I lived in Poland for a while, and my absolute favorite thing was a parking garage that had a system of lights on the ceiling. There was a small light above every stall, and when the spot was filled, the light was red; when it was empty, the light was green. You could instantly see which spots were available to park in! It was one of those things that had me shaking my head with delight. Your post reminded me a little bit of that. It's only one aspect of efficiency, but a lot of the little ideas you mentioned could add up to something great.
This is so interesting. I agree that even I complained about paying for bags at first (but luckily I lived in Europe for a couple of years, so it was an easy and natural albeit nostalgic adjustment once I remembered to pull out all my reusable bags). I always hate anything that might cause people to lose jobs (at Hilex-Poly, for example), but sometimes we have to pick and choose where the greater good lies. I'm glad things have started in California, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it spreading quickly.
This also reminds me of the Styrofoam issue. My friend was actually part of a team that tried to get small businesses (restaurants) around CA to sign a petition AGAINST the banning of Styrofoam, because the additional costs would cause hundreds of companies to go out of business. According to their studies, the use of Styrofoam wouldn't have as much as a negative effect as some had said.... etc. I honestly haven't seen the science behind any of it (I'm still trying to figure out how they can PROVE that Styrofoam takes 1+million years to decompose... didn't know it had been around that long ;)), but I know that most of us agree that it would be better if it wasn't around. I hope that there is enough fair research going around to make the right choices. In this case, I love everything about it, because we put the extra cost on the INDIVIDUALS, which in no way jeopardizes the finances of the grocery stores / other shops (especially noticeable to family owned and small businesses). It's like... well WE as individuals can get over it. We can spend $10 on several compact, reusable bags, or we can pay $.10 extra (for PAPER) when we shop... and we've eliminated the problem of plastic bags, with a little extra effort and tolerance from everyone. Together we can do great things.
I love that concept. I hope that we can all do good as communities. It would be ideal to find solutions that do not cost money, because most governments (especially here in the US....) don't have the best track record of handling money well. I think that when we push ourselves, it's amazing what solutions we can find with limited resources.