I work as a cashier in one of Toronto's busiest health food stores. Like any retail job, it's got its perks: an OK discount on everything in the store and all the reverse-osmosis water I can drink. I also get to rub shoulders with sprout-loving celebrities like Patricia Rozema, Sarah Polley and Howard Hampton, to name a few.
But it's the environmentally conscious shoppers who make my day - the senior citizens, queer couples, university students, first-time moms with SUV-sized strollers, dressed-for-success Yorkville types and granola-lovin' hippies of all ages.
I love these people because they make every effort to avoid taking a plastic bag from our store. Sometimes it's comical - they stuff broccoli and cartons of soy milk in their too-small purses, bags of rice, apples and fresh loaves of bread in their already overstuffed knapsacks, or jam bottles and vitamins in their jacket pockets. Some people shop every single day armed with the same crumpled plastic or canvas bags. Others use large baskets.
Then there are the eco monsters. They're usually young, between 25 and 35, and simply don't give a shit about the earth.
They buy one single can of pop or a bottle of vitamins. I put their purchase in a brown paper bag, but they demand a plastic bag because they're walking a few blocks.
There's a hierarchy of monsters.
Some come in every single day of the week, buy a yogurt or a piece of cake and take a plastic spoon or fork every single time. That's more than 300 plastic utensils per person a year!
The worst are those who buy a piece of fruit that they've placed in a clear plastic bag but want another plastic bag to carry the fruit in anyway.
A couple of weeks ago, a woman, without even asking, grabbed a plastic bag from behind my cash. Catching my perplexed look, she said, "I need a bag to carry my gloves in. It's too hot to wear them."
I had to keep my mouth shut because the customer is always right in the world of retail, even when he or she is contributing to the demise of our planet.
Whenever I ask environmentalists why they bother to carry around the extra bags in their pockets or purses, their answers sound like little prayers. "It's the least I can do," they say. "It's easy to make this small effort."
Many stores offer anywhere from 3 to 5 cents credit to shoppers who use their own bags. Too bad more aren't doing their part to keep the earth green.