Chipotle bag campaigners: You can also just refuse the bag

It’s great that people are trying to get Chipotle to ask customers before they automatically bag their burritos, but why exactly is it entirely on Chipotle to ask the question first? TreeHugger posted the story with the misleading headline “Can Twitter Change Chipotle’s Mandatory Bag Policy?” — misleading because Chipotle doesn’t have a mandatory bag policy.

If you don’t want a bag, right when they ask “For here or to go?” you can simply reply, “To go, and I don’t need a bag.” That’s what I do every time I go to Chipotle, and no one has ever demanded I use a bag. This policy works at any store  — instead of waiting, as a customer, to be asked if your items should be bagged, you can just as easily be proactive about requesting that those items aren’t bagged.

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18 Responses to “Chipotle bag campaigners: You can also just refuse the bag”

  1. Captain Dreamboat Says:

    OR we could stop deluding ourselves that tiny insignificant environmental gestures (like refusing a paper bag) could come anywhere close to offsetting the environmental impact we have when we choose to eat at someplace like Chipotle in the first place.

    Meaningful environmental action is a doomed concept if we can’t all stop telling ourselves fairy tales like that.

    My own carbon footprint is likely nothing to brag about, and I take no tone with you personally, oh great Sandwich (thank you for providing an opportunity to discuss). But I do maintain that we as a society need to at least begin the environmental discussion in a realistic place.

    (Am really enjoying the blog, BTW!)

    • cathyjwilson Says:

      Captain D, you’re such a downer! I think what’s notable about this is that it removes the agency from people — and when it comes to environmentalism, carbon footprints, etc., it can’t just be about people expecting someone else to askif they want to opt for the greener option; people need to be proactive themselves. So the paper bag in a vacuum is a negligible impact, but if you made the choice to actively reduce waste like that in every aspect of your life? The impact would be much greater.

      And thanks, glad you like it!

  2. Stacey Says:

    I also think that maybe, just maybe, someone who doesn’t think proactively could refuse the bag and think, wow, that was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be! Maybe I could carry this action to other places! Some people need baby steps, or just a little push to get them started.

    My rule of thumb is, if what I’m purchasing can be carried around the store, then once it is purchased it can certainly be carried out of the store as well. Well, unless I’m juggling things while shopping, haha! But that is why I have a folding cloth bag to go in my purse; just in case 😉

    • cathyjwilson Says:

      I actually didn’t think about that fact until a while after I wrote this, and it’s a good point — if someone asks you whether you want the bag and you typically wouldn’t think to go bagless, it definitely puts the idea in your head. So I think you’re right that some people do need a “little push” to recognize things like that!

  3. Jes Tormoen Says:

    If everyone continues with the attutide that the little things don’t matter, we will never make a difference. It is the same when people say, “why should I recycle? I can’t possibly make a difference.” When really if everyone recycled it would make a difference. If a majority of people said no to a bag…that my friend would make a difference

  4. Captain Dreamboat Says:

    Sorry, Jes, but the little things (at least, this little thing) don’t matter. They might have mattered 30 years ago, but we’re well past that point now.

    You’re carrying Dixie cups full of water to a raging forest fire. It might give you the warm fuzzies to think that you’re “helping,” but your actual impact is negligible.

    I couldn’t agree more about agency, but I’m also concerned with the agency we allow ourselves. I believe these faux-green non-actions serve to take the place of other, potentially meaningful actions precisely because of the misguided idea that everyone doing a little will somehow add up to enough.

    The hard and unpopular truth is that we can’t maintain our current first-world standard of living AND achieve long term environmental sustainability. Not even close. The science on this point is clear.

    Anything we tell ourselves to the contrary are just comforting lies.

    & Cathy: I reject the mystical notion of the ‘power of positive thinking’, and strive instead to be a skeptic and a realist. Downer I may be, but when it comes to solving problems I’ll take dirty hands over happy thoughts any day!

  5. Stacey Says:

    So, Captain Dreamboat, it sounds like your saying, meh, why bother? We’re past the point of no return so F it and go drive a semi to work.

    It also sounds like you’re telling me, someone who recycles everything I can, and tries to be as eco-friendly as I can, maybe, that what I’m doing just isn’t good enough. Nice. I can’t see how being a realist means you should discourage people from doing what they see as doing something positive. Especially if it sends them into a tailspin of a recycling frenzy; you never know, stranger things have happened.

    It seems that a lot of people in this country depend on everyone else to get the results that they, themselves, want. Why not let that be Chipotle? Have you done the research on how many people eat burritos at Chipotle? I haven’t, but I’m sure if you did, there would be a lot more savings than you think if just half those people carried their burrito without a bag. I feel like a lot of people eat burritos…

    I guess I’ll just carry my Nalgene to this raging fire and see where it gets me.

    p.s. Write your Congressman. Maybe you can turn around our environmental future.

  6. Stacey Says:

    One more thing I just thought of. What if Chipotle is the creator a new must-do in fast food? What if restaurant chains started offering better options to help reduce their impact on the environment? There are a lot of fast food chains.

    Maybe we should look foward to farm-raised beef at your local McDonald’s all because Chipotle gave the option of refusing a paper bag. 😉

    Like I said before, stranger things have happened!

