The Marginalian
The Marginalian

The Bag Monster

In 1977, at the height of the 70’s environmental movement, an unlikely invention took hold: The first plastic bag (no, not that plastic bag) was introduced as an alternative to paper bags. Today, according to the EPA, it accounts for 4 out of every 5 bags handed out in grocery stores and, scarier yet, only about 1% of the 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags consumed annually around the world are ever recycled. The rest end up in landfills and, most tragically, in the world’s oceans, where they wreak devastating havoc on marine life — from entangling seabirds and marine animals to ending up in their guts upon being eaten by mistake, with gruesome consequences. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch near Hawaii, a Texas-sized gyre of marine litter, would take a week to cross by boat, and plastic bags account for much of its composition.

Long story short, while most of us know plastic bags are dreadful, we don’t necessarily realize how dreadful. And while dry stats have their place, they’re no way to move people to change behavior. Enter The Bag Monster — the ingenious creation of activist and entrepreneur Andy Keller. Keller, who masterminded the popular reusable ChicoBag, had been going around farmers markets for years, carrying around 500-700 plastic bags to tangibly raise awareness about the number of plastic bags the average American uses yearly. Then, one day, he decided to attach the bags to a jumpsuit with Velcro and wear them. The Bag Monster was born.

This summer, to support the California Bill, AB 1998 for the ban of all plastic bags in California, The Bag Monster went on a monthlong tour across the US, starting in San Francisco and ending in Fairfield, Connecticut.

What makes The Bag Monster work is that it takes a serious environmental problem but doesn’t make it grave, bends it through a prism of satire, and delivers palpable awareness in an organic, non-preachy way.

So what can you do? It’s simple, really. Pledge to eliminate plastic bags and — why stop there? — other single-use items from your life. A good place to start may be our roundup of 7 ways to have more by owning less, as well as this recent HuffPo piece on kicking the plastic habit.

Published September 15, 2010




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