Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In the bag

I'm a reusable bag junkie. I have big ones and small ones, colored and patterned ones, some for groceries and some for produce and mesh ones and cloth ones and recycled plastic ones. I probably own about twenty of them. And they rarely make it as far as my car, let alone the store.

Today, after stashing a bunch of bags in each of our two cars, I finally remembered to bring them into the store. I carefully chose three bags and two produce bags, knowing that I only needed a few things, so three bags would be plenty. But of course, I ended up buying more than I had intended. The grocery store happened to have holiday lights on sale, and we happen to need holiday lights, so I loaded my cart them. The three bags would work, but it would be a tight squeeze.

When I got to the checkout, I bagged my own groceries, as usual. I try to bag my own so that they're packed well, and to use the fewest number of bags possible. But today, I just wasn't fast enough. I bagged everything but the bread and eggs, intending to put them on the top of two of the bags, but the cashier grabbed them before I could. Into one plastic bag went to eggs, and into another went the bread. What the heck!? I'm pretty sure a loaf of bread can sit on top of a hard paper carton of eggs! I know this, because any other time I have had my groceries bagged for me at this store, that's exactly what the bagger has done. It's like he needed to make up for the reusable bags I brought today by using extra plastic.

It's a minor gripe, I know. Two bags rather than one, when most times I take all my groceries in plastic. But it's not just me - spend enough time on crunchy parenting boards, and you'll hear numerous stories of cashiers refusing to use cloth bags, of putting things in plastic bags before loading it into reusables, of customers handing the bag back to a cashier so it can be used by someone who needs it, only to see the cashier throw it away. The prevailing attitude - that reusable bags trendy, and make no real difference - is appalling. Plastic bags are epidemic. According to the EPA, in the United States over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are used each year. Worldwide, almost 1 million are used every minute.

To combat this, I'm making a promise. Starting today, I will load my reusable bags into my car each day. They'll stay in the front seat, where I will remember to use them. All of the plastic bags currently living in a wad in my kitchen cabinet will be reused for something, or recycled. I have been bringing home about close to 40 plastic bags every month, between groceries and other shopping trips. That's close to 500 bags every year - with holiday shopping it probably is 500. If I reduce my bag usage by just half (though I'll be aiming for no bag use, of course), and three more of you agree to cut your bag use in two, we can eliminate about 1000 plastic bags every year. Who will take up the cause with me?

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