Friday, June 5, 2009

CORPORATE POWER: Environmentally Friendly - American Style

Shopping Bag BanImage by Mike Licht, via Flickr

Environmentally Friendly - American Style by Terri O'Neale

I had to visit Wal-Mart again today (yes, I HAD to ... the kids are sick and needed Tylenol and Motrin). I had noticed on a Wal-Mart commercial I saw that the spokeswoman had a re-usable bag, but on my previous trips to the local store, I had not noticed a display of them. In the UK, Tesco and Asda both have huge displays of their re-usable bags close to the check outs. In fact, they have taken to not having the plastic bags on display at all. You must actually ask for them. The message is clear: bags for life.

Today, I finally found the Wal-Mart version - a flimsy small blue bag. I proudly took one to the checkout. I placed it on the counter first; thinking that clearly signalled that it was my intention to use it with my purchases. But when I turned back from putting the rest of my items on the counter, the cashier was stuffing everything into, you guessed it, the same old plastic bags that can take up to 500 years to degrade in a landfill and leaches toxic waste that whole time.

I pointed out that I had purchased a bag-for-life. She said she was not sure if I wanted to use that now; as she pulled a third plastic bag off for two tiny bottles of children's medicine. I paid and took my purchases. I re-bagged them into my less than sturdy bag-for-life and handed the plastic ones bag to the cashier thinking that they would be re-used. Instead she tossed them into the trash under her register. I was appalled. Of course, the cashier and more than one of the customers in the line behind me gave me funny looks.

I realised then that while I might consider myself moderately green by UK standards; doing more than most of my neighbours and encouraging my readers to do the little things that are so easy for all of us; I am a radical green by US standards: my commitment to bags-for-life, my fastidious recycling, walking everywhere that I can, and let's don't even mention my wormery.

One of the things I will miss most about the UK is public transport. I know that I and others may complain about over-crowded and late trains and buses, but the truth is that with the notable exception of New York City no American city has anywhere near the public transport system that the UK offers. This will be particularly hard for me, because since my car accident in January 2005 I have been too frightened to drive.

In the US, I was unable to even find employment in my field without driving. Of course, in London that was never an issue. Hubby and I had discussed the situation and are considering finding a place relatively close to shops, schools and the beach. But still I know that we will not be able to get away with the once a week car trip that we now boast. Henry Ford started an American tradition when he introduced mass production cars that were affordable to most people.

I wonder too how my wormery and patio gardening will be accepted in the USA. In fact a quick Google search has me thinking that I might need to add my beautiful wormery to a growing list of items that we will ship from the UK to the USA when we do move. I simply cannot live without it, but since I cannot ship it with the worms themselves I am now wondering where I will find them here. I can just see myself going deep into the woods and digging for worms to put inside it.

So if the UK rates less than stellar in the core value of the family first, then the USA ranks just as poorly on environmentally friendly values. I am confident though that I will remain committed to the same standards of conduct I have acquired in the UK, despite the additional inconvenience such as having to take my recycling to a center rather than having the council pick it up each week.

I suppose too that with the new green agenda I can have a role in spreading the word through my blog and writing. But as I said I am cognizant that what might be the 'norm' in the UK will be considered radical by my family, friends and neighbors in the USA. Of course, I have never had any trouble being considered the 'rebel.'

Terri O'Neale is a mother of six; ranging in age from 3 to 22. She has been both a working and stay-at-home mother at various times in her life. She was also a single mother for almost five years, before re-marrying the love of her life at the age of forty. Obviously, she has a life-time of training in raising a family on a tight budget. In addition to these real life experiences, she possesses a Bachelors degree in health education and a minor in environmental management in her Masters programme.

Terri feels strongly that this is one of the most challenging times in history for the family, but she also believes that families with the will and resolve to address the pressing issues of saving money, becoming greener, leading healthier lifestyles and spending more time with one another can endure these challenging times and come out victorious in the end.

Through Frugal Family articles, blogs, videos and social networking, she helps modern families rediscover some lost art forms such as cooking, sewing, and gardening. The goal is not to go back in time or become fanatical, but to help all families find simple and effective ways that fit into their lifestyle to make moderate changes with huge impacts. For more information, check out her blog at

Article Source:'Neale

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