Every Day With a Canvas Bag

by Joyce Amaro

I stood in the check-out line at my local market with my filled shopping cart silently reprimanding myself for once again forgetting my canvas bags. “Why is this so difficult for me?” I angrily thought to myself as I remembered how I had left my canvas bags sitting at my back door. “I believe in this. I work every day to educate people about keeping plastic bags and trash out of local rivers and creeks. How could I have forgotten them again?” I mused as the bag boy mechanically asked me if I wanted paper or plastic.

And, then it came to me.

“Neither. No bags.” I responded. “Just put everything back in the cart. I forgot my canvas bags, and this is my penance for leaving them at home.”

Both the checker and bag boy looked at me as though I was from Jupiter but dutifully placed everything back in my cart.

And, so began my adventure of attempting to change my own behavior regarding the use of canvas bags and my realization that changing one’s behavior isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. I tried everything from hanging the bags on the back door to placing my car keys in a few canvas bags to putting them back to the car once I had unloaded the groceries.  Using canvas bags seemed like such a simple thing to do, yet in my frazzled go-here-go-there life, I found that it was easy to forget, and when every store offers instant convenience with free plastic bags…

In the year since I began this journey, I’ve found that when I do forget my bags, my decision to not use either plastic or paper bags provides a great opportunity to educate checkers and those in line behind me about the impacts of plastic bags on our planet. Yes, it’s a little less convenient for me. Yes, it takes a little more time to get my groceries into the house, but it’s my way of staying true to my belief in using canvas bags.

I’m still struggling with remembering my canvas bags every single time I go to the market, but I’m happy that now checkers seem pleased when I tell them to simply put everything back in the cart. Attitudes seem to be shifting, and I see more and more fellow patrons carrying their own canvas bags. And with more events like a Day Without a Bag educating the public about the impact plastic bags have on our world, hopefully one day we’ll get to the point where stories of carrying groceries home in plastic bags will be akin to our own grandparents’ stories of walking five miles in the snow every day to school and illicit a bewildered response from our kids, “You used to do what?”


Comments (3)

  1. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    Sherri Akers
    January 1st, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Joyce – that is exactly the way that I trained myself! If I left the bags in the car then I set the cart aside and ran out to get them. If I forgot them completely I would put the groceries directly in my trunk and bag them at home to take inside. And you are right – it doesn’t go unnoticed and inspires others. I have sometimes given reusable bags to others in the grocery line in the hopes of inspiring them.
    We hang ours on the front door knob to insure that they find their way back to the car. And I keep a couple of the ones that fold into themselves in my handbag.
    Another tip – on those rare occasions when my dogs use more poop bags than I have with me on the walk – I take a bag off of a newspaper that has been delivered to someone nearby.
    Great post!!

    • Avatar for LA Stormwater
      LA Stormwater
      January 1st, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks Sherri! And it’s great to hear stories like yours where you inspire others to use reusable bags too!

  2. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    July 24th, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    A ban on plastic shopping bags is like “spitting in the wind”. Let’s all have a reality check folks! I am all for cleaning up our environment. However, singling out one source of plastic waste is absurd! All of you out there that are standing on your “soapboxes” calling for the ban of plastic shopping bags have no clue what effect that would have on the hard working Americans that produce these bags including the pyramid of suppliers and companies that support the manufacturers. The next time you are at the checkout line or strolling through the aisles of your local supermarket or convenience store, just stop for moment and take notice of all the items, wrapped, packed, stacked and labeled with plastic. I would have to make very an un-scientific guess that maybe 80% of all items you are putting into your “demonized” plastic shopping bags contain or are solely protected/packaged by plastic. This includes items packaged within a paper box. Think about it. There is FAR MORE processed plastic products going INTO your shopping bag, then there is contained within the shopping bag itself. Let’s not forget that we throw this all out into a big black heavy garbage bag. A plastic shopping bag ban is a total waste of time! The only sane option should be an enforceable plastic bag recycling program. ALL PLASTIC! Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

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