Sunday, February 23, 2020

Reusable Grocery Bags - My Road to Sustainability

Reusable Grocery Bags

ChicoBags are inexpensive and easy to use
Love my green ones!
Quick story time. I purchased my first reusable Chico grocery bags about 9 years ago. I have always been into living a more sustainable life, and this was probably my first purchase. I ordered three green Chicobag Original Totes, and am still using them to this day. My son has two of them in Ireland right now while studying abroad because they do not allow plastic grocery bags there! But, back to the story. I was trying to use my bags every time I went shopping, and I remember one particular day shopping at Wal-Mart. The cashier actually asked me what was wrong with their bags and why do I feel the need to bring in my own? She did not say it like she was wanting to learn, she was saying it like "how dare you". At the time, I told her that I didn't want extra plastic bags junking up my house and found it easier to just keep using the same bags over and over again. Wow, I would have a completely different response to her now! I still remember that cashier and often wonder if she is still working, because nowadays there are so many customers bringing their own bags....she must hate it 😂

Week 3: Reusable Grocery Bags

There are so many reusable grocery bags out there. How do you know which one is the best? How much should you be paying for them? How on earth do you remember to use them all the time?

Let's start with the first question, which one is the best? 

type of insulated reusable bag I use
Similar to the insulated bags I use.
There is NO one-size-fits-all reusable grocery bag. You may not want to hear this, but you might have ChicoBag and my Shutterfly bags, that showcase family vacations. When I am heading to the home improvement store, it is usually the smaller plastic bag size ones, because most items I am purchasing don't even fit into a bag. The thrift stores around me now charge for a bag, so I bring along my larger, deep base bags to stuff all my new-to-me finds. I have many fun prints from JoAnn's Fabric and Crafts. These are nice and big and hold a lot of fabric and yarn. The only other type of bags I have are the bags that have a narrow bottom, and to me are pretty much useless. I use those bags to hold my reusable bags! It is better for me to grab one bag full of bags when heading into a store.
You might have to try a few to see which ones work for your shopping style. I personally have six different types of reusable bags I use every time I shop. When I am heading to the grocery store, I use three different types of bags. #1 is my cold items bags that are insulated and zip shut, have a large base and are very sturdy. #2 is the all-cloth bags that also have a large base and fold up and snap together. #3 are my bags that have the same shape as a plastic bag, but are of course made from material. I have both

How much should you pay for a reusable bag?

Have to admit, most of my favorite bags I got for free! My insulated bags and deep base grocery bags I received at the Minnesota State Fair about five years ago when they were first becoming popular and were a great give-away for different companies. I really do not care what company is on the side of the bag if the bag is a good one. I have also paid for some bags too. My ChicoBags I purchased nine years ago, but they are still very affordable. My Shutterfly bags are purchased only on a sale, or when they offer them for free (not really free because shipping is expensive). And my narrow bottom bags have been received for free from different organizations, but again, they are not my favorites. My Joann's bags were purchased for under $2.00 and most of the time they were purchased because they were either too cute not to purchase, or I forgot a bag and needed another one. They also have smaller ones that work great for lunches or work shoes for $1.49. I also have a few bags that are smaller in size for smaller purchases that I have purchased at the dollar store. If you are going to do this, check for durability and quality before purchasing them. I have used these dollar store bags as gift bags before because they are normally covered with cartoon characters and bright colors.

My bag of bags in the trunk.
How on earth do you remember to use them all the time?

I hear this one a lot from other shoppers as I am filling my reusable bags and they have plastic ones in their carts. You really just have to make a conscious choice. If it is important to you, you will remember. I always have a bag of bags in the back of my car in case I am stopping for groceries on the way home from work and didn't plan on stopping. I always have a smaller bag in the center console of my car, and they are so small, I normally have one in either my purse or coat pocket too. When I get home from shopping, I place all of my reusable bags into the narrow bottom bag and place it either back in my car, or by the door to the garage to grab them the next time I go to my car. I'm not perfect, sometimes those bags sit by the door for days, but they are always in the same spot and eventually make it back into the car. I need to work on my hubby's car to make sure he always has a stash too, but he is good about grabbing them from mine before he shops.

There are some beautiful tote bags that fit right into your shopping cart and then can be reloaded up again after checking out. I have been looking at those, but to me they seem quite large and bulky. For now I think I am going to keep with what is working for me. Because if it doesn't work, I won't do it.

Why we should use reusable bags:

Recycling of plastic bags is not feasible. Most of these bags will not make it to a recycling plant due to their make up and inability to be made into something new. Last month I vowed to never use another plastic bag again, and cemented that by returning my bag of plastic bags from the front closet. Those bags seem to double on their own when stored in our houses.

Pollution. We have all seen the plastic bags on the sides of the roads waving in the trees and stuck to the fences. If there were no plastic bags anymore, the world would have so much less pollution in it. And don't even get me started on the plastic in the oceans.

Return single use bags to Wal-Mart.
Conserve resources. Plastic bags are made of oil, think of the carbon footprint needed to just make one bag. The drilling of our natural resources, containing, moving, rendering, moving again, creating the bags, moving again, heading to the warehouse, moving again to end up at the store we are shopping in to be used for one shopping trip and then thrown into the garbage. Yes, our reusable bags need to be created also, but only once and can be used for years and years.

Durability. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint of plastic bags, Wal-Mart has made their plastic bags thinner and smaller. But that just means one of two things for their cashiers: they place only 1-2 items in the bags or they double bag your items. How is that helping? We are just coming home with twice as many plastic bags. Reusable bags are built to last!

Saving Money. Don't we all want to hang onto our hard earned money? I know I do. Some stores across the country are starting to charge for single-use bags. Some entire cities are doing this too. I know at my Target, if you bring your own bags they will give you 5¢off for each bag you use. That might not seem like a lot, but those nickles all add up.
Gardening in a reusable bag!!!

Multiple uses. A reusable bag has an infinite number of uses. I have seem people who do upright
gardening in them, kids using them to trick-or-treat, as a car garbage bag, beach bags, library bags, bringing toys to grandma's house or smaller ones as a lunch bag. I personally use them to hold craft items and fabric until I find a permanent home for them. I use them to bring items to and from the school I work at. I even have one just for shoes for when I am wearing boots to work and don't want them on all day long.

Hopefully you are all already using some form of reusable grocery bag. Maybe you forget them at home, or in your car. Why not try to make 2020 your year to start using them on every shopping trip? You will have less plastic waste in your home, and you can feel better about doing your part to cut single use plastic use and reduce the possibility of your plastic bag ending up as pollution in the future. Start with just one bag, and see how far you can go.

Leave a comment about your personal tricks and tips for using your reusable bags. What else do you use them for?


Company: ChicoBags and Shutterfly Bags
Why sustainable: they are made to last for decades
Packaging: received just the bag in an envelope
Price: ChicoBag - $7, Shutterfly bag - up to $17
Advantages: super small and Shutterfly is personalized
Company Mission: ChicoBag: offers products that empower people to take an active role in solving the single-use problem. Shutterfly: creating personalized items that bring your memories into everyday use
My Implementation: I made a commitment to myself to not use a single plastic bag in the year 2020
Coupons: there are many coupon codes online for both companies

Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Up next week: Read, Watch, Listen

I am not receiving any financial or product compensation for this post, the opinions are my own.

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