Thursday, August 09, 2007

Paper or Plastic

Isn't that the eternal question? Do we use the petroleum based plastic jobs which are recyclable, or do we cut down more trees? Even though trees are renewable, we're not going to be growing enough for long enough and we need our trees desperately to counteract global warming. I love trees. I hate the oil industry. Yah, the correct answer is paper, to be sure, but it's tough sometimes.

I'm in a quandary at the moment. For years I had gone to my long list of shows with paper bags. I started out with mostly recycled paper stuff. But then felt the pressure to have something a little more showy to put the soaps in. So I got bags that were a little more decorative, with patterns and handles. I was on the lookout for something new, something different, something that would stand out when folks walked down the street with my goods. If people saw a few of my bags, and recognized them, then it would signal, "hey, that must be good stuff - they're all buying it". Or so the marketing strategy goes.

But then it rained at a bunch of shows. It got really old trying to wrap enough paper around a bar of soap for some poor customer who had courageously braved the downpours to come to the show. I felt awful about not having a plastic sack that they could safely take their goods home in. So I started buying some plastic bags, just for rainy shows. And then the new marketing strategy was, instead of some showy, expensive paper bags, what about just stocking clear plastic sacks - then people would clearly see my goods walking down the street. A parade of folks with clear plastic sacks, proudly displaying my soap stuffs and my brochure in them.

So I simplified by just having clear plastic, but needed several sizes. And experimented with styles and sizes by buying different kinds from different vendors over the last couple years. And plastic takes up way less space, in the car and in the office, and it's a whole lot lighter to lug around than a bin of paper sacks too, which was an added benefit.

But my conscience was bothering me. I hated giving away all those plastic bags that I knew were not going into any recycling program, for the most part. I've spent the better part of this summer using them all up and making a promise to myself to do something better and more carefully thought out.

I snooted around a couple of stores for recycled content paper and didn't find much. And then panicked today because I don't have enough bags for the weekend and there isn't enough time to do online research, order something and get it before I go. So I headed out to the specialty shop that I use once in a while - just to get a little bundle of something to tide me over - and paper was a must.

Well, they were having a half-price sale on the huge-o bundles of little handle bags that I was once using. I have no idea how much or if any of it is recycled content, and they are white to boot, which I figure is worse than natural kraft color. But the handles are really handy. Nobody likes walking around blocks and blocks of a show with a heavy bag that has no handles, alternating it under one armpit and the other, balancing it on top of other stuff. They sizes on sale were a teeny bit smaller or bigger than what I usually buy - so what the heck, I got one of each. Stuff will either fit in the smaller one, or I bump up to the bigger one, but I've got twice as many bags as I would have otherwise for the same price. A bargain! And it will take me forever to blow my way through these again.

This going green and making the right choices can be so hard sometimes, sigh. Although I still think I'm better off with paper, and I've got just a little stash of plastic in the bottom of the bin in case I hit a rainy spot some day. But, um, next time I need to restock bags, I'm really, really, going to do the research and do the right thing. Baby steps.