“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Would You Miss Plastic Bags

As I was driving my daughter to her awesome Nature School spewing toxins into the air from my car, I was pondering if driving her the 20 minutes there and back each day is counter productive.  But this is a totally different topic that I plan to address in the coming weeks.  As I was driving having these very deep thoughts on nature, and cars, and toxins, I started to notice something very disturbing.  It was a windy day and my deep thoughts were interrupted by plastic grocery bags flying all around.  Stuck in trees, on the road, and generally just flying around.  It really struck me as a most unnatural and disgusting sight.  My thoughts instantly shifted to, how can we stop this from happening?  How can we stop people's obsession with plastic bags?  I don't rely on plastic bags and I like to believe that a lot of other people don't either...but I don't think this is the case.  There are still people who use plastic bags when they get groceries and there are still people, gasp, who throw plastic bags in the trash instead of reusing them.  How can we stop this habit?

What if the plastic bag makers, just stopped making plastic bags?  Would we really miss them?  What do you use plastic grocery bags for and what alternatives could we be using? 

I don't really have a solution here, just throwing out my thoughts and wondering if you have any ideas.  There has been a movement towards bringing your own bags to stores, and I think there are thousands of people who are now bringing their own bags as opposed to just a few short years ago...but when I go to the store I only see about 5% of people using their own bags.  So, how can we get the other folks on board?

All comments welcome!



  1. I wish they would ban them. I carry my own bags, string bags to the Farmer's Market, canvass bags everywhere else, but there are times, when I don't carry enough to to the grocery store, and I end up with one coming home. I have friends who don't buy trash bags, and use the majestic plastic bag for that, but I stash the few I get and use then to wet block my felted items (I'm a knitter).

    But I'm also a small business owner and the plastic bags are the only affordable option right now (b/c I already have a supply!). I'm researching paper bags, stamping them with our logo, but the cost is higher and really, is it better? Our City has threatened to ban plastic, so I'll have to swallow the expense of the paper ones...or possibly increase my prices to accommodate the extra expense (yuck). OR...do as some grocery chains do and offer a discount if you have your own bag to carry your items out with.

    It's a tough question with somewhat tough decisions. (I love the video, tho' and have shared it on my own blog!)

  2. Oh, that video...so funny, but sad, because it's true. I wish they weren't a part of life either and rarely use them when I shop, but that's just because I usually shop at Costco, where they're not even offered. I think a biodegradable option would be good though. Maybe it exists? I say this because where I live, we're required to put our garbage in plastic bags. So I end up buying plastic garbage bags!

  3. Our Co-op gives you .5 cents back for bringing your own bag; as does the local grocery store (.3 cents). Other local merchants participate in a "Bag that Bag" program where .5 cents is donated each time a customer uses their own bag. A charity is chosen each month to receive all the nickles collected from all the participating merchant's that month. Also, the local grocery stores have bins where you can recycle the plastic bags should you in fact use them. On the off day where I forget my extra bags and need a plastic bag - I use it for a garbage bag. Although, I prefer asking for paper so it can be recycled.
    I once saw some patterns where you could crochet a bag from the plastic bags!
    I don't drive - sold my car 7 months ago, so I "backpack" to the grocery store and use my bike and panniers when weather permits. On that note, our local stores participate in a Bicycle Benefits program - where you purchase a sticker for your helmet for $5.00 and then receive a 5% discount of your entire purchase when you bike to the store. Hope something there helps.

  4. Where we live, in Toronto, Canada all stores charge $.05 for plastic bags. It's not a lot, but it's enough that many people bring their own reusable bags, which makes me happy to see.

    We've used reusable bags for many years. We have a stash that we keep in our car for groceries. You can fit so much more into them than a plastic bag they don't rip, spilling groceries everywhere the way plastic bags can. (Especially reassuring when walking home from the grocery store.) We also each keep a small fold-up bag in our shoulder bags for small items we pick up when we're out. It's really just second nature now. There are very few times when I think it would be better to have a plastic bag.

