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Earth Week: Reusable Bags

Earth Week: Reusable Bags


Several years ago, I had the idea to start taking my own bags with me to the grocery store. The clerks generally looked at me like I was crazy, because at that time, bringing your own bag wasn’t really a thing, at least in Arizona. I even had my own produce bags I had bought online. That really threw the clerks off! Nowadays, some municipalities, and even whole states, have passed laws banning or limiting single use bags in stores. Not only is it commonplace for people to bring their own bags; in some places, it’s required!


My first experience with BYOB (Buy Your Own Bag) was in Carlsbad, CA. We head there every year to tag along on Bryan’s business conference. Maggie had forgotten her swimsuit at home, so we went to Target to get a new one. The cashier asked me if I wanted a bag, and, puzzled, I said, “Sure.” I didn’t realize until later that I had paid 10¢ for that bag, and if I had known that, I would have declined. I carried the stuff around with me in the store; I could have just as easily carried it outside to the car.

Making it a Habit

It wasn’t easy to make it a habit to always have grocery bags when I went to the store. Half the time I would forget them at home, even if I knew I was going to the store. I was always impressed by my cousin who would keep her bag stash in her car for that impromptu stop at the store at any time. I just couldn’t get into the habit. When the Safeway opened in our neighborhood, I finally dedicated a stash of bags as my grocery shopping bags. I just had to train myself to grab them whenever I was headed to the store.

Impromptu Trips

Unfortunately, my stash of grocery bags that sits on the dryer in the laundry room doesn’t help me for those unexpected stops. I wouldn’t even think to bring them to a retail shop because they’re for groceries, and I couldn’t get into the habit of keeping a supply of them in my car like my cousin. I needed something to carry with me all the time.

Enter Shutterfly Bags

Last year, we received several coupons for free reusable bags from Shutterfly through the Monopoly game at Safeway. I was very excited to order them because we had so many coupons, and you could actually redeem them all on one account, unlike the free books. They are generously sized when open, and roll down very small and light to fit in my purse. I carry at least a few, and simply take them out as needed, and then roll them up and put them back in my purse as I empty them. Of course, they are loads of fun to make on the Shutterfly website since you can customize them with your own photos. I have several themed to trips we’ve taken, our AP year at Disneyland, and the kids each made their own.

Occasionally Choosing Plastic

Now sometimes I intentionally don’t bring my own bag to the store. This happens most often at Target because their bags are sturdier than at other stores. See, Bryan rigged up our kitchen trash can to hold a grocery sack on prongs made from a coat hanger. Having a stash of Target bags keeps us in trash bags, and since they are smaller than the tall kitchen bags you buy at the store, it forces us to take the trash out more often.

Heading Toward Sustainability

Businesses and communities are becoming more aware of the impact single use items have on our environment, and are taking action. Recently, Disney Parks decided to not only go bagless, but to also eliminate plastic straws. More and more communities are passing laws to go bagless, or at least require that businesses don’t give them away for free, providing consumers with an added incentive to bring their own. You can get ahead of the curve by finding bags you like now and developing a habit to use them regularly.


  • indiekin

    We always use totes. We keep a stash of them in the trunk of each car. Such a great habit to get into.

    • Debra Baca

      I’ve never considered totes. What a great idea! I always have to secure my bags so cans and produce don’t roll around the back of the car!

  • Since we live in California, we have been “trained” for a while now to bring our own bags. We keep them in our car, so we have them on hand when needed. Believe me, it took many trips forgetting our bags at home and having to purchase them that taught us to be more mindful. Definitely a developed habit!

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