In a simpler time, helping the Earth involved recycling and chastising litterbugs. But the annual “Earth Day” has become a platform for environmental and animal rights activists to promote their latest scare campaigns and demonize your personal choices. Among other things, self-anointed protectors of Mother Earth have used Earth Day to target meat consumption and spread misinformation about conventional (read: non-organic) fruits and vegetables. This year looks to be no different.

Today we’re telling Des Moines Register readers about environmental activists’ latest target: plastic bags. As with most causes in the Earth Day media circus, activists miss the mark by trying to persuade consumers to trash their plastic bags in favor of supposedly “Earth-friendly” options (such as fabric-like polypropylene and cotton).

Research shows reusable bags have a larger carbon footprint than recyclable, take-away plastic bags. That impact might be reduced over time if people actually reused their reusable bags. But a survey in San Francisco, where plastic bags have been banned since 2007, shows that 58 percent of respondents almost always forget to take their totes to the supermarket.

In the end, the campaign to end plastic bag use could have harsh environmental consequences. As we’re telling the media this Earth Day:

There are plenty of tangible things people can do to help the environment, but switching to reusable bags is not one of them. In reality, the issue is far more complicated. A Wall Street Journal report determined that a single reusable bag has a carbon footprint 28 times higher than a plastic bag. For most Americans, the carbon footprint of a single cross-country flight is greater than the footprint of all the plastic bags they’ll ever use. And retailers are making it easier for shoppers to recycle their plastic bags by placing convenient recycling bins in front of stores.

Feel good policies oftentimes fall flat, and in this case, the push to ban or tax plastic bags will introduce myriad unintended consequences. If you really want to be Earth-friendly commit to carpooling this year or, better yet, take public transportation. Don’t trash your plastic bags, reuse and recycle them.