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September 29, 2008

An Inconvenient Bag

The Wall Street Journal  09.26.08Cheapobags_6

It’s manufactured in China, shipped thousands of miles overseas, made with plastic and could take years to decompose. It’s also the hot “green” giveaway of the moment: the reusable shopping bag…

But well-meaning companies and consumers are finding that shopping bags, like biofuels, are another area where it’s complicated to go green. “If you don’t reuse them, you’re actually worse off by taking one of them,” says Bob Lilenfeld, author of the Use Les Stuff Report, an online newsletter about waste prevention.

Our Take:  This article starts out good enough -- detailing how retailers are jumping on the ultra-trendy green bandwagon, often without questioning the sustainability of these cheap reusable bags. (Ironically, cheap or free reusable shopping bags do nothing but fuel mindless over-consumption, which is at the heart of the plastic bag problem...)

But then things go south.

Unfortunately, the article makes it sound as if people are incapable of changing habits & remembering to bring their bags with them (quoting a very low number from a PB industry person, no less!). Bringing reusable shopping bags is no harder that doing simple things like remembering to turn off the lights when you leave your house (or water when you're brushing your teeth) – comparing it to taking 30 sec showers is extreme. The closing quote, from a woman buying a silly $45 bag from London, reinforces the stereotype that all reusable bags are trendy and impractical, and further clouds the waters.

To date, we've awakened millions and empowered 160,000 customers – all with simple practical products and tips to reduce plastic and paper bags – the flood of testimonials we get gives us solid evidence they're experiencing powerful transformative results. Reusable bags don't have to put fashion before function or be festooned with a cheesy "I'm so green" eco-slogan. There are basic, practical choices available that are being used day in and day out that do indeed make a difference. Trendy options at both ends of the spectrum are not the solution – and thankfully, far from the only choice.

Link: An Inconvenient Bag

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I'm forgetful, so when I bring stuff into my apartment in my reusable bags, I empty them and hang them on my front door knob, so I see them when I leave. It just takes a little learning curve to take them with.

I am a forgetful person as well, but I remember my .99 cent reusable bags at least 80% of the time. I love them. They are strong and don't break when filled with heavy loads. We use them for everything from groceries to beach gear and they take a beating and have never ripped or broken in my 2 years of heavy use.

I've used my hemp bags for several years - 4 to be exact, and I certainly don't find it hard to remember to bring them when I shop. I carry 7 in my car. I've even given them as gifts to my family and friends. I feel it's not a choice, but my duty to do as much as I can to help preserve what green earth we have left.

I made heavy denim bags years ago before bringing your own bags was fashionable. I kept them in the car so they were always available for shopping. Now I keep them by the front door so I won't forget them when I take a taxi. They are so sturdy they will never wear out and because they are pink no one will take them by mistake.

I use the bags that roll up and store in your purse. I keep 2 of them with me all the time.

It only took me two times of carrying an armload of groceries bagless to the car. Very funny. Now I remember to grab the roll up bag with my wallet if I forgo the purse.

I have been carrying my own bags to reuse for 40 years. They are carried to the car after emptying, so they are always available for shopping.

Before I learned about string bags, I reused brown paper bags from the supermarket. The heavy duty ones could be reused 80 times before they fell apart.

An enormous amount of energy, petroleum or trees are saved by carrying your own reuseable bag, not to mention trash creation. There is no "away" when it comes to discarding plastics. From cradle to grave, it's the most toxic material, which keeps on polluting. And, it's made from fossil fuels which cause global warming.
Without fossil fuels, plastics and other toxic products are impossible.

For this reason and others, I carry my own reusable cloth bags, which I do not find inconvenient. Others are joining me.

The argument that people don't remember to bring their reusable bags is ridiculous...those people need to make conservation a priority! When you are getting ready to go shopping you grab your purse, your keys, and your bags. How hard is that? You do it for a month and it becomes a habit just like anything else. I carry 4 large woven bags, a freezer bag (Trader Joe's), and a bottle bag (Trader Joe's has a great one) that separates wine and sauces housed in glass so the grocer doesn't need to wrap breakables in paper. Bringing your own bags is one of the EASIEST ways to reduce waste!!! More people need to make it a habit instead of an after thought.

Many stores are now posting little reminders to bring your reusable bags. As with most things, practice makes perfect! I used to forget all of the time but now it is just something that comes naturally! I find the reusable bags are a lot easier to use and mean a lot less trips from the car to the house, lugging bags! The answer is simple, ban plastic bags. There really is no use for them and it would force people to remember their reusable bags!!

The next frontier in reusing bags has to be reusing the clear bags from the produce section of the market. I'm starting to put clean ones in my reusable shopping bags so I remember to take them and use them. These things proliferate like weeds! And items like bananas, lemons, oranges, onions don't really need to be put in a bag.

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