Chicago should ban body wash

Environmentalists, with typical elan, are pushing the City Council to forbid Chicago stores from packing shoppers' groceries or other purchases in plastic bags.

The ban's sponsor, Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno, 1st, says he might have enough votes to pass the ban if Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn't oppose it — as if waiting for Daddy to give his OK.

I guess I can understand the ban's rhetoric, if it's true: The plastic bags mess up the cityscape, blowing all over thanks to careless shoppers and litterbugs; their manufacture consumes resources and energy; they aren't as biodegradable as paper.

I don't know; to extend the argument to its logical conclusion, shouldn't the ban also apply to the sale of various plastic wraps and other plastic baggies that cover your moldy leftovers in the fridge?

Meanwhile, in other banning news, Emanuel has refused to prohibit soda from being sold in City Hall vending machines and has demurred on joining New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's push to ban supersize sodas. Yet Emanuel has joined 17 other mayors urging Congress to limit the kinds of sugary drinks that can be bought with food stamps. I guess it's even more important to tell poor people what they can and can't do.

We can do better than this. When it comes to banning stuff, Chicago should want to be second to none. So, for the sake of local pride, I suggest we also ban soap.

Actually I mean body wash. Have you ever stood in front of the personal hygiene shelf in drug and big-box stores

Body wash--bad for the environment?

Body wash--bad for the environment?

surveying the unlimited choices of body washes as far as the eye can see? Delicate, fruity-like bouquets; mango scents; smell-like-a-man gels.

Same goes for hair shampoo. If I let myself, I could stand in front of the soap shelves for hours trying to figure out which suits me best; which is better for my self-image; which combats body odor the best.

All those plastic bottles pollute and use up resources as much if not more than those flimsy plastic bags. Surely they consume more landfill space or take more energy to recycle.

The Chicago City Council — of course waiting for the mayor's last word — should allow the sale of only bar soap. It's cheaper. Its wrapper isn't environmentally insulting. C'mon environmentalists, let's get serious. Banning filmy plastic bags is small potatoes.

If we want to really get serious, we need to do something about shaving. First, we need to ban electric and battery-powered shavers. They consume energy. Their manufacture is costly. Their batteries are toxic pollutants. Safety razors are much more environmentally friendly.

Except when they are used with shaving cream that comes out of a spray can. Think of all the resources that go into their production, disposal or recycling, just for the convenience of instant foam. Especially criminal are the devices that heat the shaving cream. Bad stuff.

Chicago also should ban spray cans of shaving cream. Only shaving mugs and bars of shaving soap should be allowed. That's how I shaved for years; actually it's kind of nice. A good horsehair brush whipping up warm foam for your face — better than a cup of coffee in the morning. There are a nice variety of mugs — ceramic, porcelain, antique. Imagine how good it would be for the environment if fathers passed down to sons their shaving mugs.

So all those shaving aids should be banned in Chicago. Oh yes, safety-razor blades too. A century of double-edge razor blades are rusting in landfills around the nation. Chicago should only allow the sale of straight-edge razor blades in city stores, sharpened with a razor strop.

The problem, of course, would be the black market. Suburban drug stores would be selling those safety-razor blades to Chicagoans. Suburban Wal-Marts would sell out of electric razors. Profiteers would make body wash runs to Hammond, Ind. Chicago would lobby the state legislature to ban body wash in plastic bottles throughout Illinois. The legislature would, of course, deadlock.

Can I be serious? Regular readers will recognize this as a poor attempt at parody. My fear is that environmental activists will take these suggestions seriously and run with them.

This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune

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Comments

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  • Good article. Truth is paper bags cause just as much pollution if not more than plastic. Paper requires more water which gets polluted making paper. Reusable bags are too small for large families.

  • Way to go Mr. Byrne! Any day you can stick up for the environment, for baffled consumers, AND for the rights of poor people who would like to make their (oh, who am I kidding...our) own choices at the supermarket thank you very much, it's a very good day indeed. So good in fact, that I won't even gripe about the clear conflict of interest The Barbershop has in promoting traditional shave products. Foam on sir, foam on.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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