Eco-clutter. It’s a word that may already exist but I think I might have actually coined in an article I wrote in 2013. It refers to clutter generated by attempts to be environmentally conscious – like the plastic containers and glass jars I save for food storage, cute plastic spoons from the ice-cream shop I can use for kids’ snacks, and all the stainless steel water bottles that clutter our kitchen cabinets. My desk and shelves are piled with notepads made of sheets of paper printed on one-side, padded envelopes destined for re-use, old greetings cards saved for arts and crafts projects. And then there are the many tote bags lying on my car seats and folded up into tight little balls in my purse. Eco-clutter is particularly hard for me to purge because it was accumulated out of good intentions.
So today, I decided to give away some of my tote bag “collection.” I have almost religiously used tote bags for many years now to avoid using plastic or paper bags. I’ve been seen up close the devastating effects of the former on wildlife when participating in Los Angeles River cleanups. When the river is full, plastic bags wrap themselves around the trees choking them like colorful but deadly plastic scarves. Thankfully, California and more and more countries, states and cities are banning plastic bags, and soon hopefully everyone will use their own bags for their groceries. This evening, I walked into our local Trader Joe’s, bought my groceries and then awkwardly asked one of the managers if I could leave some re-usable bags for other customers to use. I could tell he thought it was an odd request, but then he smiled, thanked me and took the bags. Maybe they’ll just become part of someone else’s eco-clutter, but hopefully they will find their way to someone who needed a little nudge from a stranger to re-think their shopping habits.