Shopping Bag Warning

Shopping Bag Warning

The District of  Columbia Government is starting an awareness campaign to prepare citizens for January 1st, when the new five-cent shopping bag tax goes into effect. The law is meant to discourage use of disposable bags and reduce the amount of trash that clogs storm drains and the Anacostia River.

Take-out food orders are exempt, but dog owners will need to buy rolls of biodegradable poop bags to clean up after Fido. Hey, stop grumbling about pennies. Everybody knows that children are for people who can’t afford dogs.

Something the law does not take into account: shopping bag antagonism. If you don’t know what that is, carry your limited-edition reusable Whole Foods canvas totes (designed by Cheryl Crow) into Food Lion. People will assume you are a snob who is just slumming. Or carry a pair of nylon Safeway bags into Trader Joe’s. Shoppers and clerks will regard you as an interloper unworthy of the gourmet goodies. The truly cool will use handmade bags or baskets, trumping everyone.

There’s a hierarchy of bags,” explains Pierre Sadik, a senior policy adviser with the David Suzuki Foundation, who has studied the bag quandary for years. “Domestically made, multi-use cloth bags or fair-trade multi-use bags would be the best.” And organic hemp would top the list, since it’s particularly durable and made from a crop that’s easy to grow and uses little water. “The problem is hemp is a restricted crop in the United States,” he says. “It still has a hippy-dippy reputation because of its association with the marijuana plant.” — “Are you putting the ‘ick’ in eco-bag?” by Pamela Cuthbert, MacLean’s.

So avoid bags with controversial or polarizing brand names (Starbuck’s, Wal-Mart, Palin 2012) and those souvenir bags with the Metro map on them that scream “tourist.” Public Radio and  Environmental charity bags are welcome most everywhere, and plain canvas is okay, though it can look dirty fast. We like the traditional string market bag (fillette), but it can elicit xenophobia (or worse, tax your high school French).

DC is a city of workaholics, so it’s perfectly acceptable to reuse the fabric tote bag you got at your last professional meeting, the one with the esoteric logo that says “Acme, The Next Level for All Your Critical Needs Applications.” You might even run into someone who knows what it means and get a contract out it.

Hat tip: DCist

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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3 Responses to “Shopping Bag Warning”

  1. LaJane Galt Says:

    ha!! I love conference bags. They are comfier than wf.

  2. Dusty Says:

    Very good! But I do take issue with this quote:

    Everybody knows that children are for people who can’t afford dogs. As a parent and a pet lover, kids are much more expense than cats or dogs..and the little suckers talk back to boot!

  3. Mike Licht Says:

    Dusty Says: I … take issue with this quote: children are for people who can’t afford dogs.

    I recall seeing that quote attributed to Jim Hightower. It certainly seems true here in DC’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, with doggie daycare and canine academies, dog massage and tonsorial services, designer and prescription dog food, veterinary insurance plans, and competing deluxe dog sweater and toy emporiums on Barracks Row. The latchkey kids here go to public charter schools.

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