Upon arrival in Dublin, my roommates and I quickly went out to get groceries. We picked up all of our food from the Tesco, and during checkout we remembered that it’s typical to bring your own shopping bags. I expected this as the EU does have a particular concern over environmental issues in comparison to the United States and other parts of the world, but it still was strange to me. At home, in Boston, I will drive half an hour to Wegmans, fill up an entire cart, fill up my trunk of my car with the plastic bags, and drive half an hour home. In Dublin, however, it is unusual to see anyone using a shopping cart at all. In this, I see a few key social differences with the United States and many parts of Europe and Ireland.
Ireland first introduced it’s charge for bags in 2002 as 15 cents per bag. More recently though, it’s charge has risen to 22 cents, reflecting the EU’s growing concern for environmental health. In United States politics, environmentally passionate politicians are having trouble gaining traction and momentum with eco-friendly legislation. What about the culture of Ireland and other European nations allows the implementation of laws such as charging for plastic bags that leaves the United States and other nations behind? Are European citizens more in touch/connected with the environment so they feel more of an obligation to protect it? Perhaps this is start of an environmental revolution, just as Europe started the contrasting industrial revolution two hundred years ago. Yet again, maybe I am simply just too used to the over the top, “bigger is better” attitude of the United States. It may be too soon for me to tell. Either way, the strong obligation for protecting the environment is something that’s deeply rooted in the minds of Europeans.
(Background information on plastic bags gathered from the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Waste/PlasticBags/)