Other than recycling, one of the first changes I made in my attempt to be a green mom was to bring my own bags when I went shopping. It started with the grocery store and now I try to remember to bring a bag everywhere I go.
The farmers’ market is the best place to bring a bag because most of the vendors don’t usually offer their own. Grocery stores are a close second because they often offer money back for each bag you bring. Whole Foods lets you donate your bag refund to charity.
But then there are the stores that just don’t get the whole “save the environment” concept. I’m talking about the places where the cashiers “forget” to use the bag that you brought – even when you tell them and then place it in their hands. I understand that many of them are just used to dropping the items in a plastic bag located conveniently right in front of them on one of those neat little hook systems. Some cashiers have given me a very loud sigh when I hand them my bags because it is just not as easy to manage a big cloth bag.
Other cashiers have looked at me in confusion when I tell them I brought my own bag. They use it reluctantly but they use it. And then they throw the plastic bag in the trash. I’m not kidding . . . I can’t even count the number of times that I have told a cashier that I didn’t need a bag and then they proceed to ball it up and throw it away.
Then there are the plastic bag zealots. The ones that not only do not get the whole BYOB thing, but think it is a ridiculous idea and refuse to enable it. If any of you watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I am talking about people like lunch lady Alice. The ones who are so scared by change and things that they don’t understand, that they will fight you over that cloth bag.
I went into a Sears and bought a screwdriver. The cashier (a grumpy older lady) proceeded to pull out the biggest bag that Sears carries to put that tiny screwdriver in, explaining that they were out of the smaller bags. With a smile, I told her I didn’t need a bag. With a frown, she ignored me and put it in the bag anyway. I pulled it out of the bag and explained that I could put it in my purse. She got a look of horror on her face and began to lecture me on Sears’ policy. According to her, every item purchased at Sears must go in a Sears bag. I’m not sure how accurate that policy is but I argued with her for way too long and then ended up walking out of the store with my screwdriver in a giant plastic bag.
And of course there are times when I forget to bring my own bag. At places like Target, Walmart and regular grocery stores, they must train the cashiers to only put one item in a bag, no matter how big or small the item is. Even when I ask them to fill up the bag, they put a maximum of two items in a bag. Sometimes, I will reach over the counter and start removing things from bags and combining them into a single bag. Other times I refuse a bag altogether. Usually it’s not an issue, but every once in a while, I will get someone like the Sears lady.
I used to go to a little country store when I lived in Pennsylvania. They carried a great selection of local foods and plants. They actively encouraged their customers to bring their own bags. But if you refused a bag or you had an item that was too big to go into a bag, then they would put a giant orange sticker on each item. It used to drive me crazy. I would go into the store and buy 20 plants and end up with 20 orange stickers. Their goal is to help the environment by reducing bag waste and then they create sticker waste. I know that each sticker is relatively small but they add up over time.
So, while many stores are getting a lot better about accepting and even encouraging the Bring Your Own Bag movement, there is still a long way to go. I try to do my part by keeping bags in my car and even a small bag in my purse. I often stumble out of stores balancing a mountain of stuff in my arms because I forgot my bag. And when I do take a disposable bag, I try to reuse it as much as I can before it falls apart. And then I recycle it. Hopefully, the Sears lady will become a little more understanding.
You can find reusable shopping bags just about everywhere. But another neat find is reusable produce bags. You can find those at EcoBags.