Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Who knew how prophetic Kermit the Frog was when he said, "It's not easy being green"?

I thought of this quote as I reflected on a recent comment posted on the blog. The blogger discussed the idea of a "conceptual revision," which describes our ability to change the way we think about a given event or situation.

As this blogger noted, we have a standard way of thinking about our shopping experience: Drive to the store, get the shopping cart, put goods in the cart, queue in the check-out line, pay for the goods, and leave the store with armfuls of plastic bags containing the purchased goods.

This "schema" works quite well; that is, until you want to change it. So what does it take to revise the way we think about our shopping habits?

I struggled with this question some time ago.

And trust me, this was a trial & error process. (To use another fancy word, what I'm talking about is learning via successive approximations. Thanks B. F. Skinner!) With repeated practice, I was able to gradually change my shopping habits.

Of course, there's another way to change behavior, and that's through legislation. To date, plastic bags have been banned in South Africa; Manitoba, Canada; and San Francisco, California. Bangladesh, Ireland, and Taiwan have imposed taxes on the consumption of plastic bags.

I wonder how likely it is for the U.S. government to introduce legislation on the plastic-bag issue. In the meantime, however, let's encourage each other to bring reusable bags for our shopping needs.


Experimentaholic said...

Great point in the original post. If you drive to the store, as many Americans do...keep a stash of old plastic bags in the trunk. Just remember to remove them from the trunk before heading into the store, or you'll find yourself at the register saying "Do'h!" My problem was that I walk to the store, so I sometimes forget to bring the bag. So I recently hung reusable bags by my apartment's front door...I can't not see them before I head out. Little changes can lead not just to conceptual revisions, but also to cognitive revolutions!

Meghan said...

Ha! My problem was that I'd forget to put the reusable back back into my car. Talk about "Do'h!"

I posted my comment on the other blog entry (the plastic is not our national flower one) before I read this. I have to say, I honestly see our corporations setting green trends & affecting change that way before our government does anything real about it.

Everything revolves around us, and everyone is afraid of doing something to upset us. Corporations don't want to upset us - their consumers. Politicians don't want to upset us - their voters. But for some reason we can't seem to get together and tell these people what we want to see. We seem to leave them guessing and hopping around to please us. I admire the few corporations who have taken a green step foward. I do my best to reward them with my dollars, proving to them that they've taken the step that consumers want to see.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see the US Government doing anything but talking. Heck, if we could get them to stop talking alone, we might save enough hot air to reduce the earth's temperature, right? :)

Michelle Verges, Project Director said...

Great comments, guys!

Meghan: Your post reminded me about Ikea's efforts to reduce plastic-bag consumption, which is a topic Experimentaholic raised in a previous comment.

I'll post more information about Ikea's bag program shortly!


Rey B said...

Sorry Michelle but the quickest way to screw something up is to let the federal government attempt to legislate a fix. The most frightening sentence in the English language "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

Michelle Verges, Project Director said...

No apology necessary, Rey! :0)

Your comment, however, reminds me about the dramatic difference that was made when Ireland imposed the plastax in 2002. To date, this tax has resulted in a 95% reduction in the consumption of plastic bags.

I dunno, sounds like this regulation did the trick to changing people's behavior.

In my heart of hearts, though, I do wish we would be compelled to make positive lifestyle changes without having to invoke the governmental powers that be...


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