Everyone has a part to play when it comes to effecting change. Some have a major, massive part to play. Those people become big names in history books—and are in the minority.
And while most of us won’t have their names go down in history, we have just as an important part to play. True, we remember the names of generals who won (or lost!) wars. But it’s the soldiers whose names we don’t remember who did most of the groundwork. We are the soldiers of today, and with the technology we have at our fingertips today, there is a lot we can do.
To be clear, we are not endorsing petitions as the only action that will effect change. After all, there are thousands of petitions on Change.org that collects countless signatures, without any results. But petitions do have their place in our arsenal; as Daniel Carpenter explains in his 2017 Washington Post article, “petitions can have a long-term organizational legacy even if their short-term policy effect is zero.” By convincing just a handful of people to make a positive change, a petition can be considered helpful.
Usually, “a petition may help inspire action on easy, uncontroversial issues that cost nothing and might have happened anyway. But when it comes to actual important reforms, it turns out nobody has to listen to signatures.” (Source.) When used strategically, petitions do effect some change, as this list from Business News Daily and this one from Bustle show.
On a personal level, petitioners are forced to verbalise their concerns and back them up with well-researched facts. This helps them more fully understand the situation and, therefore, put into immediate action anything that they come across. Furthermore, it helps them discuss these matters during regular daily conversations with the people they come across naturally, thus helping spread the word. And, lastly, petition signatories are exposed to this (hopefully…) well researched petition, enabling them to also discuss it in their daily interactions. This can lead to change in behaviour, including involvement in effective activism.
Little by Little’s First Foray into Petitions
Little by Little’s first petition, which is currently being put together, is going to ask major companies in Canada and the United States to make the switch from plastic produce bags to fully compostable ones.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a staggering 380 billion plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are consumed in the United States every year. It is estimated that Canada uses up to 15 billion plastic bags every year. Globally, we are at around 5 trillion plastic bags—per year, and less than 1% is recycled. We are still looking into how many of these bags are produce bags; if you have that information, or access to that information, please get in touch with us.
In any case, that’s a LOT of plastic bags.
The (plastic-filled) tide is, however, starting to turn, as plastic bans are becoming an increasingly popular policy in various countries around the world, including the United States, while in Canada, the government is planning on banning single-use plastics by 2021. Similar to petitions, banning simple-use plastic bags is important, but not enough. As Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, told National Geographic, “[t]he main point, frankly, is to communicate to policy makers, the public, and to the industry that we’ve got to do something serious to reduce plastic packaging and if you all can’t figure out how to do it, we’re going to start banning your products one at a time.” But as far as we can tell, produce bags do not seem to be targeted by most plastic bag bans.
Why a Petition against Plastic Produce Bags?
Keeping in mind that petitions are more about helping spread the word and change habits, as well as help tip a situation that is already in the making, we realised that many people don’t know that there are completely compostable options available at a reasonable rate. We also have been noticing that even the most well-intentioned people forget to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, or that they don’t bring reusable produce bags to the grocery store.
Compostable produce bags are a real thing. In Italy, the government banned the use of plastic produce bags, replacing them with eco-friendly, biodegradable and compostable alternatives at 1 to 3 cents each. Why not do something like this everywhere?
The Next Steps
We still need to do quite a bit of research and seeing how small of a team we are and how we all have day jobs and children, we can use all the help we can get. The following are some of the questions we are now looking into. If you know the answer to any of these or know someone who could help find the answer, please contact us!
- What is the carbon footprint in the production of compostable bags versus plastic bags?
- What does it take for a bag to be considered as compostable?
- Which compostable bag companies would consider becoming our partners? They would help by suggest viable alternatives and do price comparisons, amongst others.
- Should we target specific one or more grocery store chains, or make a general call too all grocery store chains?
- Should we target Canadian grocery store chains only (as we are Canada-based), American grocery store chains (as we have a number of Americans volunteering on Little by Little), or target both Canadian and American grocery store chains?
- How can we share this petition the most effectively, seeing that we are a new website with limited exposure? Can we get the media involved? How?