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.