I remember the first time I heard about taking resuable bags to the grocery store. It was late 2006/early 2007 and my husband read an article about stores considering charging for the use of plastic bags to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags. (Ikea had already adopted the idea.) I was aghast! How dare they charge us for something else, something that has always been “free.” Brining my own bags to the store seemed like a royal pain in the you-know-what. This coming from someone who taught her family about recycling when she was a little girl, someone who always wanted to do good for the planet. I was annoyed by the idea of carrying my own bags.
Then my mother-in-law gave me a couple of Trader Joes’ bags that my sister-in-law sent from Boston. I reluctantly took them on a few trips to the store, when I remembered, and I was amazed at how much these bags held. Instead of a car full of bags and multiple trips carrying bags into the house, I could use 2-3 reusable bags for all of my groceries. Before long it hit me. This was EASY and it saved LOTS of bags. (And extra trips to the car with a newborn.)
With each trip to the store, it became easier to remember to bring my bags with me, and offers for free bags poured in left and right. From a couple of bags to an arsenal of bags, I have bags for every situation and every shopping trip. Fast forward to today, and I use my reusable bags for all shopping — grocery store, drug store, the mall and more. Except for the occasional slip, when I forget to bring my bags, which frustrates me to no end, I bring my bags everywhere. I even have a stash that I keep in my car for those slip-ups, when they haven’t all migrated into the house.
Of course, I love stores that reward me for my bag use (Target, $0.05 off my purchase for every bag used; CVS, $1 ECB for every 4th trip with your reusable bag), but the savings isn’t my motivation. My motivation is the lack of piles of plastic/paper bags that my family used to rack up. Yes, we recycled the bags we used, but it is so much better not to ever bring the bags home in the first place. It is truly amazing how much trash can be eliminated simply by bringing my own bags to the store.
Yep. I admit it, I was wrong. It isn’t a pain, it’s really easy. I even admire stores that offer incentives (or even charge to use store bags). While we recycled our bags, the unfortunate truth is that most people throw them in the trash, so I am all for incentives that encourage people to stop creating more trash.
It’s a funny thing to be passionate about, I suppose, but I am truly passionate about eliminating wasteful bags. It actually bothers me when I see people with all of their bags, and even more so when I see those bags end up in the trash. With all of the offers for free bags out there, if you haven’t started using reusable bags for shopping, I hope you will give it a try. At first you will forget more than remember, but like anything else, it will become a habit. I think the next step needed to make this habit become the norm is to encourage cashiers to ask shoppers for their reusable bags when they shop. Instead of “paper or plastic,” they should ask, “Do you need a bag?”