Day 107: Ditch the Plastic Carry Bag for Crying Out Loud

It’s so simple. Everybody knows about it.  We all have them.  But are we using them?

I’m talking of course about fabric shopping bags.  The golden (and easy) first step towards reducing your environmental footprint.  I realize I am probably preaching to the choir here, but humour me.

I’ve asked a few cashiers how many people bring cloth bags to the supermarket, and the answer is always “lots” or “most people”.  Is that true? I decided to find out through an impromptu, unscientific survey.  I set up a stakeout on a few local grocery stores and counted people coming out: plastic vs fabric.  The results were shocking.

I sampled 100 people at two chain grocery stores.  At the first store 70% of people were still using plastic bags; at the second, 80%; that’s an average of 75%!  What’s going on?  I thought we were doing better than that.

One man did stop to ask what I was doing with my paper and pen standing outside a grocery store.  Upon hearing that I was counting plastic bags he told me that he had a few friends who were “really into that” (as if carrying a cloth bag around was a hobby).  Laughing, I replied that they hadn’t affected him much as he was carrying two plastic bags, and he shrugged good-naturedly and said the “c” word: Convenience.

It always comes down to that doesn’t it?  Well, allow me to paraphrase Dave over at 365 Days of Trash: people don’t forget their wallets when they go to the store.  That’s because they’re in the habit of bringing them.  People just need to get in the habit of bringing a bag as well.  Then you always have it, and that, truth be told, is quite convenient in itself.

All one has to do is say to themselves “I promise I’m not going to take a bag even if I forget my cloth one” and stick to it.  Only a couple times of having to carry armloads of unbagged groceries to your car or fashioning a makeshift carrysack from your shirt, and you’ll never forget that fabric bag again.  So why aren’t more people doing it?

During a discussion with Grant’s father, we were telling him about our newly calculated plastic bag statistics.  First he attempted to defend the average consumer using the usual excuses and even mentioned the “c” word.  But then he had an idea.

Grant recently had a birthday, and mine is coming up.  We had asked for only consumables and experiences if possible, so Grant’s Dad is giving us a “commitment to fabric bags” as a gift.  He has pledged not to use plastic carry bags anymore (even if he forgets his bag in the car).  So there you go Mick, I’ve broadcast your intention to the world, so now you have to stick with it!

That’s one less person walking out of the supermarket with a plastic bag and two people enjoying waste-free, consumer-free, if slightly unusual, birthday gifts.

6 Comments

Filed under interactions, soft plastics

6 responses to “Day 107: Ditch the Plastic Carry Bag for Crying Out Loud

  1. Oh my, that gift from Grant’s Dad is totally amazing. It bought tears to my eyes. That has to be the best Birthday present ever!

    What a great post – thank you!
    Mrs Gx

  2. Emilie

    Well, another common excuse: grocery store plastic bags make for free household garbage bags. Of course that is moot if you don’t have garbage in the first place.

  3. Jen CleanBin

    Emilie,
    It’s true that you can line your bin with bags, but that’s only once a week or every two weeks. … or never if possible. What about the other 10 people are taking home every week?

    I have to admit, we have quite a buildup in our house from “the old days” (ie. before the project), and they are pretty useful now and again. You know, keeping your library books dry and your smelly sneakers separated from your gym strip (ha, as if I go to the gym). But we definitely don’t need any more!

  4. Emilie

    Good point, no need for that many bags anyway. I wonder if people rely on recycling those bags, e.g. at Safeway. I’m quite doubtful about that program (how would Safeways deal with the bags when the city doesn’t consider it’s economical to recycle them?). I once asked a staff about it and the person was obviously not knowledgeable in that area, so that was the end of my attempt so far.

  5. If you find yourself at a store with a bag recycling bin and you forgot your own, dig a few out of the bin and return them next time you are at that store. No need to purchase new cloth bags or leave a trail of merchandise to your car attempting the armload.

  6. Jen CleanBin

    Gooood one Greeen sheeep. I never thought of “borrowing” bags. And Emilie, I will try to take your challenge and get to the bottom of what happens to those bags at Safeway.

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