Paper or plastic?

Lobster, anyone?

Lobster, anyone?

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Auntie’s got a real bee in her bonnet this week. It started with the nice boy at the grocery market checkout asking her, “Paper or plastic?” Yes, Auntie knows she’s supposed to carry a cloth sack to avoid the question entirely. No, Auntie doesn’t carry one. Too unfashionable, hippie freaks. Besides, Auntie thought she had the answer to the question down. Obviously, paper bags, which are mainly made out of trees grown on plantations, are renewable; whereas plastic bags, which are made from petroleum byproducts, are not. We can grow a new tree, but there’s only a finite amount of oil. So Auntie said, “Paper.” Big mistake. The little whippersnapper had set the trap.

“You’d have to stuff seven trucks full of paper bags to equal the same amount of plastic bags that can be carried by just one truck,” informed the bag boy. “How much more fuel does that use? How much more space does it take up in the landfill?” Auntie had to admit he had a point. So when she got home, she started Googling “paper or plastic,” and quickly discovered that an issue she thought had been long decided in favor of paper is actually still very much up in the air. Fortunately, she also stumbled across the Chico Bag, the lobster biblike fashion accessory depicted to your right. It’s a nifty reusable grocery bag made from recycled plastic bottles that stuffs away in your purse or pocket when not in use. That’s one way to beat the paper plastic conundrum, and best of all, it’s made by our friendly neighbors in the beer-drinking north state. Find out more at

All that Google searching got Auntie wondering. Just how much energy does it take to conduct a Google search, anyway? In an article in the United Kingdom’s Times Online last January, Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist who’s researching the environmental impact of computing, claims two average Google searches generate about 7 grams of carbon dioxide—about the same as boiling a pot of tea. Multiply that by an estimated 200 million daily Google searches, and that’s a lot of carbon dioxide. “Google operates huge data centers around the world that consume a great deal of power,” Wissner-Gross said. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.” Funny. Auntie thought the Internet was supposed to be environmentally benign. When it comes to being green, it appears that nothing is as it seems.