Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reusable Bag "Would-But" Remedies

The other night a lady spoke at a meeting of our city Environmental Advisory Commission, calling herself an "uncommitted reusable bag user." She had come down to the City Council chambers to support a proposal to prohibit single-use plastic bags and place a disposal and education fee on single use paper bags.

She commented that she had some reusable bags, but she would often forget them when she walked to the store. She asked for the prohibition and fee to give her -- and others -- some additional incentive to be mindful of their choices (and especially to help remember to bring her bags!)

Until such a gentle reminder is the rule in your area, here is a capsule summary of a few cures for the "Would-Buts."

  • Own reusable bags. It may seem obvious, but if you don't have a set of reusable bags you will never remember to bring them into the store. You can make them yourself -- as a surprising number of folks do -- or collect them from all sorts of advertisers, or just vow to buy one (1) each time you shop for, oh say, two months.

  • Own More Bags Than You Think You Will Need Reusable cloth bags get used for all sorts of things, especially transporting gear to special events or stuff to work or school. When a bag is otherwise engaged, it cannot be used for groceries. Also, we have found the most effective technique is to keep a set of bags in each car, and one or two sets in the house.

  • Use Fewer Bags Than You Thought You Would Reusable cloth bags hold a lot of stuff. Four Trader Joe's-size canvas bag hold as much 10-12 of the plastic flimsies. So, even if you only have one bag -- take it! It makes a big difference. (Note: If you buy eight bags as noted in "Own More" above, you will have two sets.)

  • Torture People If you have not yet come out as a green, reusable bags can be a little, well, embarrassing. So, turn the tables. Deliberately bring your reusable bag with you into a store that doesn't seem all treehugger-ish. Smugly watch the checker struggle with your reusable, maybe even trying to stuff their plastic bags into your cloth one. Kindly, but with unmistakable surprise and disdain, comment that those plastic bags will be illegal soon. Realize that now that you are outed, you can be your sustainable-self anywhere.

  • Torture People II Take your reusable into a store that sells reusable bags but is not yet particularly sustainable . Watch the people in line eyeing your bag. Feel paranoid and embarrassed at being such a Green Goofball -- for a split second. Then accept the checker's heartfelt "Oh good! You have a bag!" Answer the follow-up quip from the person behind you that they "never remember to bring their bags" with equanimity and encouragement. Remember that that person was you yesterday!

In all seriousness, the reusable bag would-buts fall into three major categories -- old habits, self-justification (not enough bags, too many needed), and embarrassment at looking like an enviro-loon. None are insurmountable. You know you have made it to the sustainable place when you make an unexpected stop, feel just a little upset that you had to take a plastic bag for something that you couldn't at least carry away without a bag!


penn said...

I've never understood the "it's so hard to remember" thing. I keep some bags in my car. I keep some by the door. I snag them on my way out. If I start walking into the store and realize I forgot my bag, I go back to get it.

I think it took a few shopping trips, but I then remembered, and now it's force of habit. I keep telling people that it will become second nature for them too . . . they just have to work at it.

Roger, Gone Green said...

It does require re-training to remember those bags nearly every time, and some simple foresight, like pre-stocking the bags in the car. But one really important factor about making the change away from single-use disposable is the change in mindset and awareness of the disposables problem!

Anonymous said...

or you can use the bagnesia reminder kit to help remember your reusable bags.