Tuesday, January 8, 2013

No bag, please

Americans use approximately 100 billion plastic bags per year

Remember when the question was, "Paper or plastic?" Perhaps you're still asked the question. I want to challenge you to make that question completely unnecessary. How? By saying, "No bag, please," as soon as you're greeted at the check out line.

It took me awhile to get used to carrying bags with me into stores. But consistency led to habit and habit led to my feeling rather naked if I didn't have my reusable totes with me when I checked out in a store.

It started with grocery shopping. Like I said, it took me awhile to get used to this. Several times, as I was getting into a line at the grocery store, I realized I'd left my bags in the car. So I parked my cart off to the side and I went out to retrieve them. A couple of times, this was in the rain. Soon, I made sure not to leave them behind anymore. Now, the thought of being seen carrying a plastic bag from the store puts me in a cold sweat! It's like a minister being seen coming out of a porn shop. Green Grandma better have her reusable bags with her!

After I purchased some wonderful fold-up-and-snap cloth bags from Target and Kohls, I started stashing them in my purse. Always available.

PA State Store bags

I was thrilled when the Pennsylvania State Stores (where we buy our wine) started carrying reusable wine bags. I have 3 and use them all the time. They are perfect at the grocery store for keeping glass jars from clinking up against each other in the bag!

Then I discovered Envirosax bags. Oh my. These handy, dandy reusable sacks roll up to the size of a small fist. Super duper easy, and lightweight, to keep in a purse or coat pocket at all times.

Envirosax Wild Kingdom

A little while after the carry-your-own-bags trend started to catch on, the issue of bacteria and germs raised its ugly, but valid, head. You see, the standard reusable grocery bags do not hold up well to the washing machine. So buying fresh meat and produce creates a problem. Not even thinking, I was placing packages of chicken and pork into my bags. Of course, little bits of the meat juices were seeping out, and bacteria was having a party in the bottom of my bags. Or I was filling my bags with non-organic apples, laden with pesticides that was wearing off onto the sides of the bags. All-in-all, this was not a good situation. And it seems to be the battle cry of all those opposed to using reusable totes.

So, here are my solutions:
  • After you are done shopping, liberally spray the inside of your cloth shopping bags with a 50:50 solution of distilled white vinegar and water. This will kill the bacteria.
  • Slip meat into the thin plastic meat bags (yes, I'm advocating the use of a small amount of plastic if necessary).
  • Use washable produce bags.
  • Buy a supply of machine washable totes, like the ones I use from Envirosax, and throw them in the wash after each trip to the grocery store. This is my favorite tip. It's safe, easy and practical.
If you're like me, it might take some time to get into the habit of keeping bags on hand. But isn't it better to start now, before it becomes necessary to pass more laws regarding this issue? We don't have the laws here in Pennsylvania. And I'm hoping we never have to. 

Do your part and skip the single-use plastic bags. Do it for the earth, the wildlife and your fellow human beings. Or just do it because you're cool like that, right?    


  1. Excellent post, and I agree wholeheartedly. I carry bags, and use cotton washable bags for all my supermarket shopping, once finished I stick them in the washing machine, they dry quickly and are good to go! We even keep spare bags in the boot of our car now in case we have an impromptu trip out. When asked at the till if I want a bag, I always say no. Also here in the UK most supermarkets now also give you loyalty points on your loyalty card for re-using bags, which is fantastic!

    1. Thanks, Chrissie. I love the loyalty points aspect! They need to start doing that in the States.

  2. Good post. It also took some adjustment for me to be in the routine of having my bags, and actually taking them into the store with me. They were left in the car so many times it's ridiculous.

    I got in on a co-op for Chico Bags several years ago and I use the heck out of those things. They're washable, too, and have a self contained pouch that they fold into, which works great.

    1. Thanks, Nicole. I never heard of Chico Bags. Where can you buy them?

  3. I think Canada kind of forced the issue several years ago when they started charging for plastic bags, 5 cents a piece. Well before I knew to care about being green, I did the mental math and figured that if I bought a reusable bag for $1.00, it would pay for itself very quickly. I've had the same bags for years now, acquiring new bags every so often, but using them for other things as well.

    I do admit to going to a store and not carrying my bags... But if I find myself without a bag, I just grab a box from their "discarded boxes" section and put my groceries in there. It gets recycled once we're home (if my kids don't grab it and make a bake stand out of it first.) If I'm shopping with my kids and I only have a handful of items, they all hold on to a couple items each and we don't need to worry about bags or boxes.

    I've enjoyed looking at the well-designed bags that are out there, deciding to buy them as I need them, but my bags from years ago are holding up so well that I haven't had to yet!

    Thanks for the vinegar tip. I'll have to remember to do that after using bags for items that could be carrying bacteria (mainly just produce and meat). Another great vinegar tip from Green Grandma!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Wanda. And... you're welcome :)


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