Plastic Vs. Paper Bags As A Metaphor For Environmentalism

plastic bags paper bags

Plastic bags, which are unsightly when they gum up our sewers and hang in our trees, probably aren’t all that bad for the environment, especially in comparison to paper bags, writes Jeffery Ball, in the Wall Street Journal today.

We love the paper versus plastic debate, because is one of those nerdy environmentalist conundrums that serves as a metaphor for environmentalist dilemmas at large.

Making paper bags uses more water and energy and produces more pollution than making plastic bags. However, plastic bags are hard to recycle, don’t breakdown very easily and kill all sorts of wildlife. In their favour though, as anyone with a dog or cat knows, plastic bags are handy for waste.

The best decision, from the Earth’s perspective, is using reusable bags at the grocery store and forgoing plastic or paper. That’s not always convenient. That requires a little forethought, and some sacrifice.

The same ideas underpinning the plastic v. paper debate holds for any environmental debate.

For instance, solar panels are better than coal, but we often have to put them in deserts and other undeveloped areas. That ruins natural habitats. What’s more important? Habitats or reducing CO2. There’s also a chance that they’ll end up as toxic waste in the long run.

Just like we could all use canvas bags, which is better than paper or plastic, we could just live off the grid rather than worry about solar versus coal. But guess what? Some sacrafices are too big to make.

So, we’ve got to find the lesser of two evils, and mix it up. In this case, take a plastic bag from the grocery store occasionally so that you have some for cat poop. But, if the grocer says he wants to triple bag your cereal box, politely decline. Likewise in the coal versus renewables debate. Be efficient with your energy use. Turn off the light every now and again. You’ll need less energy, which means less CO2.

The best part about these solutions from an environmentalist perspective: You still get to be smug about helping the Earth, and yet your don’t have to do too much work.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.