I know it’s not easy to change.  I know to change a habit can be inconvenient but sometime the effects the habit causes can be enough to propel a change.  When it came to protecting our precious environment, saying no to plastic bags became a habit I chose to break and in the process took along with me all our Charlie Hong Kong customers.

Caring for the earth is the main reason, I was drawn to eat organic.  Recycling has been a way of life for me which I’ve forced on my family.  I always have a stash of re-usable bags in my car and stacked next to the kitchen door.  Paper or plastic, my proud response, paper.  But like most people, as plastics bags became more and more a way of life, I found myself with my share of plastic bags, particularly next to the kitchen sink.  Though I try to wash and air dry them; they get kind of a gross.  At the farmers market, I’d easily take a plastic bag for my fresh organic produce. Though I keep an empty paper towel roll, stuffed with my collection of plastic bags, I repeatedly forget to bring it with me.  Traveling to countries, once plastic bag free, I’m alarmed at the careless overuse of plastic bags.  Visually plastic bags dot our landscape: in shrubs, our beaches, clinging to buildings, along the freeway.  Urban tumble weed, as it’s referred to.  And I’m not innocent.  In the past, I accepted the take-out food handed to me in the plastic bag.  At least I’ll recycle it in the weekly garbage pick-up, even as I wonder what really happens to all these supposedly recycled plastic bags.  Then the news of the gyre in the North Pacific Ocean, referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage, becomes an alarming wake-up call.  Plastic, particularly plastic bags, are an enormous world wide problem.

Charlie Hong Kong has been a certified green Business since, 2008.  As more and more scientific information fills the news, the evidence of the effects of plastic on wildlife and our environment is clear.  The longevity of plastic and it’s effect on our health has scientific evidence to back it up.  I read about the enormous quantity of plastic water bottles in our landfills.  It turns out, people do not recycle their plastic water bottles.  The health trend to drink more water has proliferated an environmental hazard.  I push to discontinue plastic water bottles at Charlie Hong Kong.  Though water bottles are a popular item, about two years ago, we stopped offering plastic water bottles.  We already offered filtered water.  Many people now carry personal stainless steel water bottles they can refill.

I begin to make waves about discontinuing the use of single use plastic to-go bags.  In a restaurant where half our business is to-go, there was concern about how this would effect our customers. Then that fateful day the photo appears in the paper, the baby otter trapped inside a plastic bag, her mother screeching, frantic to remove it.  I declare that’s it: No more plastic to-go bags!  Within weeks, with the support of all our employees, we no longer offer plastic to-go bags.  To ease the transition, we give away Charlie Hong Kong re-useable bags, as well as recycled cardboard boxes from our beverages. Then sell reusable bags for a nominal price, with a percentage donated to Save Our Shores,  We have paper bags as well, but limit them to hot soup.  It’s been 10 months now,  since we discontinued, single use, as they’re referred to, plastic bags.  Our staff has been incredibly supportive of this decision.  Our customers have been amazing, most just carry their boxed food, declining a paper bag or box.  Sometimes it can be challenging, especially if the person is on a bike.  What customers repeatedly say, “I appreciate and understand what you’re doing.”

So does it make a difference for one restaurant in Santa Cruz to say no to plastic bags?  We choose to take a stand and believe each and every action makes a difference.  I express my deepest gratitude to all our customers, employees and a heartfelt thank you to Save Our Shores for naming Charlie Hong Kong, 2011, Business of the Year, for our commitment to discontinuing plastic to-go bags.