where green living, parenthood, and interiors intersect

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

(Anti)Bag Lady

Last year, I made a commitment to going completely bagless, employing reusable shopping bags at the farmer's market, grocery store, drug store and shopping mall, anywhere I made purchases that would ordinarily be thrown into a bag for my convenience. I met the goal about 90% of the time, so I renewed my commitment on January 1st and am delighted to have rejected every bag offer this year so far as the first month of 2011 comes to a close. This is a small environmental act of awareness that has now become second nature. My son has joined in the mission, telling people in line behind us at the supermarket that plastic bags are icky and paper bags kill trees. If you're considering going bagless too, there are a few small helpful tips that you should consider:

1. Don't worry about the awkward looks. I didn't get these as much when I lived in Manhattan, but in my not-so-progressive new home in Long Island, furrowed brows and confirmations of "are you sure?" follow most every "I don't need a bag, thank you."

2. In addition to the pouch of reusable bags I've been packing for years (like the convenient Planet Green Environsax 5-in-1 Pouch, their new RPET 100% recycled Slingsax or line of hemp bags, all pictured above), I keep a small number of produce bags that I've gathered from past purchases conveniently tucked inside the pouch. Most fruits and veggies can go in the cart without a bag, but string beans, cherries and such definitely need a vessel.

3. I'm pretty vigilant about my mission: if I forget my reusable bags, I take my purchases out in my hands and just plop them on the front seat of my car until I unload them at home. This wouldn't have worked as well in my city days, but whether you're a driver or an urbanite on foot, keeping lightweight reusable bags on you at all times (see #2) becomes an easy habit with some practice, especially if you find yourself cradling a drugstore's run worth of purchases once or twice.

4. Know the facts. According to cleanair.org, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags each year. The state of California spends about 25 million dollars sending plastic bags to landfills and another 8.5 million dollars removing littered plastic bags from streets. Recycling one ton of plastic bags costs roughly $4000 and produces recycled product that can be sold for only $32. There are a long list of other downers that might make you consider joining me in my bagless quest.