Bring Your Own Bag To The Store

I admit that on most days I’m less overwhelmed than a lot of people. Uh, sort of.  Wait.  Scratch that.  Then again, don’t.  Whatever. What I’m trying to say is, usually, I remember to do the picky little things that we tend to forget when we’re already multi-tasking.

I carry a canvas grocery bag — sometimes more than one, in different sizes — in my purse.  The purse is big, and as a general rule I don’t go into stores where they expect us to leave large purses with the staff. So, this particular system works for me but maybe not for some other people.

My canvas grocery bags are machine washable, and most of them haven’t turned into an odd shape after being washed in warm water with my clothing.  They’re getting a lot of use, and only the cheapest ones I bought in a salvage store are showing serious signs of wear.

In San Francisco, we’ve had a bag fee ordinance for almost four years (for bagging merchandise when it’s paid for.  The fee doesn’t apply to produce bags).  The bags must be made of paper or thick “reusable” plastic.  I’m pretty sure compostable materials made of things other than paper are okay, too. I’ve paid the ten cent fee three times, I think.  The rest of the time, my own bags or a precarious balancing act transport my groceries home.  The same applies to other merchandise.

The May 2 issue of The New Yorker has a carefully researched article by Ian Frazier, describing New York City’s efforts to curb bag pollution.  Please click the link below to take a look at it, and then give some thought to how you can get into the habit of supplying your own bags when you shop.  Not all reusable bags are bulky. Some you can fold and carry in your pocket, although I can’t attest to how long they last or how much weight they can tolerate.

Note: If you like little trinkets, ornaments, etc, you can sew buttons, patches and other fun things onto a canvas bag.  Doing so might help children and teenagers (as well as adults) remember to take bags to the store.  Sewing something onto a bag can also give you the proof you need if a store clerk ever says, “We sell these bags here.  How do I know you already own this one?”

The nonfiction book Garbology by Edward Humes is also recommended. The cover image is shown below the New Yorker link.

Helen Christie is the author of the novella Petra, an e-book on Kindle.


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