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January 6, 2009

New Year's Resolution: replace plastic bags

Over 500 billion plastic bags are used annually, that's almost 1 million per minute! The average family meanwhile accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store. Besides the accumulation of excess plastic in landfills, over 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and other marine animals are killed by plastic bags each year worldwide.

However, for every reusable shopping bag used, it has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime, which is why my resolution for 2009 is to use reusable bags when shopping. I'm not an overly green person, but I feel this is a step that I can take to do my part for this earth.

I had received a few free bags from stores and conferences over the years and I've since tried some stylish eco-friendly reusable shopping bag kits, all of which are now in the trunk of my car for future shopping visits. Saving the planet with style folks!

My first outing was easier than I thought. I even felt kind of proud and well, smug, walking around the store, armed with my bags. I actually ended up bringing in more than I even needed, but no matter. I simply handed them over to the bagger right as she was doubling up a plastic bag in prep for my items. I proudly told her that it was my new resolution to use the bags, no comment back from her, just a glare, but no matter. When I then carried my bags out to the car, it was easier since they comfortably rested on my shoulders instead of cutting off the circulation on my fingers like before.

I still needed to use the mini-plastic bags for packing separate vegetables and fruits though since the checkout counter needs them separated to scan/weigh, although not all produce needs to be bagged (bananas, cantaloupe, etc.). Another problem is that I find myself easily remembering to bring my reusable bags when going to the grocery store, but not when going clothes shopping or doing the smaller shopping errands like when I just ran to 7/11 for gummy bears and ice cream bars. "It's about forming a habit" reads the tagline from iTySE reusable bags, which I just used on my latest foray to the grocer.

I tried the exact iTySE handbag kit above, which is not only pretty and cute, but holds several mesh reusable shopping bags. Each bag holds up to three times what a traditional shopping bag holds and entire sets can be purchased for $50-80, ityse.com. All of the mesh bags can then be stuffed in the little round holder, which comes in different styles.

Another collapsible, reusable grocery bag set that I used on my recent trip, comes from BlueAvocado, which has a starter kit starting at $29.99 and a "cool kit" for $49.99 available in blueberry, raspberry and lime colors, blueavocado.com. I of course have the pink raspberry color.

Still not convinced? Some stores offer incentives for using your own bags and according to itYSE through retailer rewards shoppers can recover up to $50 per year. For example, at Trader Joe's if you bring your own reusable bags (any brand of bags), you are eligible to win free groceries in their store. I just found out that a coworker of mine won.

Blog flashback: Looking back on 2005 - Looks like my resolutions were a lot more fun that year and there sure were many.

23 comments

  1. Our commissaries on-post have been selling canvas bags for a year or so. I own SO many of their green bags. So, I guess my resolution will be to remember to bring the bags more often. :) In case you're interested: https://www.commissaries.com/press_room/press_release/2008/DeCA_129_08.cfm

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  2. I made the same resolution last year and it's been really great! As you mentioned, the reusable bags hold more and they're way more comfy to carry, which is nice in NYC, since we don't have cars (for the most part). I also feel like there's less clutter for me now, since I used to feel like I had to save the plastic bags to reuse!

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  3. eye4style- I used to hate grocery shopping in NYC. I used to only buy one beverage (milk, OJ) per trip because it would kill my hands. I used to hate passing by all the tourists and nice restaurants huffing and puffing with my bags. I eventually bought one of those ghetto red carts, but probably only used it once, lol.

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  4. De-lurking to pitch in:

    Though I don't own one of those fancy shopping bags and do end up with excess plastic, I don't just throw them away. Plastic bags can be saved and used as trash can linings, ways to transport wires (I'm a musician), and if you've got a dog -- well you know what I'm getting at.

    Though those bags you've got look pretty darn cool. It may be enough to convert me.

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  5. Good resolution! I have been trying to make the move too- except I am not as good about remembering to take them. When I bring the groceries into my house and unload them, I forget to put them back in my car and the next time I go I don't have them.

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  6. So what do you use to get rid of your cat litter, now that you're giving up plastic grocery bags? I use almost all mine for that, though I did try some of the corn based litter that you can flush for a while in attempts to decrease my use of landfills. (I wasn't a fan of the litter - my cats tracked it everywhere!)

