“Paper or plastic?” has become a cliché for those no-win decisions we must make everyday: plastic is an oil-based product that chokes wildlife and is a blight on our streets while paper is a little piece of a living tree.

Of course this question is often asked of me because, once again, I have forgotten my re-usable canvas bags in the truck. I am in the minority, and yet so are those who remember to bring canvas bags with them.

The sad fact is that the majority of consumers don’t care, or won’t bother, with canvas bags.

That is why Whitehorse Councillor Jan Stick is my new hero. Not only has she proposed a bylaw banning new plastic bags from being distributed in Whitehorse, but her Well-Read Books is walking the talk.

I am already on the record believing that environmental damage to our one-and-only Earth warrants the drastic measures of laws and bylaws to remedy. As distasteful as these measures are to a free-enterprising, believe-in-the-goodness-of-people kind of guy I am, I know that free enterprise seeks any financial advantage it can and that people may be good, but too many are lazy and disturbingly ill-informed, too.

You want proof? OK. The Australian National Retailers Association has been pushing for voluntary reduction of plastic bags with advertising campaigns and promoting “green bags”. Yet Australians used a staggering 40 per cent more plastic bags in 2007 than in 2006. That’s one billion more bags for the Koala Bears and Bottlenose Dolphins to play with.

The only way for us to reduce our dependence on plastic bags is to get rid of them … paper bags, too, as we might as well go all the way if we are changing the culture anyway.

Sure, it will be a burden on retailers, but at least it will be an equal burden.

And, sure, people (like me) will forget their canvas bags at home. What do you do with that shopping cart full of groceries then? I say, leave it up to the retailers to decide. They have lots of boxes in the warehouse for these situations. And if your apples taste like Tide later that night, you won’t soon forget the canvas bags the next time.

The sad thing about this entire plastic-bag proposal is that it is not a slam dunk. There are councillors who will likely vote against it and there are others who doubt the science.



If we all cannot get behind this obviously necessary proposal 100 per cent, how are we ever going to take the next step toward paradigm shift that is needed to save our planet?

We need to get rid of packages encasing the products we buy; we need to build our communities around central markets to rid us of our dependence on vehicles; we need to eat only foods produced within 100 miles of us; we need to compost everything; we need to recycle everything; and we need to start now.

Even China will be imposing a ban on plastic bags as of June 1.

China. You know, the it’s-another-week-it’s-another-coal-fired-power-plant China. Even China is more proactively green than us.

Yet if we cannot agree on this one small step, if we are not prepared to do, literally, the least we can do, then our children will have yet one more reason to hate us.