hook time after time. More than once, I have carried out my purchases in my hands. If I had too much to carry, I put stuff back. Because I don’t have a car. But if you DO have a car, bring your cart out to the car, unload your stuff, carry it home and maybe put it in bags to bring it into the house. You won’t forget again.
2) Talk to your friends and family about why you bring your own bags, bottles, containers, etc. with you. Don’t be preachy but also, don’t keep your actions to yourself. Yes, you have to start with your own personal actions, but if you leave it at that, we’ll never make big enough change to make a difference. Set an example. Talk to people. Make your actions count for more.
3) Talk to store managers/owners about banning plastic bags from their stores. It’s worked in several places already. Rebecca Hosking in Modbury, England got all the merchants in her town to commit to stop handing out plastic bags. She circumvented the legislative process altogether. Green Sangha has put together a flyer that you can print out and hand to store employees explaining why you refuse plastic bags: Why I Don’t Use Plastic Bags (PDF). The bottom of the flyer is the part that’s most relevant.
4) Write to your legislators — local, state, and national — and demand legislation banning single-use disposable plastics, like plastic bags. Organize your family and associates to write letters too.
5) Use the power of social media to spread your campaigns. It’s not hard, and IT’S FREE. We don’t need the money of the plastics industry if we use the power that we do have. Our votes are what get them into office. We just have to let them know what it will take to win our votes.
Want some ideas for how to create a social action campaign? Ask me about Take Back The Filter. No really, if you’re serious about creating a campaign, ask me. It takes commitment. But anyone can do it, and I mean YOU.
6) Write letters to the editor of your local paper. Worried about how to do it? Don’t be. Just start writing. Keep your letter short and to the point. Here are some tips: How to Write a Letter to the Editor that Gets Published and Read. Seriously. Try it. The very first time I wrote a letter to the editor, it got published in Rolling Stone Magazine. I’m not kidding.
7) Take to the streets. Learn how to visit your representatives and talk to them. Participate in rallies. Get out and get to know the people in your neighborhood. Organize street cleanups and beach cleanups to make people SEE what single-use plastics are doing to the environment with their own eyes. These cleanups don’t solve the problem, but they do spread awareness.
The point is that each of us must take our actions to the next level, whatever that is. Get a little outside your comfort zone. Try talking to a stranger once, and see how it feels and what happens. So many of us, women especially, are worried about people thinking we are “pushy” or that they won’t like us. We worry about making people angry. So what? SO WHAT? I’m pretty angry about what we’re doing to the planet and the fact that the monied interests are only concerned with maintaining a status quo that is killing us.
Do you think they’re worried about making ME angry?