Last week I walked out of the supermarket with four paper bags and no she-brings-her-own-bags discount on my receipt. I forgot my canvas shopping bags — again. I walked the three blocks home worrying that the thin little handles would break from the weight of the apples, milk and laundry detergent; and thinking of ways to make sure I didn’t commit the same environmental indiscretion next time.
I know it’s important to BYOB (bring your own bags): In the United States alone, 12 million barrels of oil and 14 million trees go into making the plastic and paper bags we use every year. According to the non-profit group Natural Capitalism Solutions, five canvas shopping bags that are reused multiple times can replace up to 520 plastic bags in a year. So why did I find myself standing in the produce aisle thinking, “I forgot to bring bags again!” as I loaded carrots and peppers into my cart?
It’s time to come up with a better plan for remembering my reusable shopping bags the next time I go to the supermarket. Here are a few things I’m going to try:
- Stash bags in my purse: The bags I take to the supermarket (when I remember to take them) roll up into tiny little packages that are smaller than my wallet. Since I never forget my purse when I go to the supermarket, keeping the bags tucked inside seems like a foolproof solution. Obviously this trick won’t work if you have oversized bags and a teeny-tiny purse. Consider Gaiam’s 100% Recycled Eco Zip Tote, a reusable shopping bag that folds into a little pouch that’s about the size of a cell phone.
- Keep extra bags in the trunk: When it comes to reusable shopping bags, I love Envirosax. These nylon bags are waterproof and deep enough to hold a lot of groceries, and they have oversized handles that are perfect for looping over my shoulders. And they’re cute, too. But I’m going to start keeping an extra stash of canvas bags in the trunk of the car. The next time I forget my favorites, I’ll have a few extras handy at checkout.
- Cough up the cash: I’m not embarrassed to admit that I get a little thrill out of saving a bit of money for bringing my own bags. (Supermarkets like Whole Foods and Safeway often take 5 cents off of your bill for every reusable bag you bring). So, the next time I forget to bring bags — and save zero cents — I’m going to come home and put $5 in a jar. At the end of the year, I’ll donate the money to my favorite charity.
Despite my best intentions, I’m sure I’ll eventually wind up at the supermarket checkout with a full cart and no reusable bags in sight. Of course I’ll remember to recycle any plastic and paper bags I bring home from the store … but maybe you have more ideas to help us all remember to bring our bags?