We frequent several grocery stores within walking distance of our apartment: a Whole Foods [for produce], a Trader Joe’s [for frozen food], a local co-op [for milk and quick trips and a Shaw’s/Star Market [for prepared foods and to recycle bottles and plastic bags]. All of these stores sell reusable cloth shopping bags, which we use about 75% of the time. But only Whole Foods sells the reusable bags that piss me off.
As shown in this online store, the annoying reusable bags are bright yellow with the following message on them: I’M SAVING THE PLANET. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
This conspicuous, confrontational environmentalism pisses me off because its point is not just to “save a tree,” but also to “look fashionable while doing it” [quote from organize.com]. I have a problem with pro forma environmentalism where the appearance of environmentalism matters more than actual actions, as is the case with this bag. The text on the bag equates “saving the planet” with using this particular bag or, by extension, making a show of one’s environmentalism.
Furthermore and much more problematically, the implied contrast between the owner who is “saving the planet” and the audience who is being interrogated suggests that the audience is not doing anything to save the planet. The audience may be doing environmentally conscious activities in other areas of life; or the audience may have mitigating factors that prevent them from spending extra money in order to flaunt their environmentalism like white urban bourgeois hipsters. The bag will not admit of these possibilities. In the limited calculus of the bag, bag = saving the planet = cool. No bag = harming Mother Earth = evil. At first this bag seems like a minor irritant, but it’s actually an explosive mess of classist [and possibly racist] assumptions.