Friday, March 27, 2009

Shopping with reusable bags

One green living step that is simple but can be challenging to make a habit is shopping with reusable bags. I have been thrilled to see as grocery stores have made reusable bags available, more people have been purchasing and using them. However, many people have good intentions but forget the bags at home so they never get used or reused. Here I discuss some options for reusable bags and how to integrate them with your life.

While it is nice to have a matching set of reusable bags, buying cloth or recycled plastic bags is not a necessity. While I purchased my cotton and hemp bags and really like them, I also have a free bag made of recycled plastic I always keep in my car. This bag was handed out at my favorite farmer's market by a local bank, and I know that free bags can be picked up at tradeshows or as freebies from vendors advertising their business. The easiest reusable bags are to take the plastic or paper bags you have accumulated and use them again. Prior to ordering my reusable cloth bags, this is what I did. The grocery store bagger had no issue with me bringing in my own bags or reusing paper bags from another store.

If you are creative, sew, knit or crochet your own reusable bags. I think this is more creative and more unique than just buying some. One of my friends is knitting her bags using strips of plastic bags. I have lots of fabric so I intend on sewing a few for family members as gift bags. This way you can customize how large or small you want your bags to be.

The best way to make sure you take the bags with you is to keep a few on your person. For example, I keep at least one reusable bag in my car and carry two with me in my over-the-shoulder bag to work. With my once monthly grocery shopping, I keep my main stash of reusable bags in the house and bring them with me for the grocery trip. If you are reusing plastic bags the store gave you, rolling up a couple and stashing it in your purse or jacket pocket will minimize the "I forgot" excuse. I also keep my reusable bags in the front seat of my car to make it easy for me to use them. Hang the bag of bags next to your coat, purse or wallet. Keep the bag or bags by the door so it is easy to grab and carry with you. Most bags fold flat or small enough, it is not a burden to bring them with you.

Learning how to make reusing bags an integral part of your life is not without its challenges. It took me months to get my system in place. While I bought my cotton and hemp bags for grocery shopping, I realized I still stopped by my pharmacy or thrift store where I ended up with another plastic bag. My solution was keeping at least one bag on me and one in my car which helped me keep my vow of nearly eliminating plastic bags from my life. Now the only way I accumulate plastic bags is when someone else gives them to me. I either have a reusable bag to hold my purchases or refuse a bag completely.


  1. I haven't used a plastic bag in years, I can't imagine ever using one again. Some of the grocery chains here deduct 5 cents per re-usable bag you have at the checkout. I shop at 4 different grocery stores in town, to get the best prices, and at each store, I use one or two bags, that's a nice little chunk of savings at the end of the day! And our liquor board now charges people for both plastic and paper bags. Money talks!

  2. Hi Rain,

    There are no plastic laws or companies charging for bags yet in my area. While I did not start shopping with reusable bags for the discount, that is one benefit to my local grocery store--the extra five cents off my bill. I wish more stores had a bag credit.