Just Call Me the Bag Lady

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Do you know that we Americans use around 84 billion plastic bags annually? (I know I’ve probably got a cool million or so stuffed in the kitchen drawers and pantry.) What’s worse is what happens when the bags end up in the landfill:  they don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits and contaminating soil and waterways.

So when I saw these cool black reusable grocery bags for a mere $1 each, I bought ten. (Disclosure time: the bags are from Wal-Mart. I know, I know, the mega-retailer has a long way to go to become an eco-friendly company. But Wal-Mart’s management is improving its environmental practices, and the company’s prices on organic foods are hard to beat.) The bags are made from 85% recycled materials — including 4 plastic soda bottles — and they can carry the same weight as 2 to 3 plastic shopping bags.

It was time to try out the new bags, but I’m ashamed to say that during the next two trips to the grocery store I forgot to take them inside. I didn’t remember my newfound zeal to use my eco-bags at all, in fact, until the checker was halfway done with my order and the bagger said “Are plastic bags okay?” I solved that by writing “BRING BAGS INSIDE” at the top of my grocery list. (It’s a pity that my brain is so compromised, but that’s what happens when you kill too many brain cells in your youth.)

I remembered the bags today, and tucked them in my grocery cart. I wondered if the bagger would say anything, but the checker just handed the bags to her and she happily packed my groceries in the bags. $40 worth of groceries fit into just two bags. When she was done, she said “Don’t forget to credit her for her bags!” to the checker, and he opened the cash register and handed me a dime! That’s right, King Soopers gives you 5 cents each if you reuse a bag. The checker explained that you could even bring your plastic bags in to reuse them, and you’ll get the rebate. So check with your local store and see if a similar program is offered, and “Sack it To ‘Em!”

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

10 comments to Just Call Me the Bag Lady

  • Joleen Y

    I finally remember to bring them to the market with me, but my problem is that they load them too full and I can barely lift them. I have to remember to tell them to only fill them half way. I live on the 3rd floor of my building (with NO elevator) and have a bad hip!

  • Herb Ben Ohmsteader

    I am back for a second comment, having left one on this topic WAY back in January, very early on in my cloth bag life. Back then I was proud to say we had purchased the bags, but had never really used the bags because they were always at home hanging in the garage.

    Well, we advanced to getting the bags a permanent place in the car, which was good. But often I would have to think about leaving the checkout line to go out to the car to retrieve the bags.

    Habits can be changed though. I now look forward to grabbing the bags from the back seat, and for the worst reasons… so that I can boldly walk in with them and be a “green freak” snob. “Look at me earthlings… I am saving you.” Okay, maybe I go’eth too far with this description. I don’t actually do that.

    However, the habit is now almost complete. I get them into the store. I actually like to bag them up myself, but when I can’t, I tell the bagger to load ’em full. I do feel good walking out with them. And we have learned to bunch them up and put them by the front door so that whoever goes next out to the car, picks them up and puts them in the back seat.

    The other day, I went out to the garage to the GIANT plastic MACY’S bag that we keep all of our used plastic grocery sacks…. I needed a plastic sack to clean out ashes in the wood stove. To my surprise, we were almost out of plastic store bags (there used to be about 1 million of them in the Macy’s bag). I thought…. ‘these cloth bags really do make a small difference!”.

    Now I am troubled. How do I get more plastic sacks for the kitty litter disposal chore. Ay yi yi……..

  • I guess I’m not alone… I always have this good intention, and I always forget the bag in the car until checkout time. We should all feel good about trying to do what little we can, starting by being aware of the consequences of our actions. One of these days, with commitment, it’ll become second nature to go into the store with the bags. Just think of the difference we’ll make collectively by taking that simple action. And it goes to show, that making sustainability work makes good financial sense too— you and the store both saved money on those pesky plastic grocery bags!

  • Jenny

    I love that bag!

    You might check out either the envirosacks or chico bags on http://www.reusablebags.com

    Either one break down to fit inside the average purse. Really easy not to forget them that way!

    Great blog!!!! I love it!

  • Bag Lady

    The best way to remember to take the bags into the store is to put your wallet/purse/something important in the bags! It also helps, at least with the bags I have designed, to have a phobia about touching the cart handle! I always remember to take my bags with me because I usually find a cart in the parking lot and hook my bag over the handle immediately!
    Hope that helps!

  • Herb Ben Ohmsteader

    Kristen and JavaChick made me chuckle because of all our our good intentions – but poor implementation. Yes, my wife (Spice) and I have made the cloth bag purchases, some 4 in all. Yes we intend(ed) to use them always from here on out. No they are not in the car, or in the right car, when we are called and told “Can you just stop at the store and pick up (fill in the blanks, but don’t fill in the bags because they are in the garage, or the other car).

    I was thrilled to read your article about shopping bags, because that means we are all thinking about being better…. if only we can think about being better when we actually go to the store. Who has the best idea on how to get the cloth bags to the store, on a weekly basis? Will you please contribute?

    Herb Ben Ohmsteader

  • I bought a bunch of reusable grocery bags and I keep leaving them in the car as well. I’ve managed to remember a couple of times. I’ll have to try writing it on my list. Or maybe a post-it on the dashboard of the car.

  • The Bag Lady has solved the dilemma of where to carry your shopping bags. Come on over and check out the information on the bag she created and designed (in the sidebar on her blog)

  • Kristen Souvorin

    That’s so funny about not remembering to bring in your bags! Sounds just like me. I like your blog, there’s lots of good stuff on here.

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