Thursday, April 17, 2008

Can't Fight out of a Paper Bag

In yesterday's NY Post, Jeff Stier of the American Council on Science and Health, ridicules the push away from plastic bags to the old paper stand-by. In particular, he focuses on the faux environmentalism of the Whole Foods grocery chain: "Unfortunately, paper has its own drawbacks, such as: it's preferred by cockroaches - like those contributing to New York City's asthma epidemic. Like other Earth Day initiatives, this move by Whole Foods reeks of a phenomenon known as "greenwashing" - when companies make lofty claims in an effort to profit from "environmentally concerned" shoppers."

And, of course, what Whole Foods is doing is what the greeniacs at the city council advocated when they passed their plastic bag recycling bill: huing and crying about the supposed dangers of plastic to the environment. Tell that to the roaches, and the kids with asthma: "Entymologists, including Coby Schal of North Carolina State University, have observed that cockroaches prefer paper to plastic. "They really like to live in the creases found in paper bags," said Schal, the nation's top expert on cockroaches. Many cockroach species chew into paper bags to lay their eggs - something they don't do with plastic...If Whole Foods' "green" move starts a trend among food stores, it may contribute to New York's asthma epidemic "

How nice; and not to mention the fact that plastic bags get re-used in most households. As Steir points out: "The move flies in the face of the enviro mantra to "reduce, reuse and recycle" - in that order. Almost everyone keeps a stash of plastic bags. We reuse them to line garbage cans, bring lunch to work and clean up after the dog - try doing that with paper. Plastic bags are easier to reuse and more efficient to recycle than paper."

The problem here is that Whole Foods is trying to attract the upscale and the guilt-ridden, the same folks who worshipped Rachel Carson as an environmental goddess; and we know how well that worked out: "Blindly following environmental extremists might make you feel good, but there is a dark side. Recall the millions of unnecessary malaria deaths that have resulted from Rachel Carson's "green" effort to ban DDT."

There is, however, one saving grace. Customers of Whole Foods can feel good about themselves even while spending ridiculous sums for arugula and endive. And that, as Martha Stewart might say, "Is a good thing."