A late resolution

by Jennifer on February 2, 2008

mybag.jpgI considered titling this post Soapbox Saturday, but then I thought no one would read it. But you’re here now (hear that door shutting behind you?), and I hope you’ll stay (see those big guys guarding the door?).

This morning I came upon an article in the New York Times about a reversal in Ireland of the use of plastic bags. In 2002, a 33 cent tax was placed on each plastic bag–if a customer wanted them, they had to pay. Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94%. Yes, 94%. Within a year, almost everyone had bought and begun to use cloth bags. Incredible, isn’t it? Now, according to the article, the use of plastic bags is considered “socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.”

Here in the United States, a smattering of grocery chains like Whole Foods have made efforts toward phasing out plastic bags. Unfortunately, we Americans are stubborn bastards (yes, I’m including myself). It seems it will take nothing less that an act of Congress for us to follow the example of a small country across the pond who, with the enactment of a simple but stern tax, has achieved an environmental feat that we should all be lining up to emulate.

So what’s our hangup? Every time I go to the store, I feel guilty whenever I forget to ask for paper. (But even the paper bags come at the price of cutting down trees, as well as the use of energy and fuel it takes to manufacture and transport them. ) I resolve every time that I will purchase cloth bags, and I’ve even gone online to shop for them, but have never bought them, for reasons that make little sense. I seem to want cute bags at a great price, when I should just choose some plain ones at a great price and care little about how they look, as long as they are serviceable and washable.

A good stash of bags would mean having at least a dozen, if not more. I hope to find bags that hold as much as a paper grocery bag, which would be ideal. I would also like them to stand up on their own, like a paper bag does. But those seem to cost more. And that doesn’t matter so much, since plastic bags don’t stand on their own, so why should I care?

So, I’m making a late resolution. A serious one, that doesn’t involve diet or exercise, or cutting out swear words. This one should be easy, as easy as it is for me to remember to take my purse when I leave the house, and easier even, since I can leave the grocery bags in my trunk.

This month, I will seek out and purchase an adequate number of cloth grocery bags. I will harness whatever Irish solidarity runs through my blood (it’s there, though diluted) and make an important change. I invite and challenge all of you to join me. As I do my research, I will post some links for bags I like, and I hope you’ll do the same if you find a good source.

It’s a small change and a big one, too. Maybe someone in line behind me will see my cloth bags and think, “Yeah, I should get some of those,” and maybe they actually will. A wavelike effect that could spread across the country (I dream big), even all the way to the aisles of a W*lmart near you. I do know that over time, businesses will line up with their customers’ demands. If we ask for it, and ask for it, and ask for it again. Eventually, they will listen and comply.

Come to think of it, this would be a great fundraising idea for schools and other organizations. So much better than candy or wrapping paper. All of you who are involved in your PTO can snag that idea and run with it. (I’m counting on it.)

Maybe I should start a website and call it BagLadies. Everyone could sign up and register their changeover to cloth bags. Hmm. I’ll have to give that some thought. Just as soon as I buy some cloth bags.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

flutter February 2, 2008 at 7:33 pm

if you have plastic bags, send them my way, I cut them into strips and knit them into reusable plastic bags. So, if you’d like I can make some for you.

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slouching mom February 3, 2008 at 12:40 am

Wegmans (our local and fantastic supermarket) sells cloth bags at checkout for something like 95 cents each.

It’s a wonderful, proactive step for a supermarket to take.

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Jennifer February 3, 2008 at 1:16 am

That’s a bargain. Slow Panic mentioned that her store has them for about that price, too. I’ll probably just do that for now, if one of my local stores has them. Excellent info!

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suburbancorrespondent February 3, 2008 at 1:31 am

I like the ones Whole Foods sells – they are roomy and strong and fun-looking. Too bad I never remember to take them into the store with me.

And things aren’t as rosy in Ireland as you think. Sales of boxes of plastic garbage bags went up, because people no longer had the grocery bags to line their small trash cans with…I heard this on a reputable NPR talk show….

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JCK February 3, 2008 at 6:13 am

Go Ireland! We can only hope.

You may not have a Trader Joe’s near you, but they have great, colorful, large reusable bags. I have been noticing them recently at Costco and also at one of our local grocery stores: Vons or Ralphs and maybe a drugstore or two. I do think the shift is coming. Just takes us a lot longer.

The more of us who do it, the more will do it and then most everyone will do it. I really believe that.

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Slow Panic February 3, 2008 at 12:23 pm

yep. I started using the cloth ones Publix sells for $.99. They’re great and as soon as I unpack them at home I put them in the front seat of the car so I remember them next time. I’ve only used plastic a couple of times since the new year — considering I go to the grocery store, practically every day that’s something.

I think I’m going to start taking them to other stores. I hate those stupid plastic bags!

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Emily February 3, 2008 at 8:18 pm

We’re not 100%, but I have made a few changes to cut our bag usage dramatically. I have a huge purse so that if I am just getting some bread or something, it can slip right in. We have a ton of bags that came free for something or another, and we hang those in the front hallway.

We cannot stop using plastic grocery bags because here in London our groceries are delivered and they come in plastic bags. But, when we get home, you can bet your booties we will switch.

Now, the one thing I cannot stand having in a cloth bag is meat. For some reason, I feel like that has to be in a plastic bag. Tell me to get over myself!!

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Kellan February 4, 2008 at 12:36 am

This was a great post Jennifer and I am in for the challenge! I’m going to search out some bags too and start using them – I am!! Thanks and have a good Monday – see you soon. Kellan

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Brenda February 4, 2008 at 2:40 am

Thanksn for the reminder of the class I want to do on decorating bags! Job #1 is to go out and actually shop and find reasonably-priced, durable bags!

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Landon February 4, 2008 at 3:46 am

I think 12 bags might be more than necessary. I keep 7 in my car, and that’s usually more than enough. It just took me a while to remember to always grab them before walking into a store, but I’m pretty good about it now. I even take them into Target. Only occasionally do I get a dim check-out person who asks me if I am buying the bags.

I purchased mine at gaiam.com (I think), but Sprouts has good bags as well. Amazon might be worth a try too. Remember, it’s an investment that will last. I’ve had five of my bags for over six years.

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cce February 4, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Yup, I read the same article and was blown away by the relative ease by which Ireland made the transition. You know it was a complete revolution if the use of plastic has now become anathema. I love that there is shame in producing waste.
One of the challenges that Americans face in the changeover is the fact that we purchase in vast quantities. I think the average family visits the grocery once a week and spends $200 a pop. That’s a lot of canvas totes. But I’m up for it. Really. Start that website and I’m buying.

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Mo (Un-Mainstream Mom) February 4, 2008 at 8:25 pm

I am a fan of cloth bags. Our library system does not hand plastic ones out anymore, so we bring our own cloth ones. I’m working toward doing that with groceries too. Every time I get a plastic one, I feel so guilty knowing it will take 100+ years to biodegrade. I wouldn’t mind a plastic bag ban here in the US.

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Sandy (Momisodes) February 4, 2008 at 10:04 pm

I too am hoping to be better about this. I have a ton of unused cloth bags lying around that I could use for groceries and such.

The Whole Foods here near Boston is already starting to charge for their plastic bags to help encourage shoppers to bring their own!

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Lisa T February 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm

I’ve had my Whole Foods ones for two years.
Each time I use them I get 5 cents off per bag 😉 I hope to one day have them paid off.
They are durable too!
I stumbled onto your blog from Holly’s!

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