Why Don't Businesses Just Ask Me if I Want a Bag?

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I'm sick of getting packaging automatically.

I ordered a bagel and coffee at a bakery the other day (just one day in my incredibly exciting writer life). I live just down the street, so I planned on taking the bagel by itself, or perhaps with a napkin. But before I could get a word in, the woman at the counter handed me a bag full of napkins, salt packets and forks for some reason.

I walked away dazed, holding the remnants of some poor tree, remnants I immediately chucked into the recycling once I opened the door. It was such a waste.

Later that day, I went into a bodega to buy a bottle of lemonade. The guy at the counter asked me if I wanted a bag. I told him no, that I lived down the street.

The two experiences got me thinking — why don't more businesses at least ask whether you want packaging? That way, businesses get to spend less money on bags, and the environment gets a much-needed break.

When I brought this idea up to my friends, they told me that you can always just tell the cashier that you don't want a bag. But sometimes, like in the bakery situation, you just can't.

Besides, humans are strongly impacted by their environments. People often just default to whatever is automatic. Default options are powerful. If a business automatically gives out packaging, then people are likely to just accept it without question. On the other hand, just asking the "bag or no bag" question turns a mindless process into a choice.