As part of the master composter program through Denver Urban Gardens, we were required to take a tour of a landfill near Denver. This experience should be mandatory for school children nationwide. The worst thing about the trip was not the stench, the seagulls, the sheer size of the endless wasteland, or the continuous stream of trucks arriving to add to the landfill. The most appalling thing about this field trip was the plastic grocery bags blowing everywhere; thousands upon thousands, millions upon millions of them. Everywhere you looked they were fluttering in the wind, on the ground, in the fences, in the air.
Recycling is not the answer. Billions of barrels of oil have already been wasted. Virgin forests have already been clear-cut. When you hold the bag in your hands the damage has already been done. It is far too late by the time you put it in the recycle bin.
The answer is to never personally use a disposable bag again. The answer is to educate your friends because friends do not let friends destroy the planet. The answer is to pressure the businesses you patronize to reward those who bring their own bags, and if they will not, then find other business to patronize.
The answer is to hold the toes of your local, state, federal, and national politicians to the fire until they pass laws banning disposable bags of any kind. The list of nations who have already done this is growing. Never in history has so much been wasted on objects that will only be thrown away.
The environment is now the only issue that matters because poverty cannot be erased, wars cannot be ended, famine cannot be averted, and basic civil liberties cannot be obtained with the planetary ecosystem in an ever downward spiral. No less a figure than former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has publicly stated this.
The single easiest and best thing you can do right now today for the environment is never again let any store of any kind provide you with a disposable bag made of paper or plastic for any purpose. Bring your own reusable bags made of recycled plastic, canvas, or hemp. Start now. Never turn back. The world is counting on you.
You will live long enough to see the devastating impact of failure to act. Saving the environment is not about future generations anymore. Saving the environment is now about saving ourselves.