Grabbing a reusable shopping bag as you head out to the store sounds like such a simple thing, but in reality it can be a very difficult habit to pick up. All too often I head out to the store to realize that my bags are still at home.
Reusable shopping bags do quite a bit for the environment if you can remember to use them. Plastic bags are hard on the environment not only in terms of their manufacture and distribution, but in that so few are recycled. They’re terrible for wildlife. They break down very, very slowly.
Paper bags are a problem as well, although they do generally come from wood from managed forests. But they are heavier than plastic and can actually have a higher environmental cost than plastic in terms of manufacture and distribution. On the plus side, they break down nicely.
Reusable bags can even save you money. Some stores charge customers for bags, while others give a small discount for bringing your own. Either way the cost difference is small, but it can add up over time.
There are many ways to get reusable bags. You can buy them at your local grocery store, often for about $1 a bag. They’ll have the store’s logo or something along those lines on them, but they’ll get the job done. On the other hand, you’re a walking advertisement for that company. They may also not be terribly durable.
You can sometimes find them free at events. One of mine came from a local fair. The city’s information booth was giving them out.
You can also shop online for them. This is the most expensive option, but if you want the most durable and attractive bags, this is probably the way to go. You may also spend less in the long run. Many of the store bags and free bags are poorly made and won’t last through that many uses if you load them too heavily.
The key to building up a good reusable bag habit is to find something that works for you. Here are some ideas:
1. Keep them in the car.
Reusable bags are light, and take up very little room when empty, so they’re a good choice to just toss in the trunk. Do so after each time you use them, and they’ll make it to the store with you every time you drive over.
2. Buy bags that fold up into your purse.
If you carry a purse, this can work well for you. Some varieties fold up very small, and you can just have them with you all the time. No more forgetting them even in the trunk!
3. Put it at the top of your shopping list.
Just be sure you go over your list right before you leave. This won’t help you much if you don’t look at your list until you’re actually at the store.