8 Tips for Remembering Your Reusable Shopping Bags!

In this Easy Green Living post Jo of Down to Earth Mother shares eight handy tips for developing the habit of actually taking your reuseable shopping bags to the shops with you…something I really struggle with!

Easy Green for Families: 8 Tips for Remembering Your Reusable Shopping Bags

If I could snap my fingers and change one thing about the world I would make single-use plastic shopping bags disappear. Although this would have very little impact on the day-to-day life of most humans, it would have a profound impact on the hundreds of thousands of marine birds and animals that die from ingesting plastic bags, and greatly reduce the litter in our landscapes, waterways and streets. In Australia alone, more than 10 million single-use plastic bags are used and discarded every day (only three per cent are recycled). They take between 10 and 2000 years to break down.

If plastic bags weren’t available, we wouldn’t use them. After all, we survived most of our 200,000 years of existence without them! But in today’s modern, hectic world, convenience is king and we’re just a bit hooked on stuff we use once and then throw away. We all know single-use bags are a waste of money and resources, the trick is getting back into the good habit of actually using (not just owning!) reusable shopping bags. Here are eight suggestions to make it easier for you to be a tote-carrying eco-champion:

1. Have plenty of reusable bags available (see below for which bags are “best”).

2. Stash them in your car, your most used handbags, your nappy bag, the pram, the basket of your bike and anywhere else you might need them.

3. Invest in a couple of small nylon bags with a clip for your keys or handbag.

4. After you unpack your shopping PUT YOUR BAGS BACK. Sorry about the shouty capitals, but this really is the crucial step!

5. When you need to take lots of bags, say, for a weekly grocery shop, store your bags somewhere you can’t forget them, for example, by the front door, next to where you keep your keys or in the garage next to the car.

6. Go one step further by also sourcing some reusable produce bags.

7. Always start your shopping list with “bags” so you remember to get them out of the car before you start shopping.

8. Put your reusable bags back in your car, handbag, on their shelf by the front door after you unpack them. Did I say that already?

Easy Green for Families: 8 Tips for Remembering Your Reusable Shopping Bags

Which reusable bags are best?
There are so many different kinds of reusable bags. My collection includes hessian sacks, calico totes, square “green” bags from supermarkets, a classic Harrod’s bag and a funky red tote made from recycled water bottles. But my favourite reusable shopping bags are the nylon kind that fold up to the size of a lipstick case or mobile phone. You can buy these cheaply from the supermarket or from brands such as SAKitToMe or Onya for about $10. I love these because they can be clipped onto my keys and are a good size for a small handbag.

In terms of environmental impact, not all reusable bags are created equal. The “green” bags sold by supermarkets are made from polypropylene, a kind of plastic, and are sometimes lined with PVC, which is the most polluting form of plastic around. They also don’t last very long (but if you live in Australia, can be recycled by taking them back to the supermarkets). Nylon isn’t widely recycled, so limit yourself to only a few of these (TIP: you definitely get what you pay for in terms of durability). Natural fibres such as cotton and hessian are the best options, look for thick straps, strong stitching and make sure they are easily washable.

So you forgot your bags…
It happens! Ask for a box, put your items into your handbag or load up the kids if you can. Prepare to deal with some perplexed looks as you stuff a lime in each back pocket (true story) and tuck the pasta under your chin. Ask nicely if you can take the basket to your car and return it (make sure you do) or unload the trolley directly into the car (when you get home you can grab your bags to take everything inside). If you absolutely do need to take a plastic bag, fill it right up and recycle it at your nearest supermarket.

Do you carry reusable shopping bags? Share your tips for remembering to take them to the shops in the comments below!

Check out the other posts in the Easy Green series of simple suggestions for reducing your family’s impact on the environment and saving cash at the same time;

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  1. I saw an Aldi mum once with two of those plastic flexi storage tubs.. she fit them perfectly into the trolley.. Loaded them up with groceries, got them scanned then loaded them back in again! Thought it was a great idea!!

  2. I hear you on the limes in the pockets – I see it as my punishment for forgetting my bags, to have to balance carrying everything back to work/the car.
    I shop minimally at supermarkets anyways, and the two shops I mainly frequent do provide cardboard boxes for when I forget the bags (and the kids are slowly growing a train of cardboard boxes on the decking – and then once destroyed, will go to weed matting in my new garden beds!!!!).
    I agree, the fold up bags that are tiny and can be stashed are a godsend, for the times when you desperately need a bag and don’t have one. And those, as well as the cotton/hemp ones, are all easily washable too, and sewable if there is a tear, and in the end, the natural fibre ones are compostable, or if not compostable, can be made into something else if you’re a bit crafty.
    Don’t forget. those produce bags aren’t too expensive to buy, but they’re also easy to make. i’ve found tulle many times in an opp shop, and 5 minutes with some scissors and a sewing machine and you have a sturdy reusable produce bag. Paper produce bags (if your shop provides them as an alternative to plastic) are generally not made from recycled paper, despite their brown appearance. They are usually made from virgin fibres, so while they will break down (unlike plastic), it would be better to avoid those too.

  3. I totally hear you on this issue – it’s so frustrating when you forget your bags, or worse, when your husband comes home with one tiny box of tea inside a plastic bag… They should just stop supplying them. For a while there Target had those biodegradable plastic bags that cost 10c which I thought was good as I’m sure it made people think twice about taking unnecessary bags. But where are they now? Aldi is great also that they don’t supply bags. If only more people did this it would REALLY help. I recycle my plastic bags and packaging, but hardly anyone else I know does. And even then I think, it would be better to reduce the plastic in the first place, with recycling the last resort. Ahhh, hopefully people will start getting better soon.

    • Yeah, Target quietly got rid of those, I’m not sure why but I’ll get to the bottom of it one day! The supers are all about convenience, which is why they will never willingly give up single-use plastic bags. Woolworths allegedly has a policy of not offering a bag for fewer than 3 items, but I think we’ve all seen that this policy is not enforced. The only solution is for single-use plastic bags to be banned at a state and national level.

  4. Thanks Jo, inspiring as always! Off to grab some little purse sized bags today! X

  5. Several counties in California – including mine – have banned single use plastic bags. My reusable bags just live in the the trunk (boot) of my car. After I’ve emptied the groceries, I hang the bags on the front door knob, so the next time I go out the door, the bags go with me! Then it’s just a matter of remembering to take them into the store with me!

  6. I steel can’t find my bag

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