Flashback to the late 1970’s, the entry of the plastic bag. This inexpensive, lightweight item created for consumers as an act of convenience made to revolutionise the shopping experience. Introduced as a consumer’s friend, this plastic bag has now turned into a consumer’s foe.
How did we not see this coming? Did we all get too swept away by the mass introduction of convenience? Is convenience no longer convenient?
The 1970’s was the era of the mass market introduction of the microwave into our domestic kitchens. In the 1970’s the microwave became affordable to the masses, it was promoted as the kitchen appliance of convenience, reducing your cooking time by approx. 75%. In 1973, a Motorola researcher made the first mobile telephone. Since the creation of the mobile phone, communicating anywhere has never been easier. In 1974, the barcode was created, another act of convenience made to revolutionise the retail industry. Then in 1977, Australia’s first 7-eleven convenience store opened. As its name may suggest, it opened with convenient shopping hours for the consumer, opening from 7am to 11pm, only to increase to 24 hours within a year for selected stores.
We were mass marketing the act of making things easy and effortless. If it could be done, faster, quicker, more flexible in hours or location, easier for us to hold, carry or work, then it seemed to triumph our decisions as a consumer.
Convenience seemed to make our decisions for us, outplaying what I call our true preferences. ‘Even though I prefer to drink my morning coffee at home with some great reading materials, my Keep Cup is so convenient I instead drink my coffee in the car on my drive to work. Convenience overwrites and I hardly do what I prefer to do.’
Did we all get so caught up in the temptation of an easy and effortless life that we did not consider the consequences or alternatives?
Let’s review the act of convenience in association to our little plastic bag. The plastic bag was designed to be disposable. A single use item that after short term use was to be binned as solid waste. But was the long-term ever considered?
It is now estimated that only 1% of our plastic bags are returned for recycling. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. More astonishing, by 2050, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report predicts plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish. In Australia alone, the War on Waste documentary states we use over 10 million plastic bags a day. Experts also estimate that up to 100,000 marine mammals and a million birds are killed each year as a consequence of plastic bag debris.
Yes, the plastic bag is a convenient way to carry groceries, however it is not the only way. There are alternatives friendlier on our environment.
Firstly, a bag does not need to be made of plastic to be convenient. An organic cotton Kappi grocery bag, is more eco friendly and reusable. It is more fashionable then plastic too! And secondly, while it may sound odd, but could embracing inconvenience be the new convenience of today?
We may not notice it; however, it is our inconvenient choices that define us. We simply don’t recognise them as inconvenient as we instead call them our hobbies, callings or passions. With our hobbies, callings and passions we may deliberately choose the longer method as it is more meaningful to us. It teaches us and challenges us in an area we seek to grow. As a painter, instead of buying the convenient pre-made paint colours, we will mix up our own colours of the rainbow from the primary colours blue, red and yellow. As a runner, we may choose to run a marathon in rain, wind or sunshine instead of running on a convenient inside treadmill as it is the outside challenge and fresh air that excites us.
We must remember that joyous feeling and sense of achievement we gain by doing things slow.
Just like a plastic bag, although you may be tempted to take the easy and effortless solution, before you rush through your local Woolworths and pay your 15c for a plastic bag, consider the alternative. Imagine the joy of carrying your organic cotton grocery bag to the farmers market. Stylishly slinging the bag over your shoulder. Walking through the farmers market on a cold misty morning, stopping for a hot cup of organic coffee, chatting to the local farmers, buying fresh seasonal produce and brainstorming which creative recipes you will cook up that week. Take in the crisp morning air, capture a quick Instagram story and then bring your fresh produce goodies back home. Unpack your groceries and wash your bag ready for another day. This may be the slower alternative, but does it resonate closer to your heart? Does it give you a sense of joy and achievement?
Convenience is simply no longer convenient. Instead challenge yourself to try inconvenience as the new way.
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