From first grade through my senior year of high school, I repeated the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Basically, “The Pledge” says I promise to be loyal to the United States of America – in retrospect, that’s kind of a high-level concept for an elementary school student.
However, the fact that I can still recite the pledge means it has been ingrained in my memory and is not to be forgotten nor forsaken. When you pledge to do something, you are acknowledging a commitment that may require sacrifice, ridicule or inconvenience.
That’s why I take seriously the pledge that I signed during Indyhub’s recent Get IndyVolved event. The pledge was to stop using plastic bags and I made the pledge by signing my name onto an iPad at the Hoosier Environmental Council’s (HEC) booth.
I figured a pledge to eliminate plastic bags would be no trouble for a guy who has about 10 cloth bags hanging from his back door.
Sadly, I have failed to uphold my pledge and I confess before ye my fellow young professional brethren. Yes, me – the Great Green Hope guy. Ever since signing the pledge, I’ve experienced heightened awareness and say to myself, “Plastic ain’t my bag, baby,” at the checkout line, even when I’ve forgotten my cloth reusable bags.
The indiscretion occurred on Friday when my wife and I ordered some take out Thai food. Our pad thai, massaman curry and spring rolls were already tucked neatly in a brown paper sack, but the restaurant had put the sacks into plastic bags for reinforcement. Yes, the reason for the plastic is well intended, but a pledge is a pledge. I fully expected the green police to be waiting for me outside, twitching an index figure back and forth as if to say, “shame on you.”
OK, so maybe I’m overreacting, but plastic bags are an environmental mess. Plastic bags are made with polyethylene, an oil-based product that requires non-renewable resources to produce. And get this: according to a 2004 study by the Worldwatch Institute, the U.S. uses 100 billion plastic bags annually. That’s roughly 250 bags per person per year!
Moreover, it takes more than five years, sometimes generations, for a plastic bag to decompose (no wonder I can hold a weeks worth of groceries in a plastic bag with one hand). It’s true that these bags can be recycled, but only a measly one percent of all plastic bags are recycled.
So repeat after this adaptation of ‘The Pledge’ I’ve crafted:
To bag the plastic,
Of retailers across the United States of America,
And to the cloth bag,
Of which I will adapt,
Toting it everywhere,
Under the sun,
To help maintain liberty and justice for all.
Now head over to HEC’s microsite to take the pledge to cut plastic bags out of your life – starting now!
Ryan Puckett is a freelance writer and communications specialist focusing on all things pertaining to sustainability including green living, conservation, environmental issues and healthy living. He also likes to eat, so he’ll take whatever work he can get. Ryan is an IU-Bloomington grad and alum of Northwestern University’s School of Journalism. He lives in Broad Ripple with his wife, son and dog, is a veteran of roughly 150 (and counting) Phish shows and is a long-suffering Cubs fan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rmpuckett.