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  7. Those bags are really cute! Way to save the world and be stylish :)

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  8. Shannon- I have a huge amount of plastic bags that I have saved over the years that are slowly being consumed by my cat's kitty litter. At least I'm reusing them. In the future I guess I'll have to purchase little paper bags, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it :)

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  9. Great resolution! I've been using my own bags for a while now. It took a bit to get used to, but by now it's second nature. I keep about 6 canvas (SXSW) bags in my backseat ready to go. So even if one or two are at home, I still have others. I also have one in my husband's car so we can use it for our farmer's market trips.

    As for those smaller trips, I have a mini Rume that I keep in my purse. It's perfect for taking to the mall or bookstores or whatever. I just make sure to not use it for foodstuffs so it stays clean.

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  10. Oooh, that kit from iTySE is super cute! Almost makes me want to get rid of the reusable bags I have now, but I guess that would defeat the purpose, huh?! :)
    P.S. My grocery store gives you back 5 cents per reusable bag.

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  11. How funny we both blogged about reusable bags. It must be a popular resolution: that's good for the environment! Great minds must think alike :)

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  12. Thanks for the luv Tara! Remembering bags was huge part of why created BlueAvocado - it is like a diaper bag for grocery shopping - super functional. Here are a few remember your bag tips (including dog and cat litter help): http://www.blueavocado.com/pages/remembering_your_bags.html

    Thanks again! paige@blueavocado

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  13. Canvas bags and heavier plastic bags are reused often. I take my own bags to the store and have placed a moratorium on plastic bags coming into my home from shopping. It does make it more difficult for tossing out some trash and messy things but I already had a stash and then when I do get one plastic bag, I try to use it wisely.

    When I started taking my own bags to some stores, it was difficult getting the baggers to realize I didn't want plastic to reinforce my bag. Other stores are used to people bringing their own bags and even offer a nickel off your groceries if you BYOB!

    The fancy bags are nice, but just as cheap are the canvas bags that you get for free from a conference or workshop.

    http://www.urbanfrugal.com

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  14. I am a HUGE fan of the different types of "green bags" that most stores sell for $1ish. Up here, most of the stores that sell the green bags (I'm pretty sure that's the actual brand name/manufacturer) will then give you money off your purchase when you use them. One grocery store up here takes ten cents off your total for each bag of your own that you use. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it adds up pretty quickly!

    There are also patterns on the internet that will teach you how to crochet old plastic grocery bags into things like purses. :)

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  15. So, to all the fellow pet owners out there who deal with scooping and the likes, there are actually biodegradable poop bags you can buy -- that are a lot friendlier for the environment than even reusing the plastic bags, which take forever to biodegrade! http://www.poopbags.com/Facts.html

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  16. Resolutions get more sensible with age...just like my xmas gift ideas. I asked for a dang snow shovel and home thermostat this year.

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  17. That's a good resolutions and makes a difference in the world. Look at you, solving problems, one little problem at a time :-)

    Kudos!

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  18. The problem with the odds and ends free bags from conferences is that they're bulky and disorganized to carry. I like the organization of the ityses. There's even a bag that squishes down smaller called Breezy Bags that readers here might be interested in ( http://www.breezybags.com ). These are strong and washable, like the mesh bags. But neatniks like me can't hang with the odds and ends bags...we MUST get an organized set of bags like the ones you found.

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  19. Hey there,
    I already had green tendencies like being a recyling nazi but ever since I became a mom. I am all about it. I recycle everything(dry cleaning hangers, magazines, cans, etc.) and take my bags every where.

    I am happy you picking such a green resolution. A few of my resolutions were get lasik surgery and see a new continent.

    Happy New Year's

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  20. What a great resolution! Since moving to SF (in 2003), I was sorta forced to do it (SF is so...green!!!) and have not used shopping bags for over 3 years!!! I don't miss them at all. I have several canvas/hemp bags in my car and I carry one in my purse and have several at work. In addition, I have little mesh bags for veggies.

    Congrats again for making such an earth impacting resolution and trying to stick to it :)

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