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!
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?
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;