In Switzerland you must bring your own bags to the grocery store, or buy them there.  We've tried variations on that theme here, with little success.  Thirty years ago one of our stores in New York started using cardboard boxes instead of bags, and paid five cents for every one you brought back and reused.  That the store went out of business not much later was probably not due to that particular policy, but it certainly put an end to it.  At one time or another the stores here in Florida would pay a nickel for each reused bag, and some still do.  But, frankly, five cents isn't enough incentive one way or another.

Then several stores began selling reusable "green" bags.  A good idea, but I couldn't see buying them, even for the low $1 price, when we had plenty of bags at home I could use—especially since the new bags are made in China.  I don't boycott Chinese products altogether, but their dominance makes me nervous, and I like to find alternatives when I can.  Besides, it just seems ridiculous to ship products halfway across the world in the name of protecting the environment.  Despite having bags at home that would do, however, I never got around to making the switch...

...until a dear and practical family member gave me three Trader Joe's bags for Christmas.  Knowing my aversion to Chinese bags, she found me some made in Vietnam—not much better, perhaps, but at least an alternative.  They were better than our existing bags:  the right shape for groceries, and one was even insulated for cold items.  Soon I was hooked, and even acquired some more (Chinese) bags when our store offered them "free with purchase" on a couple of occasions.  They live in the back of the car and are thus always handy, which is a good thing because if I had to remember to bring them with me I'd forget half the time.  On the occasions when I walk to the grocery store I still follow in the tradition of my father, and use my good ol' L.L. Bean pack basket.

There's no economic incentive to use the reusable bags, not even the aforementioned nickels.  I know myself:  I wouldn't continue the practice if it were difficult or awkward.  But it's not.  The reusable bags are a lot more fun to handle than the floppy plastic ones:  they're sturdy, hold more, stand upright, and don't accumulate in large quantities that must be returned to the store for recycling.  What amazes me is how many of those plastic grocery store bags I'm now saving.  After only a few months of using the new bags, I deliberately left them in the car for one trip because I had run out of plastic bags at home.  Such a situation would have been unthinkable last year.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 6:47 am | Edit
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We haven't bought trash bags in years, as the grocery stores keep us well supplied. I'm not sure how that compares "environmentally" to the cloth bags. We do use the cloth bags some, as long as we aren't running out of trash bags.

Posted by Jon Daley on Tuesday, May 05, 2009 at 9:59 am

Our trash bags are mostly recycled hotel laundry bags. :) When Porter works from home we run perilously low, but so far the supply has balanced the demand.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, May 05, 2009 at 10:33 am

Since we moved, I have a hard time remembering to bring the cloth bags. I used to store them in the "granny basket" I walked to the store with. Now remembering to put them back in the car after a shopping trip (and then remembering to take them out of the trunk when we go next time) is not happening.

Posted by joyful on Tuesday, May 05, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I hear you. For me, of course, it's easy to put the bags back in the car because the garage is four steps from the kitchen. But more than once I've left the bags in the car at the store; I gather I'm not the only one, because the store where I shop most has a big sign as you enter, "Remember to use your reusable bags!" So I turn around and walk back to the car.

Maybe you could deputize one of the kids (probably not Faith) to be the official Chief in Charge of Grocery Bags.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, May 05, 2009 at 5:05 pm

The insulated ones in particular have been lifesaving for us, living a half-hour drive away from our favorite grocery stores! (Yes, I know I'm just randomly dropping by for the first time in a few months... hi!)

Posted by Andy Bonner on Tuesday, May 05, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Hi Andy! Thanks for randomly dropping by! My five nickles on grocery bags is that it takes time to remember, and it took me about two years to consistently plan my shopping trips enough to remember to be prepared with bags. As for trash bags, their expensive because they include the tax for pick-up. I like that idea as it encourages people to recycle and reduce waste.

Posted by Janet on Wednesday, May 06, 2009 at 1:09 am

"Hi Andy! Thanks for randomly dropping by!" Those were the exact words I was going to say, then the very next comment said them for me. :) Your wise comments have been missed!

The only trouble I'm having with the insulated bags is that few of the baggers at the store think to use them for their intended purpose, so the cold stuff often manages to be randomly spread around amongst the bags. I need to remember to put what I want in the insulated bag together on the conveyor...probably at the end, because otherwise they'll have them all packed before I've finished unloading my cart and can pay attention to what they're doing.

I like the pay-per-bag idea. Our garbage collection tax is one item on our water bill (which also includes sewage and reclaimed water charges), a fixed fee. Fixed fees are common here, so you get situations like those of a friend, who pays as much for her family's small quantity of trash as her next-door-neighbor, who routinely leaves the maximum (10 bags!) at the curb.

Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, May 06, 2009 at 6:56 am

Half an hour to the grocery store? That one wouldn't stay my favorite for long... unless it was the closest one!

Posted by Stephan on Friday, May 08, 2009 at 8:16 am

In general, I'd say it is hard to find stores that are close that have food at reasonable costs in lots of places. Hillsboro now has a large grocery store, but growing up, mom drove 30 minutes to do a shopping trip (with two or three carts) every other week.

In Pittsburgh, it was easy to walk to the store, or pretty much anyone can drive/bus to a close store, but most of our friends drive probably 15 minutes to a store, though we are more like 7(?) minutes away (by car).

Posted by Jon Daley on Friday, May 08, 2009 at 11:36 am

I have cut off new comments due to spam overload.

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, September 02, 2017 at 2:37 pm