You’ve seen it. The heartbreaking image of plastic bags littering a beautiful beach. Or worse, an innocent animal that has been injured, or even died, all because of a plastic bag. But the saddest part of all? Its all completely preventable.
I wanted the very first post of My Zero Waste Project to be something that would make a difference. A huge difference. And I cant think of anything easier or more impactful than switching to reusable shopping bags.
Every year billions of plastic bags are used and, unfortunately, many of those bags end up back in nature, where they wreak havoc. Although plastic bags are recyclable, they are generally not accepted by your curbside pickup (they must be dropped off in a special bin at your local grocery store or other location.) which results in less than 10% of plastic bags being recycled.
So what’s the solution? Reusable shopping bags, of course!
Reusable shopping bags are one of the easiest ways to cut down on waste. By not using new bags, you can reduce the amount of bags being produced. And of course, without plastic bags coming into your home, you don’t have to worry about properly disposing of them. Win!
But aren’t reusable bags a big hassle? No. Not really. There can be a bit of a “learning curve” of remembering to actually take them into the store and remembering to hand them to the cashier before they start bagging your items. It took me a good 3 months before I had developed the habit of taking the bags in and I’m still guilty of forgetting on occasion. But that’s it. And with time, those habits develop until you do them without thinking.
The easiest way I have found to remember to take in your reusable bags is to have your bags stacked already in your car. I stack 5 bags inside one larger bag and place the larger bag in the trunk. Then I just have to open the trunk, grab the one bag, and take it inside. Easy! Then, when you go to check out, simply place the one large bag on the belt/counter before your items so the cashier can grab them and get them ready. The hardest time for me to remember is when I make an unexpected stop for one or two items. I never remember to grab a bag. So the easiest solution to that is just to keep a small fabric bag in my purse. Of course, if its only one or two small items, I can just carry them out by hand without needing to mess with the bag at all!
Among the many benefits of reusable shopping bags, my personal favorite is that they are generally more sturdy, and more comfortable, than those flimsy plastic bags. You know what I’m talking about. The bag that rips because you put a box in it and it punctured the bag. Or when the cashier puts 72 cans in one bag and that bag cuts into your fingers when you take it inside. The handles on a quality reusable bag are wider and the bags are much sturdier. That in itself is a reason to switch! Plus, many of the plastic reusable bags are made from recycled material so you can actually help use up recycled items!
And reusable bags don’t have to cost a lot of money. I have seen some of the reusable bags sold at Walmart for around $5 but I have not found them to be the best quality. I am often able to find quality, large reusable bags for around $1, depending on the store. But even better than that, almost all of the reusable bags I have were 100% free. And I have 22 bags! Some were given to me by a friend, some were given as a free gift from my grocery stores, one was given as a thank you for volunteering and the rest have been picked up as freebies from various companies. My family likes to go to those free local fairs and there are always vendors there offering info and that info many times comes in a reusable bag!
Some bags are large, some are small, some are very narrow (and make great book bags!) and some have wide, square bases. Some will come with a plastic or cardboard base and those are my favorite because the bag stays open easier and won’t sag with heavy items. As a matter of fact, I have even taken pieces of cardboard box and cut them down to size to lay in the bottom of some of the bags to give them that more sturdy base.
If you don’t want to wait until you track down some free bags, you can easily purchase some high quality reusable shopping bags like these, these or these, or if you are crafty, you could make some of your own with scraps of material or even old jeans!
Do you use reusable bags? Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!