Shoppin' in the 'fee' world
by Emily Gallagher
Feb 15, 2017 | 2141 views | 0 0 comments | 150 150 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the ever-expanding world of "fake news" and "alternative facts," I am coming to realize that our vigilance has to extend beyond a simple awareness of what is happening.

It has to extend to how people and human behavior actually works, which has long been an arguing point between the left and right of the aisle, and recognizing excuses when we see them.

For example, many people believe that if you are told something is wrong or bad or will negatively impact your life, that will be enough to reshape and reframe long existing and socially supported behaviors that are a reflection of general human behavior.

Humans love conveniently following their impulses. In many ways, that's how our consumer society works. People can make a profit off of myriad bad ideas because they answer an impulse, they are convenient and they feel good.

By making things cheap and available, we generate tons of waste. Until someone actively disincentivizes our convenience instinct with a direct consequence, it is not likely to change.

I say this with authority because I myself behave this way, and my family and friends are like this too. I am a fairly aware person and I will still follow my impulse of what feels good until the consequences make themselves impossible to ignore.

With health this is a little easier to swallow, because if I continue to treat my body badly, it is myself and my loved ones who will primarily suffer the consequences.

However, when it comes to larger issues where we have to put our convenience or comfort aside in a way that does not directly and visibly benefit us, it becomes a harder sell.

I am writing this because studies have shown across the country that a disincentive, like a fee, works better than re-education with no consequence.

New York City’s plastic bag fee was based on the results of numerous other cities who have a fee around the country. They found that educational programs don't work, fees do work.

I am evidence of this. I have reusable bags but I don't bring them along. I often take plastic bags even though I have, since childhood, been told that they are destroying the earth. The one place I actually really always remember to bring my reusable bag is Whole Foods, where they give you a discount for bringing a reusable bag. I love a discount.

I have recently heard from some state politicians that they voted for the bag fee moratorium because they wanted to try an educational program first. Well, I am 32 years old, I have been educated for years on Earth Day and beyond about my trash impact, and I'm telling you: I will be lazy about bringing a bag unless I have an incentive. That's a fact.

The bag fee supporters looked at numerous studies and worked very hard to figure out what would make people stop using plastic bags. It was the fee.

Let's not pretend that environmental education hasn't been tried. We created plastic bags to make money off of people's laziness, and laziness is hard to beat.

My guess is that the bag moratorium was passed for other reasons, not a shining belief in the transformational power of environmental education.
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