My collection of plastic supermarket bags used to burst from its storage caddy beneath the kitchen sink, and not even reusing them for cat-box refuse or as packing materials ever seemed to make a dent.
It’s no wonder that it had gotten so out of control-I’d started noticing that the cashiers at my local supermarket use way more plastic bags than necessary to pack my groceries. I once came home to discover that one of my seven or eight grocery bags contained-I am not joking-a single tube of deodorant. Would this not fit into one of the other half-filled bags?
But ever since I’ve amassed a collection of sturdy grocery totes, the plastic-bag caddy’s depleted, leaving room for more under-sink stuff, like cleaning products (biodegradable, natch) and a bucket.
It takes a certain mindset to get into the habit of using your own bags. For one, you have to acquire a collection of bags-which is not difficult considering that nearly every grocery store from Whole Foods to Trader Joe’s to even mainstream supermarkets like Publix are selling their own versions. And, of course, you have to remember to actually bring them into the store…a habit that’s second nature to me now, but took weeks of forehead-slapping (usually after finally reaching the front of a long checkout line) at my forgetfulness.
I’m embarrassed to admit that once I decided to go the BYO-bag route, I became addicted to buying new versions, and I now have more than I will ever need, even for the biggest pre-Thanksgiving shopping spree.
If you haven’t started toting your groceries home in your own bags, I hope some of these options will help inspire you. Reusable grocery bags, in my opinion, are one of the instances where being green can also be stylish. I’ve even categorized them by personality type. Got your own favorite source for reusable shopping bags? Share the wealth!
For the purist: Organic cotton string bags
My first shopping bag was the free string bag I got with my membership to the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, NY. It seemed flimsy, but week after week I was amazed at how it stretched and bulged to fit everything from cereal boxes to baguettes to cantaloupe. Indeed, the version from Reusable Bags holds up to 40 pounds. And you can even buy a convenient little hemp tote to keep your stash of bags handy.
For the forgetful: ChicoBags or Envirosac bags
I recently received a set of five adorable, lightweight totes, rolled up and bundled into a pouch. For someone who often forgets her pile of bags in the car, these were the perfect solution-they’d fit easily into my purse, and now I always have at least one or two of them on hand. ChicoBags, which fold into their own nylon pouch, are equally as convenient, and are also excellent for traveling.
For the city-dweller: Reisenthel trolley bag
If you do your grocery shopping on foot, you know how arduous hauling your purchases home can be. Reisenthal has the perfect solution–a tote bag on wheels! Cuter than a granny cart and much more convenient, since it folds up to about the size of a laptop case, this tote will be a boon…until you get to the front steps of your fifth-floor walkup.
For the fashionista: “I’m not a Plastic Bag” bag
When these canvas totes, designed by London designer Anya Hindmarch, were introduced into the U.S., a New York City Whole Foods store sold out of its stock of 3,000 bags within 29 minutes. But they’re a great option if you don’t want to sully your Louis Vuitton tote with milk-carton condensation or leaking bags of bulk fair-trade coffee. That is, if you can find the real deal and not fall for one of the impostors that’s peppering the internet.
For the beginner: Trader Joe’s reusable shopping bags
The easiest way to get started? Pick up one of the many plastic, canvas or insulated totes at the entrance to Trader Joe’s or your favorite supermarket. Chances are they’ll be cheap, sturdy and, in Trader Joe’s case, relatively cute, as the company often comes out with new designs. Some supermarkets even will reward you for BYO-bagging (and not only if you’re toting ones emblazoned with their own logos). Whole Foods recently upped its bag credit from 5 to 10 cents, and Trader Joe’s will enter you into a weekly prize raffle.
So, if you’re not packing your groceries in your own bags by now, what are you waiting for?