I don’t have time to write this book, but one of you should.

Title: The Plastic Bag

First Paragraph: ‘I removed three slices of eggplant from a plastic bag and, as I prepared to heat them up, faced a decision: clean the bag for reuse or toss it? On instinct, I cleaned it. But whether that was fundamentally the ‘right’ decision, best for the planet, is not so easy to know . . . and is the subject – the sole subject – of this book.’

On the one hand, of course, it makes not a dime’s worth of difference. (These plastic bags cost less than a dime.) On the other hand, it is a way to think about . . . everything. The cost of water and the cost of heating water . . . the ‘externalities’ not yet taken into account by the marketplace in figuring those costs (the acid rain and global warming from burning the coal that made the electricity that heated the water, the cost to our national security of purchasing the oil to run the trucks that transported that coal to rail cars) . . . the time it took me to clean the bag (is my time worth nothing? when I have important books like this to write?) . . . the soft cost of having my partner think I am out of my mind; and do we really want wet plastic bags cluttering our already limited counter space (should the calculation include something for real estate tax?).

And don’t even get me started on detergent (which for this eggplant situation I foreswore, but which in other situations might have been required*), in all its sudsy complexity of manufacture and effluence – the author’s mind spins with chapter titles, footnotes and appendices.

I think you could have a bestseller on your hands.

* Sardines.


Harvard teaches by the ‘case study method.’ This Harvard Business School case study is about a star employee coming to his boss to explain he’s about to transition to the opposite sex. The three real-life comments at the end of the case – from Boeing and others – are particularly interesting.


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