Weighed down by shopping bags

February 12, 2014 in Style, Sustainability by alliemcc

american beauty plastic bag

Still from American Beauty (1999) via.

I recently received a letter form my grocery store (never in my life would have thought I would type that sentence!).

It was a warning that they are discontinuing the 5-cents-per-reusable-bag rebate they've been offering to customers for "over 20 years".

This store is one of a small regional chain that I've been shopping at since I moved out on my own. Their stores are consistently clean, and their employees completely pleasant and polite. They don't always have what I need, but for staple items, I won't go anywhere else.

They cite that the program began as a way to "educate and encourage our customers to conserve resources." And they claim that in the last 7 years, the sub-chain of stores owned by this particular family has kept approximatly 315 million shopping bags out of landfills.

Which all comes as a surprise to me, because every single time I buy groceries, I'm kind of amazed at how many people I pass in the parking lot, still filling the trunks of their cars with this chain's telltale bright yellow plastic bags.

It seems to have been so ineffective at changing behavior, that the cashiers and baggers still automatically reach for the plastic bags as my items start gliding down the conveyor belt, and there's always a little flurry of surprise and adjustment when I announce that I've brought my own bags.

At any rate, they claim that they'll be shifting the funds for the rebate program into their other environmentally responsible programs– which reads as a laundry list of greenwashing, sadly.

I remember when reusable totes starting becoming ubiquitous in grocery stores– about 6 or 7 years ago– and I saw one, discarded and tumbling down the shoulder of the highway, just like the "disposable" bags it was meant to replace. I wondered then if these 99-cent polyethylene (read: plastic) totes, complete with store logos, would soon be filling the gutters and flapping in tree limbs, just like their forebears.

At this point, I'm sure everyone who can be converted to the cause has been, so any further campaigning is falling on deaf ears and simultaneously preaching to the choir. I expect to see more and more supermarket chains give up their reusable bag rebate programs in the near future.

As for me, I've been using the same woven plastic totes from another grocery chain for 7 years— they're the same size as a standard paper grocery bag, and apparently sturdy as heck.

I also have a collection of other random totes and repurposed bags from various conferences, gifts, etc. that also get enlisted into supermarket and other shopping and general toting duties.

hemp reusable tote bags shopping

My favorites are these sarcastic  but very informative hemp numbers (currently unavailable) from ReUseIt.com. They do have a great selection of other bags and rigid baskets and totes as well.

And what about you– paper, plastic, or durable and reusable? What are your favorites?

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