I’m sure a lot of people are probably quite sick about the tagline of no plastic bags and saving the environment or the ‘green’ movement or having to live ‘greener’. Well, maybe not sick of it, but more feeling like they’re being nagged to death about it. For the past year or two, the green movement has taken over magazine articles, magazine covers, newspapers, television shows and the movies. With the Inconvenient Truth and the more recent 11th Hour, we are becoming more informed about the greenhouse effect (which was previously thought to be nonsense).
What is important is that we, as individuals, do something about it. Being green makes you feel better and will in turn help the environment. There is plenty of information on the internet about how to live green and organic. More and more Malaysians really need to step up and start educating themselves about these issues.
The first, easiest and best ways to start living greener is to saying NO to plastic bags. Whenever someone at a store offers you a plastic bag, say you don’t need it. Actually, in Malaysia, you’ll need to tell them in advance that you don’t want them putting your goods in plastic bags. Whenever you go grocery shopping, make an effort to bring your reusable bag with you and to use it once your at the checkout counter. One reusable bag generally fits enough stuff to save 3 plastic bags (from my observations).
There are heaps of stories about how Malaysians who try to be greener get funny looks etc. I’ve been bringing my reusable bags to grocery stores for the past year now (and I should have started earlier, especially after coming back from Australia where plastic bags are frowned upon) and I get looks from either the checkout girl or just the people around. Maybe it’s just the start of the whole thing, and maybe it’s just people looking at someone who is doing things differently, but it should really be the other way around. People who use plastic bags whenever they do their weekly grocery shopping should be getting the looks.
Once, I was in Hock Choon, my local supermarket on Jalan Ampang. I pulled out an RuMe bag and told the checkout girl that i didn’t need plastic bags. Hock Choon is actually pretty good about the awareness of people not wanting plastic bags. There was a woman in front of me, Chinese and in about her mid-40s who heard and saw me do my thing with the RuMe bag, and she commented, “Oh, all you young people and your fads.”
Seriously, it was the generation of my parents that created this consumerist society where things started becoming disposable and “more convenient”. From disposable diapers, disposable sanitary pads, plastic bags and what-not. This woman really had no right to comment about me using a reusable bag and calling it a fad. Maybe it’s just because we’re more aware of our surroundings, lady.
But I didn’t say anything and hindsight is a bitch.
Another incident happened at Isetan where I walked past and saw the checkout girl put one of their RM20 eco-bags (that’s already wrapped in plastic when you first purchase it) and put it into a plastic bag along with all the customers other shopping in plastic bags. Things that piss me off about that:
1) THE CUSTOMER DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING. I think I actually saw her nod in acknowledgment.
2) It was right in front of a big Isetan campaign board about reducing the use of plastic bags.
3) I didn’t say anything because I was too chicken and yes, hindsight is a bitch.
Seriously, Isetan should really step up their game (I have called them to let them know). They only have one supermarket in the country and hence, it’s not that hard to educate your checkout girls to first ask the customer whether they have their own bag. It shouldn’t be the other way round that the customer has to take a little tag off a hook to say that they don’t want a plastic bag (that’s their new system – if you don’t want to use plastic bags, there are wooden tags next to the counter that you have to take).
I guess Isetan is talking the talk, but not really walking the walk by observing how other countries do it.
What should really happen is that supermarkets should start charging for plastic bags. They do this in other countries, and Malaysians being so kiasu about things, habits will change and they’ll start to think twice about using a plastic bag to take away a bottle of soft drink. Even Ikea Malaysia doesn’t do that, when it’s practiced by other Ikea stores in other countries.
Hopefully, things will change and Malaysians (and the rest of the world) will be able to reduce their use of plastic bags.