Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Baby steps that spread

In March, I pledged to work on cutting down on the number of plastic bags I used by bringing my own with me whenever I went shopping. I was already in the habit of bringing bags with me to Whole Foods, a store where that behavior was encouraged and commended. One of the hurdles for me was dealing with the looks and uncertainty of the cashiers at stores where this wasn't standard practice. I heard a lot of "are you sure" whenever I would say I didn't need a bag--even when I was holding out the bag I had with me.

In the past few months, the process has become much easier. I still occasionally end up with a plastic bag, an average of probably less than one a week, usually as a result of an unplanned shopping trip. But my awareness of wanting to avoid collect disposable bags means that I make fewer unplanned purchases and that I try to buy no more than the one portable item I spontaneously thought of so that I can turn down a bag.

It's also easier to deal with the cashiers. Some of this may be my resolution and practice. But I also think that this has become a behavior that's being encouraged in more and more stores. To wit:
  • Trillian and I made a trip to Ikea this past weekend. In the US, they are now charging for plastic bags; I felt left out then. But the cashier informed us, when she noticed us packing our items into the two tote bags we'd brought, that the Canadian stores would be following suit in October. Some part of that is due to the fact that people will grab handfuls of the large bags and walk out with them, but she also said something along the lines of, "All the trash has to go somewhere, so maybe we should make less of it."
  • I've noticed that Shoppers is now selling their own reusable bags. I haven't seen a lot of people using them, though I've seen a couple being bought. But one result of that is the cashiers don't seem quite so surprised to see my bag (even if I tend to bring the smaller Whole Foods bag with me).
  • In fact, just about every store I've been in now has displays of reusable bags, usually store-branded. That makes me chuckle a little, because of course every store wants people to carry around a bag with their logo. I'll admit we've got two Whole Foods bags, plus one with the Loblaws logo that we got for free at the Green Living Show. I use the smaller Whole Foods bag for quick errands and feel fine about giving them that advertising since they had them for sale ages before everyone else. The larger Whole Foods bag comes from a store in the States and is a wonderful insulated and zippered bag--specific to grocery shopping. But most of our regular purchases go into a couple of large tote bags Trillian's mother gave us one Christmas so that we'd have extra bags for the trip home. We're not using them for anything else, so it works out perfectly.
Of course, I've noticed that Whole Foods seems to be the only store that gives a discount for reused bags (up here at least--Trader Joe's does too, but they're not as ubiquitous), and I wonder how well the practice will catch on among the general public without some sort of incentive. As if cutting down on litter and petroleum products isn't incentive enough...

Sigh. But hey, I'm encouraged to see more people working on baby steps like this since I'm convinced that's going to be the best path to getting the most people to make sustainable changes.


cinnamon gurl said...

I'm pretty good about bringing my own bag (branded by our local independent health food store) when I go shopping on foot but it's the big, car trips to the grocery store that I forget to bring bags for. I've bought a couple at the store but then I forget to put them back in the car. That's where I really need to improve.

motherbumper said...

Now that I've read this post it's encouraged me to work harder at something that is actually so easy and rewarding. I always bring my own bags to the local farmers market, and both the local grocery stores. At other shops I try my best to avoid bags (unless I'm desperate, forgotten to bring my own, and short handed). One cool I've noticed since doing better in this arena: the mess under the kitchen sink is almost non-existent. No more heaps of plastic bags!

Her Bad Mother said...

Some of the grocery chains (whichever one owns PriceChopper, for example) charge for bags, and also provide stacks of their packaging boxes to re-use to carry groceries home. That practice could, however, be extended for sure.

Part of the beauty of the stroller is that you never need to take shopping bags - you just huck it all in the bottom.

kittenpie said...

I am pushing Misterpie, the grocery shopper in our house, on this. He had lots of reasons it was totally inconvenient, but I say it will be inconvenient for a few trips until you get in the habit. Must keep nagging.

Mouse said...

It really is one of those things that turns into habit. We had already gotten in the habit for Whole Foods--stick the bags at the front door, grab as we leave. I can't pinpoint when it became second nature to grab them for all shopping trips, but it's finally automatic. My one weakness is the unplanned stops. But I find myself making fewer of them now because I've made myself more mindful of shopping habits.

(But ditto on the stroller too. Though our Maclaren has a smaller basket than our last stroller, so that limits us too.)

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

No Frills charges $0.05 for bags, and, if you pay with your PC Mastercard and bring your own reusable bags (not plastic), they credit you with 50 PC points per bag. Not a huge amount, but they do encourage you to reuse.

I have a portable tote bag that folds up small that I keep in my diaper bag for those unexpected shopping trips. And I keep a whole bunch of canvas bags in the trunk of my car!