  7. Captain Dreamboat Says:

    I’m not trying to discourage anybody from taking positive steps, and I am in no way saying “why bother.” I’m saying “bother more.” I’m saying, if this is an issue a person really care about, then it should be worth significant personal sacrifice. Because meaningful change is going to require that.

    Re: Chipotle… A lot of people do eat burritos. So think big picture. Drop the assumption that you’re already going to eat there. Figure out what the total environmental impact of your fast food meal there is, and then weigh that against the good you’re doing by saving a single bag in the process. Considering everything, is your choice to eat there such a boon for the environment?

    Again, the science on this is clear. We are not doing enough to avert catastrophic environmental consequences. You can shoot the messenger if you want, but it won’t change that.

    I’d be more than happy to provide some links to some relevant reading on the above topics if you’re interested.

    (P.S. I’m not trying to be a dick. Nor do I tend to doubt people’s real good intentions towards helping the environment. But I would like to open people’s perceptions up a bit.)

  8. Stacey Says:

    Yes, all this makes perfect sense and in no way am I disagreeing with you. I guess my point is people are lazy (<- I'd really like to put those three words in bold.) Hence the fast food frenzy we are in currently. I grew up on fast food but you won't see me driving through a fast food joint unless I'm coming home from camping and all I've eaten for three days is hot dogs — we don't need to go there with environtmental impact — and hobo pies.

    I'm thinking in the broad range of America where people want everything delivered to them on a silver platter yesterday. Everyone thinks we are just going to wake up one day and go, "Look, mom! The o-zone is regenerating!!" Of course it is going to take more work than just reducing the use of burrito bags, but if that is something that encourages people to look at the bigger picture, I support it.

    It's all about getting people to realize what they need to do to help turn things around. It's about changing people's perception of what is really going on.

  9. Captain Dreamboat Says:

    Hobo pies are only sustainable if they come from free-range hobos.

    To recap, it seems we agree quite a bit:

    1) We face a serious situation with serious consequences of inaction.
    2) People are lazy/unwilling to take action.

    …couple that with

    3) We may have a very small window of available time left in which to avert said serious consequences.

    … and we’re starting to sketch out why my views on this topic are a downer.

  10. cathyjwilson Says:

    A few points:

    1) Free-range hobos? You’ve got my attention.
    2) I can’t live without burritos.
    3) I think what isn’t mentioned here is that a lot of the really big things that need to happen are on a very macro level — climate legislation, infrastructure change when it comes to planning cities, buildings, and transportation, way better efficiency standards, etc. Individuals can have a voice when it comes to supporting these causes, suggesting these causes, spearheading these causes, writing to their political representatives, etc.

    But, I think things need to be done on a micro level, too. And I don’t think those things are negligible if many people do them, whether it’s saying no to bags, biking to work, shopping at the farmers market, etc.

    Yes, it’s easy to be an environmentalist and be a downer, because it’s way easy to pollute the air, land, and water, and way less easy to unpollute it. But I’m with Stacey that these types of arenas are great spaces for learning. There can be a domino effect. My interest in the environment started a while back because littering really bothered me. Picking up random pieces of litter probably had a negligible effect on the planet, but the sense of agency and activism it instilled in me had larger, lasting effects.

    That was rambly, sorry.

  11. Stacey Says:

    I suppose while camping, without adequete shelter or food, we could be considered hobos? Maybe? But we make supreme pizza hobo pies.. yum.

    Yes, we agree on a good topic to agree on! As we are losing time to save what we’ve got, husband and I started a garden, are looking into getting some chickens for eggs, and we will be buying home-grown cow/pig, if you will, to stock in bulk in our freezer, for a better, less expensive, way of living. I also plan on driving to Lakeland and taking Laktran to Cleveland once I start working downtown.

    Right there are all kinds of environmental impacts with just two people. Am I going to save the planet with these gestures? Uh, no. But, more important, will I influence other people’s decision by showing them how easy it is to grow a tomato out of a terra cotta pot, or by commuting to work, or by stocking a freezer with unprocessed meat? I sure hope so. And, really, that is all I can do. I make my small impact on the world by sharing my habits with those around me. See? Look at that, not a downer and I care about the Earth! We’re all going to die sometime, so we may as well make the best of it no matter what.

    One example: When I lived 8 miles from work, I would ride my bike over the summer, 80% of the time. People liked the idea and the “fad”, I guess, caught on. So many people were cycling to work they had to buy a bike rack. Now, there is a bike rack in the parking lot which only invites more people to commute to work. Fabulous 🙂

    I’d love to campaign for cleaner air and this, that or the other thing to make the world a better place, but I feel like being eco-friendly is something that people can’t be talked into. You have to personally want to do something. You have to have your mind changed from what you may have grown used to. Fast food, easy access, landfills, processed food, bottles of water (when you CAN drink tap water, thanks, Cathy for that previous thought 🙂 )

    If saying no to a paper bag fuels that little fire, keep on keepin on, Chipotle. Like Cathy said, there can be a domino effect.

    You can’t expect anything at all to get better without groups of people coming together to make a difference. Guess what, groups of people start off small, with a small idea, and make it bigger.

    Go bagless at Chipotle. It could change the world.

    • cathyjwilson Says:

      That’s really awesome that your biking to work inspired so many people that they installed a bike rack! I agree with you that there can be an effect personally when people don’t just hear about things they could do, but they KNOW people who do them and therefore have more confidence in their validity and are inspired to try those things.

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