In a previous blog post titled “Disposable World,” I challenged myself to take one small step towards living a more sustainable life. Specifically, I challenged myself to break free from our disposable world and switch to reusable shopping bags.
I have wanted to make the switch to reusable shopping bags for years but have just never taken the step. I could make excuses but really it comes down to resisting change in my life. This is a common problem when it comes to living more sustainably, or fixing environmental issues in general. However, to gain something in your life, you must change something in your life. If living a more sustainable life is what you want to gain, you must embrace change.
Initially, my resistance was due to the fact that I lived a long distance from where I shopped. Due to this distance, I didn’t shop often. When I did, I bought in bulk. The idea of having to haul so many reusable bags into the store stressed me out. Now that I live in town and shopping is more convenient, I am not as intimidated by the idea of using reusable bags. Actually, during this challenge, I discovered that reusable bags hold so much more than plastic bags. So, it doesn’t take as many reusable bags to get the job done.
I was also resistant to making the change because I thought it would be inconvenient, not only for me but for the cashier. I won’t lie to you, I was a little nervous the first time I went to the grocery store and used reusable bags. Fortunately, so far, the cashiers have all been willing to accommodate my request to use reusable bags. I don’t shop during peak hours, so I wonder if I would be so lucky during busy times. To ease my nerves, I try to keep in mind that since these stores sell reusable shopping bags, surely they want their customers to use them. After all, the less plastic bags used the less money the stores have to spend purchasing more.
As far as convenience for me, I did have to make a conscious effort to remember my reusable shopping bags. Some days I’m lucky to remember to grab the diaper bag (or the baby) as I run out the door, so this was challenging. Hopefully, as I continue to use reusable shopping bags, it will become a habit to always have them with me.
It has been two weeks now since I presented myself with this challenge. In that time, I have had eight opportunities to say no to plastic bags. Of those eight, three times I forgot to bring reusable bags and ended up going home with plastic bags. Overall, in the last two weeks, I have acquired 10 plastic bags. I calculated that if I had not used reusable bags at all during this two week period, I would have acquired 30 bags. So my small step in sustainability has been successful.
Just think for a moment, if everyone in the United States acquired 30 plastic bags every two weeks… that’s a lot of bags! Make that everyone in the world and the number is inconceivable. And what do people do with these plastic bags after they carry their purchases home. Statistics show that not many of them are recycled, even though, most stores now offer this service. Some people reuse them as garbage bags or to haul their stuff around, but ultimately they end up in the trash or, worse, in the environment.
While I was disappointed when I forgot my reusable bags, I will use the ten bags that I came home with for garbage. In fact, if I never come home with another plastic bag, I will have to start buying trash bags. So maybe forgetting my reusable bags occasionally isn’t such a bad thing. I just never want to have another mound of plastic bags cluttering up my world. I’m committed to making our “disposable world” into a “reusable world” one bag at a time.
Now make your challenge and take your step!
The Bag Buddies movie A Journey from Single-Use to Re-Use inspired me to embark on this challenge. Click on the link below to watch the movie. You’re sure to be entertained by this educational movie created and produced by a group of kids. It interweaves a fictional narrative with technical research to educate you on plastic bag usage.