  5. our state is in the process of passing a law against them..... we would be the first state to Ban the Bag. I love that they will no longer clog our waterways, rivers and hang in trees. We have not had one in our house (via our choice) in almost 3 years, in fact my boys cringe along with me when they see them. There are so many other options- bio bags, canvas, your own hands.... etc.

  6. I wish they would ban them, or at least put a serious price on them. I bring my own bags but every so often I find myself with an armload of shopping and no bag (just ducked in for one thing - you know how it goes!). And I let the shop assistant load it all into a bag. There just seems no other easy option and I am embarrassed to make a huge issue out of one bag...and it is a million small decisions like that that create most of the big pollution of the commons issues we face. If bags were banned, we'd all think of solutions to these little inconveniences - reusable bags with a deposit, reuse the boxes things come to the supermarket in, one bag free and you pay a real amount for others...we have ingenuity to solve the problem, just no incentive.

  7. Ban the bag! I think that's the only solution that will force people to find other ways. Fifteen years ago in many parts of western and central Europe, you had to pay extra for a bag. They are even outlawed in parts of India.

    But for the plastic bags that already exist: I have seen crocheted plastic bags as water-bottle holders, reusable grocery bags, and big baskets that mom's use to carry towels and swimsuits to the pool/beach.

    Also, take any plastic bag (bread bags, sandwhich bags, tortilla bags...you name it...and stuff them tight inside a feed sack and you have a very cheap archery target! Once you've poked too many holes in it, you stuff more plastic bags in the holes and slip another feed sack over it.

    The archery target and crocheted sacks are great for existing bags, but ultimately, we need to get plastic out of circulation.

  8. I have been thinking of this problem a lot since joining One Small Change as I would really love to get rid of them completely in our house. Currently, I only accept them when at chain stores like Target, and only when I'm in need of them. I use them for transporting soiled cloth diapers home from the park, etc. I also use them in each of our bathrooms'cloth diaper wash buckets. When buying groceries, we do paper b/c we use the paper bags as trash cans instead of using plastic trash cans (or plastic trash cans lined with a plastic bag) :). So for us to go plastic bagless, I would need to invest in quite a few wetbags. I think we will one day. Maybe I can buy one wetbag a month so as to not have to shell out a lot of money at once. A few stores here let you put your name in a giveaway pot if you go "bagless." The drawings are only once a month so I assume the merchant saves on buying plastic bags more than he puts out for the prize. The grocery store also gives you credit if you bring back and reuse their PAPER bags.
    (As I just reread this, I find it ironic that the ONLY area in the house we use plastic bags is for cloth diapering.......seriously, I'm laughing at myself and now MUST change this!!!)

  9. Oh, I must add that I HATE HATE HATE all the produce plastic bags. I'm working on sewing some mesh ones for our fam, but actually, we are expanding our garden and hopefully that will mean less purchasing of produce all together. :) And, after sharing my irony in the above post with my husband, he reminded me that the store we consign at sells wetbags which, over time, we can "buy" with our consignment credit. LOVE HIM!

  10. Target gives you a 5 cent discount if you bring your own reusable bags but I wish they'd just charge people for each one they give you. It shouldn't be built into my food prices like that.

    We've tried our best to make sure we always bring our bags with us or at least use my big purse if possible. We've also started walking to Publix, which reminds us to bring the bags surprisingly enough because i need something to carry my wallet in.

    When we do get plastic bags they are used as poopy bags for the dog and cat. And I oftentimes ask other people for the ones they are about to throw out for those purposes as well. But honestly I could get along with just using the plastic around the bread or the bag the toilet paper comes in.

    Just recently we've been realizing how much waste our vegetables are packaged in and are trying to only buy from the farmers market and the area in publix that isn't packaged. But usually the better produce gets placed into those packages, and today there were no zuchini available without packaging. It was annoying, but Publix should realize how much faster that area gets sold out than others and slowly make changes to the entire produce department.

    It takes us spreading our word and gently reminding people to make these SMALL CHANGES in order to make a big difference and get the attention of big box retailers. Keep doing it ya'll. It makes a difference!

  11. I had similar thoughts earlier this year.


  12. hey guys. I am totally on board with banning the bag. But what do you guys use for garbage bags?