Earlier this month, I ran across a photo of a mother seal, desperately using her flippers and her teeth to rescue her child. The baby seal had swum through one of millions of plastic bags littering our ocean and its head was stuck in the bag, the plastic sucked into its mouth as it tried to breathe. Thankfully, according to the photographer, the seal survived. The mother was able to remove the bag and save her baby.
The sad thing is, it’s hardly unique. Set a Google search for animals stuck in plastic bags, and you’ll find a myriad of images—all different animals, from sea to land, tethered to bags, wrapped in bags, struggling to breathe, mutated with bodies that have grown around plastic handles.
All this for a few minutes of convenience.
In California alone, there are 10 billion single-use plastic bags used annually. A mere three percent are recycled. According to Craig Cadwallader of the Surfrider Foundation, quoted in this April Beach Reporter article, scientists estimate there will be more plastic bags than fish in the ocean by 2050.
But today, we have the opportunity to do something about that.
We have the opportunity to forever change the course of history. We have the opportunity to save our planet.
By voting YES on Prop 67, you can make sure California is no longer on the wrong side of history.
Proposition 67 would ban single-use plastic bags in the state of California, allowing retailers to offer reusable bags or paper bags for a fee, or allowing consumers to shop with their own reusable bags.
Will it be more expensive for retailers? Slightly, at least in the short term. Paper bags do cost a little bit more, by about a penny a piece. They’re not ideal either. Paper bags do create a carbon footprint in delivery and production costs that exceeds plastic bags. However, they are more easily recycled, or composted back to the earth, whereas a plastic bag (made from non-renewable oil) lasts forever.
So if it will cost more money for small business, why vote for it? Why put the small business owner under additional financial duress?
Because it’s the right thing to do.
In my company, I have no need for plastic bags. My products are large and installed on homes and businesses, so I’m not facing the same change that other business owners will face. And yet, it’s a moral and ethical decision, nay an environmental obligation, that I made from the very start.
I pay extra money for what is better for the Earth, and for my clients. The turf I install is made in America. It is lead-free and made of recycled material. It’s free of toxins that some foreign brands include, and it costs more. But it’s safer, so it’s what I use. The paint I use does not contain the chemicals known as VOCs, known carcinogens that exacerbate asthma symptoms. Again, it costs more. But it’s safer, so it’s what I use.
As a contractor, I know that every action I take, every decision I make on the products I use, I must take the health and wellbeing of my clients and this planet into account. So if I ran a toy company or a food store, I would gladly make the switch to paper and reusable bags, eating up that extra penny in cost, because I know that it’s the right thing to do.
So, why not allow the change to happen naturally? Why not address the environmental concern with education and awareness and encourage business owners and consumers to curb plastic use? Why legislate it?
Because it is so very important.
Creating a law tells our children, “We care about you, and we care about the ocean and the animals that you love.”
Creating a law tells our nation, “There is a better way.”
Creating a law tells our global community, “Join us. We will lead the charge.”
Creating a law reminds us, every day, to take better care of ourselves and our planet. It causes us to pause for a moment in our day and think about our connection to the earth. It eliminates the ability to think of a momentary convenience as the only solution and look beyond the 10-minute trip from the store to our home.
Creating a law will one day make reusable bags so natural that the mere idea of a business handing out a single-use plastic bag will feel outdated, irrelevated, antiquated, and even ignorant—within a generation! (Sort of like smoking in restaurants, or cars without seat belts.)
Sometimes, all it takes to make the right change is enough people with the courage to vote for the good of the whole.
And so, today, as you go to the polls to cast your vote, I encourage you to look beyond who you choose for the next President, the next Senator, the next Judge, and go through the ballot measures. Consider the direct impact you have on state and local issues and vote your conscience. Pause to consider how your vote will determine our future.
And when you arrive at the very last state measure on the ballot, Proposition 67, check Yes. Be a leader.