Green tip for week #43 — Week of February 22, 2009

Use reusable bags

This is pretty obvious, but for some reason, Americans are either reluctant (or downright unwilling) to use reusable bags for shopping.  I know, it’s very convenient to drive your big SUV 3 blocks to McDonald’s and then drive two more blocks to the grocery store, only to buy two items, place them in a plastic bag, and drive back home to throw the bag away.  That type of “convenience” is a big contributor to the climate crisis and environmental ignorance our society is faced with.

As a simple change, which will drastically reduce plastic or paper bag production, consumption, and waste, consider storing reusable cloth, nylon or even previously used paper/plastic bags in your trunk, with your bike, or near your door.  Next time you walk, bike, or drive to the local store to pick up an item or two, carry them and tell the clerk to skip the bag, if it’s only a couple of items.  If you have several items, place them in the reusable bag you brought with you, and put the bag back in a handy place where you can remember to take it with you next time.

As a challenge, write down the number of plastic bags and paper bags you use from shopping, the grocery store, etc. during the course of one month.  Just put a tally sheet on your fridge, and add one for each bag that makes it inside your home.  After that month, commit to cutting that number in half, and keep doing so each month until you have the number to zero, or as few as you can possibly get by with.

Then, you will be incredibly well-informed and in a great position of knowledge and personal experience to tell your friends and coworkers to do the same.  For the bags you consumed during the month, be sure to recycle them, and reuse any that you can as trash liners, garbage bags for the car, and other “repurposed” uses.

Like many of the green tips and environmental responsibility ideas found on, this is not breakthrough news, it is not rocket science, and most importantly, it’s not difficult.  This idea alone won’t fix the perils facing the planet, but every bit helps.

If you don’t have tote bags or other reusable bags at home, check at your grocery store next time you go, as many have now offered reusable bags as alternatives to paper or plastic.  Obviously there are many retailers and online vendors who carry every variety of organic cotton bags, bags from recycled materials, personalized bags, etc.

If you own or operate a business, consider branding reusable bags with your logo or website to give away to employees to encourage them to use them, or to donate to charities or give away at trade shows.  There are several good resources for reusable bags on the web, including Reusable ,, and many others.


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