Habit Changing Is Hard

I’ve seen many stores selling those environment-friendly reusable shopping bags made of cloth or thick plastic, but I’ve seen very few people buying them, and even fewer people actually using them. I think bringing your own shopping bag is a great idea.

Most of the shopping bags are used for no more than 5 minutes. They hold stuff already in their own packaging. We take them to our car. Then we take them from our car to our home. That’s it. Some of these bags are recycled. That’s good, but it will be better if fewer of these are produced in the first place. The 3 R’s in waste reduction are “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” I think we put too much emphasis on Recycle and too little on Reduce and Reuse.

I’m glad to see some stores encouraging the practice of bringing your own shopping bags. I went to a grocery store the other day and brought with me a paper bag I saved from the previous trip. I got a 5-cent credit on my receipt. Five cents is nothing. If I buy groceries once a week, I will save $2.60 a year. If I invest $2.60 a year at 10% return for 40 years, I will have … never mind. It’s a good gesture though.

I started bringing my own shopping bags to the stores lately. I have to admit it’s easier said than done because habit changing is hard. More than half of the time I still run into the stores without them. If I’m not already in the checkout line, I make a point of going back to my car and getting my bag. I think I’m doing better. I hope it will become natural after a while and I won’t go into a store without a bag in my hand.

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  1. pidgeon92 says

    I bought eight shopping bags from reusablebags.com about six months ago. These bags are somewhat larger than the average plastic bag, and very sturdy. I keep them in my car, and use them all the time, though I have a hard time convincing a lot of the baggers that I really don’t want their store bags. I often have the repack the items myself into my bags.

  2. deltaforce says

    I applaud your efforts. As a teen, I’d often accompany my Aunt to the grocery store. She’d bring her own bags to save a few shekels. At that time (early 1980’s) 3-cents per bag was deducted from the bill.

  3. newguy says

    I’m actually fairly religious about bringing my reusable bags to the grocery store. As with most things when you do it the *right* way – there are many advantages: 1. reduce plastic consumption 2. avoid plastic bag proliferation in the house and 3. perhaps *MOST* importantly – I find that I can make less trips back and forth to the car when I use the reusable bags. Longer handles allows me to loop at least one bag per shoulder, and I can easily carry 4-5 bags in one trip with no risk of the bag breaking. To think of the number of plastic bags this saves (6.5 bags/week * 52 weeks), this is a no brainer. And ofcourse – I get $.06/bag. I keep the bags in the garage hung on the wall so that I always see them as I pull away.

  4. Anonymous says

    While we aren’t charged directly for the bags we use, I recognize that the the bags aren’t “free”; their cost is included in the cost of the groceries I’m buying. For the next few years or so, though, I’m going to continue to take the plastic bags the store provides. They’re just so darn useful. We’re currently in the diaper stage, and they’re perfect for tying up that stinky load for immediate transport to the garage. We use store provided plastic bags as liners for our smaller bins in bathrooms and bedrooms, and I use them for lunch bags when I’m onsite at a client.

    Given their myriad uses, I think I’ll focus more on the “Reuse” aspect of the alliterate triumvirate.

  5. Harry Sit says

    Thank you all for the great discussion. I’m encouraged to see other people are also reusing their bags. I reuse my grocery bags for waste basket liners but I still accumulate a lot of them over time.

    @Chris, the 5-cent credit I got is like a charge for receiving new bags — I pay 5 cents more if I don’t reuse my own bag. But I think if all stores start charging for bags, consumers will cry foul because they don’t like being nickeled and dimed.

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