Not My Bag

Not My Bag is a film made by Beta Bajcart and Olga Tiernan, two women from Crumlin involved in the Crumlin Community Cleanup group. It looks at the use of single-use plastic, particularly in food wrapping, and the balance between individual, corporate, and political responsibility for the problems of litter and pollution.

I was at the film launch in Crumlin College at the end of March – it was a great event, huge turn-out from the community and a very interesting documentary and discussion.

A lot of the film is about shopping. Most of us do most of our shopping in supermarkets, and they seem to wrap everything in single-use plastic. In the film, Olga and Beta went to The Green Door market in Bluebell, where they could get loose fruit and vegetables, but that’s too awkward for their regular shopping. (Small Changes in Inchicore wasn’t mentioned, but they sell loose veg, refills of dried food and liquids, and a vegetable delivery box.)

One of the slogans used in the film is #livelikeyourgran and it got me thinking about how we used to shop when I was a kid (yes, I am old). There was a small grocers a few minutes walk from our house, Wiggies on Willington Green, where we used to get our vegetables and eggs (some of the veg was grown there, and you could see the hens wandering around on the other side of the gate). It was all bought loose, of course, bring your own bag. Meat was bought from the butchers. Milk, cheese, cereal, canned food… from another shop. But over the years, gradually we moved to buying almost everything from the supermarket – everything in one place, cheaper, more choices, one big shop for the week instead of buying a day or two at a time. And as more people did that, the local greengrocers started closing down.

It’s also sowing season now, so I’ve been planting seeds and following along with The GIY Diaries. One of the themes of the GIY movement is that we need to get back in touch with local, natural cycles – to think about what food is in season here, where we live, and eat that. That’s also something that changed as we started buying more from supermarkets – we got used to the idea that everything should be available, all the time. If strawberries aren’t in season here, ship them in from somewhere else. We plan our meals around this assumption of universal availability, rather than starting with what is in season.

Where am I going with all this? I don’t know… except maybe to think that it isn’t a matter of individual action OR community action OR government action – it’s all necessary. We all, as individuals, have to think about our attitude to food, and the price we pay for convenience. As communities, we have to make local shops a priority (and make space for community gardens where we can get back in touch with natural growing cycles). Supermarkets and suppliers have to take on the cost of the packaging they produce, and support local suppliers rather than shipping (or flying!) produce across the world. And governments have to act, to support local tillage farmers, rather than the cash crop of dairy exports, and make the better choices easier for everyone.

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