Social pressures main motivation to ‘go green’

Caitlin Hill and Danielle Le Toullec

People are still not fully aware of issues at the core of climate change, despite Green Bags flooding our shopping centres and supermarket shelves.

Photo by Caitlin Hill, Danielle La Toullec

Photo by Caitlin Hill, Danielle Le Toullec

A recent field study at Broadway Shopping Centre found that customers mainly use Green Bags because of social pressures, and not moral reasons or an awareness of climate change.

David Hanrahan, assistant store manager at Broadway BI-LO, said that his store was phasing out the use of plastic bags and bringing in more Green Bags, “We are already going through heaps every week, maybe a couple of hundred.”

However when asked what influenced BI-LO to stock for different types of Landcare Green Bags, priced from 99c to $3, Mr Hanrahan said: “It’s mostly customer demand”.

In 2004, figures were released announcing that 20 million Australians used 6.9 billion plastic bags annually. In response to this, the NSW Labor government put forward a motion to phase out plastic bag usage.

Since then figures have significantly decreased. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded that Australians are now using 4 billion plastic bags annually.

However on observation at the Broadway Shopping Centre, it is evident that plastic bags are still the predominant option.

Sara Gaudry, a 36-year-old mother of Hunters Hill, agreed, saying: “I try to make an effort to use the Green Bags, although I don’t use them every time.

Climate change is definitely an issue but I don’t know much about it.”

Although the Green Bags are visible and easily accessible at BI-LO, Coles and K-Mart, many consumers are still using plastic bags. During a one-hour observation, not one customer purchased a Green Bag.

In an effort to increase the number of Green Bag users, Kmart stocks a variety of bags with popular logos, such as WWF wrestling, and also incorporates fashionable colours, urging customers to “Make an Impact” by purchasing the alternatives.

Sela Takai, a 24-year-old Broadway K-Mart employee, said: “Although we ask each customer if they want a Green Bag, only about one in 10 customers actually use them.

“We are interested in doing what we can to help the environment. I know a bit about [environmental] issues from the news but I don’t really know that much. Just that water levels are rising from greenhouse gases.”

In contrast to the major stores, customers of the Oxfam Shop in Broadway are given the option of either paper bags or calico bags that cost $2.50.

Mathew Parnham, store manager of the Broadway Oxfam Shop, said: “We are an ethical business. The majority of people don’t take a bag, they have other bags that they use … Our customers tend to use the green shopping bags though.”

When asked about his knowledge of climate change, Mathew attributed much of the damage to “pollution, pollution, pollution”.

“For Oxfam, it is a serious issue that has stemmed from necessity rather than consumer demand.”

Michael Winter, a 19-year-old international studies student from Burwood and Oxfam customer, said: “I mostly get information [about climate change] from the TV, Al Gore … information influences you, so it’s a moral thing.”


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