Your turn on disposable bag fees

Last week's column on Seattle's rejection of a 20-cent fee on disposable shopping bags set loose a wave of comments, ranging from small-stroke practicality to climate change denial to personal resentment. In the first category: "Twenty cents is a little excessive I believe. For most consumers a small surcharge would be enough of a incentive for a few consumers to change their habits."

And "Jeff please leave the government out of this. Why make it a law and not just the Ashland way?... I believe in reusable bags and always carry mine to the Co-op and sometimes to other stores. Why? Because the Co-op trained me to bring my bags and thanks me when I do."

And "Why punish bad behavior when you can reward good behavior, which is much more effective? Without raising tax rates, credit the consumer through the store (like cash for clunkers) if he/she requests no bags for the groceries due to the fact that they brought their own re-usable bags." That's simply elegant. A bounty for shoppers who bring their own bags could be structured to have the same effective results as a bag fee with about 2 percent of the heartburn.

Another reader sounds disgusted with our choice of battles. [begin ITAL] "The bag cops are really getting over the top, Notice not one of them flinches about carrying out a milk jug, detergent jug, bottled water jug, etc. any one of which is the equivalent of over 200 evil plastic bags. 'No bag please' as one carries out a jug, feeling all warm and fuzzy. Simply another example of majoring in the minors ... Have any of you flown lately? Just the jet fuel alone to get you to Portland, just your share, would be the petroleum equivalent of several billion plastic bags "¦ There are countless other examples of hypocrisy."

I lit a fuse under another reader with my suggestion that curbing our throwaway bag habit, compared to other strategies for lightening our load on the planet that call for inconveniences bordering on hardship, should be easy: —¦ in this case we're talking about containers for carrying your eggs and Cheerios and toothpaste from the supermarket checkstand to your home." The problem was apparently my assumption that we should be lightening our load. "The planet," the reader wrote, "is no longer warming. "¦ Scientists have found that carbon has no real effects on our climate, and that 'the UN IPCC models are not only wrong, they're so far off the mark as to be laughable.' So, next time you walk into the market with your reusable bag, your head held so high you're wearing nose plugs, think about what that really says about you" (for the elaborated argument, and another reader's astonished reaction, visit the online version of last Saturday's column).

Two things here. I honestly believed it was R.I.P. for this viewpoint when the Bush White House and Pentagon straight-out acknowledged both the grim reality of climate change and the big role human activity plays in it. I'm coming to wonder if we'll ever get beyond it.

But more interesting to me is the "head held so high you're wearing nose plugs" business. He had plenty more: "This is just the latest fad for people that want to walk around feeling they're better than everyone else"¦ So, instead of simply doing what you think is right, stick that chest way out and tell people that aren't as smart you how they have to live their lives. Better yet, get a bunch of politicians, who are also better than everyone else, to pass laws that punish people who aren't as smart as you. Because if you stop and think about it, if these people are so stupid they don't realize how much smarter you are than everyone else, they have no right to even be in this country "¦ Sometimes I wonder if I could make it through life, if it wasn't for all of you wonderful, caring people telling me what I'm doing wrong."

That might be the most important comment of the week, especially for those of us getting ever more puzzled by current events. We're busting a gut trying to understand the logic of low-income uninsured people chanting "No Reform! No Reform!" outside Town Hall meetings and carrying posters of Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. Do you think this last commenting reader is offering up a hint?

Jeff Golden is the author of "Forest Blood," "As If We Were Grownups" and the novel "Unafraid" (with excerpts available at

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