I’m a bit late with this piece of news, but I only just found out about it recently. Dharamsala India, the exiled home of the Dalai Lama, has banned plastic bags.
I was speaking with a childhood friend of mine named John the other day who had just returned from a trip to India. John works with a great group called, The Institute For Village Studies and accompanies college students to places where they can see other cultures and work to make a difference in local communities.
As we were talking he mentioned that the government there had decided to plan plastic bags and stores were no longer allowed to give them out. It seems that all the followers of the Lama who make pilgrimages to hear him, were wreaking havoc on the local environment with all the garbage they were leaving behind. A big part of this was the plastic bag pollution that was in essence created by the local merchants since they were handing them out in the first place.
So the government said “Enough.” Now, when you go into a shop in Dharamsala and don’t have your own bag, you are given a bag made out of discarded paper that has been hand-glued by a local worker (yes, that means jobs have been created as well in the local economy). John mentioned that one of his favorites was a bag that was made out of the discarded physics homework of a high school student. Apparently, now there is a market for used paper as a result of the ordinance, so home collections are popular and no two bags are the same.
What strikes me about this is why a small city in India can be so forward-thinking (Ok, the Dalai Lama lives there but I can’t assume that everyone is enlightened), and we in the United States (a million bags a minute to the landfills) can be so backwards thinking. The fact that plastic bags are still legal in this country is beyond me, and cities need to start taking the offensive and banning them outright for the common good.
Dharamsala may have discovered the true path due to their smaller size and therefore a quicker understanding of how their trash footprint was affecting them. The fact that the United States is larger does not mean we don’t have the same problem, it just means that it will take longer to realize it. Hopefully we’ll get there before it’s too late.
Contact your local representatives and ask them to ban the bag today.