Monday, February 4, 2008

I Am Not A Plastic Bag

Someone once said that the best way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time. If there’s an elephant in the room today, it would have to be our inclination to watch documentaries about our impact on the environment and reluctance to actually do something about it. Most of us have huge amounts of information about the issues but turning knowledge into personal action is something else. Take the plastic bag; a symbol of everyday life. Just a year ago, who could imagine coming home from the store without one? Unfortunately, the truth of this convenience is that 1% are recycled and the rest float in streams, clog up drains and float through our oceans like perpetual jellyfish. For years there have been efforts to get people to kick the plastic habit – offering alternatives, charging for plastic, etc. – but quite recently and very rapidly many have decided to do the right thing. Why? Because the reasons to change shifted from all head (why you ought to change) to heart (why you’d want to), and the results have been as contagious as the smiley face.

Today any designer or store that wants to be taken seriously is coming up with stylish, funky, crazy, cool and eccentric ideas about how to get your shopping home. To me the greatest example remains Anya Hindmarch’s tagline: “I am not a plastic bag” printed on…not a plastic bag. Personal, direct, emotional. So let’s change the elephant strategy. The best way to eat an elephant is one great emotional idea at a time.


Susan Plunkett said...

When you dissect the linked article, it's not altogether complimentary is it - not re wealthy people who need to feel some 'thing' is fashionable before they buy (or so the article essentially asserts).

So, where is the heart in terms of the environmental issue? It isn't in a way. The heart - again so the article implies - lies in having the fashionista in us tweaked.

I observe the handle seems fairly strong and is an improvement on several cotton bags I have seen over the past 5 years but there have been plenty of similar bags around the place and several environmental groups (and manufacturers) have given them the nod.

Why then have many stores moved from cotton or hemp bags to what I believe are recycled plastic/material bags (e.g. Coles, IGA et al)? Is it because the cotton and hemp simply didn't hold up to the usage and weight strain? Because once something spills on the cotton it can look tacky?

Perhaps the best way to eat an elephant is to choose to eat lettuce.

J said...

This is an important topic.

I think the truth is that, rightly or wrongly, 'eco-consciousness' has traditionally been seen as the concern of the extreme left, animal activists, vegans etc.

To get everyone onboard, like anything, the message has had to be 'marketed' to us, to make it more 'sexy' and fashionable.

There has been an incredible onus on this in the past 2 years in the media.

The motivations for some companies (and consumers) to jump on the green bandwagon may not [i]always[/i] be entirely innocent, (maybe more of a PR concern?) however, I suppose if the end result is that less materials, natural resources etc etc ARE used by that company and by proxy, its consumers, then in a way, the 'sexy' marketing, is the end that justifies the means.

A warning on green marketing.

I feel it is in danger of alienating and turning off the ordinary man from the issue, as the tone often borders on lecturing and "kill-joying".


Two (government) adverts currently to be seen in the UK.

"Take less baths and reduce your carbon footprint"

"Don't rev your car - it produces too much CO2"

Surely these border on the absurd, however true the message?

Proposed parliament bill:

Introduce a carbon tax on flights.

This would most affect (and possibly stop) the poorer families having their annual holiday in Spain.

Those who can afford to, will simply carry on flying and pay the price (the same that has happened with congestion charge in London - you only see nice cars travelling in the C zone now: i.e. the well off!)

On the Anya bag: living in the UK and witnessing on the news the enormous queues for them outside Sainsburys (where they were sold) for most of those people to then auction them off on ebay at hundreds £££, "The new IT bag"... That's another story!

However, it should be acknowledged that there are inconsistencies and hypocrisies in every good intention, that does not mean these movements should not be started; as long as they are acknowledged.

willow51674 said...


Brook Gibbs from the Sustainability Conference in Rogers Arkansas last fall. Lived in NZ for 4 years. Know Ross Smith from Renwick. I have an idea, and have thought of this a few years back. Why not recycle the plastic bags at wal-mart, and use them as the fins on small scale windmills on the roofs of super-centers and DC's? I have an Idea that could make them for probably less than $10 a piece and could fit one every 4 sqft on a roof at less than 3lbs.. Give it some thought, tell me what you think..E-mail me and tell me who to talk to at Wally world.. Cheers, Brook

Susan Plunkett said...

Brook..the windmills serve what purpose?

Kevin Roberts said...

Good to hear from you Brook - and on such a great topic. You might have read that we're now taking Saatchi & Saatchi into the sustainability action with the acquisition of Act Now and its transformation into Saatchi & Saatchi S. Exciting times. Flick me your note.

Kevin Roberts said...

J - If companies did not get involved with sustainability then it would still be back in the hands of people who wear sandals in winter.

The efforts of government departments in this area quite often lack teeth, so it really is up to business to make a difference. And yes some companies will jump on the green-washing bandwagon to make a quick buck, but consumers will see through this soon enough. said...


Brook again.. You can reach me at ... Saw the ActNOW acquisition into Saatchi S! Am very excited and talked sith local rep serena (brit) and relayed to lisa (also local) about my interest in joining your team!!also had idea of fusing members from our graduating MBA class into a sustainability team, and using our previous experience working together and on sustainability projects, as an advantage to saatchi S here in NWA.. Please get back to me when you can, as I have already bought my ticket to NZ, and am up in the air. Working for you here, or there with your daughter with her non-prof are my only goals at the moment, everything else secondary.. Great to hear from you again, was meaning to check this site, but have been up to career fairs, and MBA projects..Also, the windmill idea should be a good one.. but we can talk about that later...