By Jackie Eichelberger
Trees are wonderful. They provide shade in the summer and a convenient nesting place for birds and squirrels. Some trees flower and bear fruits and nuts, others provide wood for the building industry and paper for the printing industry. Trees are a beautiful part of nature and a vital part of the vast worldwide eco-system. They have provided man with firewood, shelter, weapons and sustenance since the beginning of time.
Several decades ago a certain group that some folks called “tree huggers” became so concerned about trees and forests being cut down to make paper bags that they campaigned and led protests to have this “wasteful” practice stopped. Now paper bags had been used by retail sales establishments in our country for many, many years. This group was so successful in their efforts that, in order to help “save the trees,” businesses turned away from the use of paper bags. And thus the plastic bag era was born. I’m not sure if anyone thought at the time what the long-term results might be, but it’s turned out to be a classic lesson in the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”;
Good intentions sometimes backfire. One perceived evil, cutting down trees, was simply replaced by a worse evil, the indestructible plastic bag. They waft through the air on windy days and festoon tree branches like ornaments. They litter roadsides all over the country and float in oceans, lakes and ponds. Landfills bury them by the billions where they will lie intact for thousands of years. Legislatures meet to ban them, pass laws to charge you a nickel for them, then turn around and reverse their decisions.
To solve the plastic problem created to solve the tree problem, we now are told we should use cloth bags when we shop. Yes, these bags can be reused and they’ll even decompose if trashed. You have to purchase one or more to get started. How many of us are so organized that we can remember to carry around empty cloth bags everywhere we go? So when we stop to run a few impromptu errands, that cloth bag is usually somewhere in the kitchen where groceries were last put away or somewhere forgotten under the seat of the car. So either you purchase a new one or try leaving a store juggling fifteen items while trying to put on sunglasses and fishing the car keys out of your pocket or purse.
I’ve been in grocery stores that reuse boxes for customer purchases. Boxes are made from trees. Applying that original “tree hugger” logic, shouldn’t boxes have been abandoned, too, just like paper bags? Do you suppose this whole issue might have been started by the plastic bag industry to make money?
If you stop and think about the issue of trees and paper bags, there are positive points to consider. Trees and forests are renewable, they can be and are being replanted after harvesting. Cardboard, paper and paper bags can be recycled and used over and over. They will decompose if and when they make it to the landfill. What was so wrong with paper bags? Oh yes, the trees. I vote for going back to paper bags and if we’re still worried about the trees, let’s all resolve to plant more of them in our yards.
Join the Fleur de Lis Garden Club of Sachse in September and learn which trees are best for our area. Call club president Penny Brogdon at 972-495-5225 for information.