If you’ve been online today, or tried to drive down Wilshire, you’ve been reminded of the fact that today is Earth Day. Google’s cute, nature-themed tribute to Earth Day can be seen on their homepage, and links to the many activities hosted today. LA shut down Wilshire from Western to Harvard for the Wilshire Center/Car Free day. Cities around the world, in over 168 countries are participating in the celebration. Our celebration of Earth Day officially began in 1970, when Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a “Teach In” across the nation, resulting in over 20 million participants, and one of the largest grassroots movements since the Vietnam war protests. The massive success of the movement spurred the creation of The EPA, and passage of the Clean Water and Clean Air Act.
A quick search online this morning revealed many different Earth Day festivities throughout LA county today, from city-wide tree planting to renewable energy expos. With so much attention on the topic today, it felt easy to sink into a false sense of security. Hey, if everyone’s paying attention to their eco-footprint today, then we must be on a good path, right? Well, we may be on the right track, but we have a long way to go.
Take for instance, the plastic bag issue. Of the many bags used throughout the average person’s day, less than 1% are recycled, compared to 20% of paper bags, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. We’re behind many other countries and cities that have already banned plastic bags, from Bangladesh to the island of Zanzibar. China plans to stop giving them for free this June 1st. Germany offers canvas bag options alongside plastic, for free. San Francisco recently banned plastic bags this March, 2007, but our other cities lag behind. Some countries like Ireland have started charging for plastic, in an effort to encourage the use of re-usable bags. If we can’t stop using plastic bags entirely, can’t we at least take advantage of the re-usable bag options that are popping up everywhere, from Grocery Stores to Target?
I was confronted with the issue at IKEA recently, who now charges for plastic bags, but offers sturdy, re-usable bags for only a few more cents. It was a shock to face being charged for a plastic bag, but it made me stop and think about the consequences of my choices, and in the end I opted for the re-usable bag. It will probably be a challenge to remember to bring it the next time I go shopping, but I’m willing to try. It may be small, but that’s where everything has to start, right?