Archive for May, 2011

The Economic Impact of Washington D.C. Bag Fee

The economic impact of the bag fee in Washington D.C.  is disputed.  A study by The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University estimated, using an economic model, that if all other factors remain constant, the bag fee will eliminate 101 jobs in the area and a loss of $602,000 of investment, mostly in the retail industry. These losses will also reduce sales tax revenue and offset the revenue gained from the fee, which will ,over time, decrease.  The study reasons that the negative economic impacts will occur due to consumers shopping outside of Washington D.C. and by reallocating some income to the fee which they would have spent on other items.[1]
Proponents of the fee argue that empirical data shows that the model’s predictions are false. In a survey of business owners in Washington D.C. only 12% reported a negative impact on their business while, 78% reported a beneficial or neutral impact.[2] In addition the model is built on a standard model of sales tax increase, which does not accurately reflect the nature of the bag fee.  The bag fee is avoidable, unlike a tax[3], so consumers have a third option.  Instead of spending income on the fee or shopping elsewhere, as the model argues, consumers can also make a one-time purchase of a reusable bag and incur no further extra cost. In addition the model fails to take into account the economic benefits to business, including the reduced cost of buying and storing bags, and the value of the environmental benefits.[4]  This would indicate that the model overestimated the net negative impact of the fee and a net positive impact cannot be ruled out.

[1] The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University. The Impact of Bill 18-150 on the Economy of Washington, D.C.. : The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, 2011. http://www.atr.org/files/files/DCBagTaxStudy.pdf., pg. 4
[2]ontgomery County, Maryland . “Leggett Proposes Five-cent Charge on Paper, Plastic Carryout Bags Provided by Retailers to Encourage Use of Reusable Carryout Bags, Enhance the Environment; Funds Dedicated to Water Quality Protection.” http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/apps/News/press/PR_details.asp?PrID=7374.
[3]Kizler, Josh. “Update: The efficacy of Washington, D.C.’s bag fee.” Plastic Bag Laws. Accessed May 12, 2011. http://plasticbaglaws.org/update-the-efficacy-of-washington-d-c-’s-bag-fee/#_edn11.
[4]Brown, Josh. “Bag surcharge a detriment to D.C., study says.” Washington Times, February 10, 2011.

May 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm Leave a comment

Embarrassing embarrassment

by Chelsea Corbin

I kind of cheated on the Challenge today. One of my friends asked if I wanted to go to Jamba Juice for happy hour. I knew I should say “NO! THAT’S WASTEFUL!” but I could already taste that sweet strawberry smoothie and consented. Refusing to accept three whole points for the trip (cup, lid, straw), I decided to ask for an original (happy hour, remember!) strawberry surf rider without the lid and straw. As the man behind the counter swiped my Wildcard, he peered at me out of the corner of his eye. “You want it without a lid?” I felt warmth rush to my cheeks and offered a nervous giggle. I mustered, “Yes, I’m trying to cut down my consumption of disposable items.” Another giggle, cheeks bright red. He said something along the lines of, “You’re crazy. Admirable, but crazy.”

As I walked away, wondering how I was going to approach drinking the beverage, I was ashamed of myself. Why had I gone sheepish and embarrassed when questioned about my choice? Reducing environmental detriments is my everyday goal, and is something I should display proudly. The No Impact Challenge has taught me that, more than for convenience, I sometimes make environmentally detrimental choices for the sake of not challenging the status quo. The Challenge has given me the push I needed to really say no to single-use products, even if it sets me apart from the standard. Indeed, isn’t that the main goal? Create change by showing others change is possible? And if that makes me “crazy,” well, Gnarls Barkley seems like good company anyway.

May 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

Changing Ways

      When I started this challenge, I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t change me too drastically.  I was already toting reusable bags, tupperware, chopsticks, and (if I manage not to leave it somewhere) a reusable water bottle before the challenge started.  Essentially, I was pretty darn confident that this challenge would be a cinch.

In these past few weeks I have been humbled. Needless to say, the “No Impact Challenge,” is impacting me.  It has made me aware of the wasteful choices that I used to make, often at an almost subconscious level.  I still watch as my hand reaches for the napkins as if an innate habit, like a “fixed action pattern” (yay biology).  My habits, purchases, cravings are all changing.

I encourage you to look for things that you do without thinking, like items you reach for even when you don’t really need them.  Hey, in about three weeks wasteful habits could be completely broken.  Mine still need a little work 😉

May 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

Week 3 Update

by Hillary Tidman

May 16, 2011 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

Culprit: Energy Bars

By Amanda Myers

I started out the No Impact Challenge without anxiety about accumulating too many points. Why worry when I was mindful of wasteful habits and made careful decisions in sustainable practices? What I’ve learned about myself with this challenge is that while I support green efforts in various forms and I am aware of my footprint, I still, at times, choose convenience over other “greener” choices. One example that seems to impact my points the most is single-serving foods that come in individual wrappers. In particular, protein/energy bars. I live a pretty active lifestyle and have a class schedule that doesn’t always afford me a leisurely meal. Because of this, I grab a protein or energy bar and throw in my bag on the way out the door. This is one lifestyle choice that may not be the most environmentally-friendly but it allows me to get through a hectic class and workout schedule providing the sustenance I need. I believe in the ability to improve continually, especially with green habits, but this may stay on my list of not-so-green practices. While the wrappers are a waste, it is minimal and hopefully I can do other things to offset them.

May 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment

Trash Habits

I thought a personal reduction in trash would be easy. All I would have to do to be successful in the No Impact Challenge, I thought, would be not to choose to use disposable items.

But making a choice— to use disposable items, or to avoid them— isn’t so clear-cut. In fact, I’ve learned since beginning of the Challenge that I’ve been generally unconscious of my previous consumption choices. For me, the use of disposable trash has become an ingrained habit.

All of this became clear on the first day of the Challenge. I repeatedly told myself upon entering the dining hall for lunch that I would not use paper napkins . After I had gotten some food, and the No Impact Challenge was no longer on my mind, I went to pick up some silverware. From the shelf, I took a fork, knife, spoon, and— oops!—- a paper napkin. I had pulled my own disposable doom out its plastic dispenser without a thought, and it was only after I sat down that I realized my mistake. Before dinner, I reminded myself to avoid my lunchtime error. But once again, I pulled out a napkin along with my silverware without a second thought. What’s more, I did so in the same order as at lunchtime: fork, knife, spoon, and then, a napkin.

I had clearly formed a habit of creating trash— a habit at which I didn’t hesitate, didn’t grant a moment of thought, even during the No Impact Challenge. Trash had become part of an unconscious routine. My napkin blunders pointed out that making change will be difficult when I am unaware of the daily choices I make. Breaking the trash habit won’t happen just because I want it to. It will require a more careful consideration of the consumption I take part in every day.

May 12, 2011 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

Not so easy

So to be honest, I kind of thought this “challenge” would be pretty easy. I got all ready, put my hand towel in my backpack, and was ready to go all month without a single point (or maybe just less than 5). It turns out it wasn’t quite that easy. I have definitely already gotten more than the 5 points I was expecting. The first day I forgot to use the towel I had brought with me and accidentally took a paper one instead. And when my friend asked me to get $1 crepes with her at Norris I didn’t even think about the plate and fork until after I had ordered. It really is frustrating how easy it is to end up with one-use items. Now I think about it all the time though, which I guess might be good? And I probably wouldn’t even carry a hand towel with me if it weren’t for the challenge. So my hopes for this month are still high, but also a bit more realistic than before.

May 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment


No Impact Challenge for May 2012!

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Tracking the Challenge

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