How to remember your reusable shopping bags

Filed in Blog, Videos by on January 28, 2009 23 Comments
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carrier bagsOne of the simplest ways to ease yourself into a zero waste lifestyle is to start with shopping bags. Using your own reusable bags means you don’t have to keep taking the dreaded disposable plastic carrier bags. It’s an easy thing to master and once you’ve grasped it, you’ll feel so good about yourself you’ll want to take the next rubbish-reducing step.

After that great habit is in place you can move onto other things, like taking your own containers to the butchers or deli counters. This can reduce plastic packaging dramatically.

The thing is, you know what you should do, but best laid plans and all that have a habit of being swept to one side by senior moments, catastrophes like cats puking on the floor just as you’re about the leave the house, tripping over a pile of clothes on the hall floor, skidding on a few marbles in the porch, cries of ‘I can’t find my socks’, losing the car keys, arguing about who put the fuel in the car last time, blaming each other for you all being late and all manner of things that take part in the average household.

After a few mishaps of our own, including very early on in our zero waste days when a chicken cost us about £12 by the time we finally arrived at the shop with our reusable box, we came up with a plan. A plan so cunning, you could have put a tail on it and called it a fox. A plan that meant we would never again leave the house without bag or box.
Spend a couple of minutes watching our video and see how things work now in military fashion here at Chez Green:



About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (23)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Another excellent YouTube demonstration. For me, that is the current situation and really everybody should be doing it. 2 Large Addis 4-clip boxes are the basic containers with several tupperware-like smaller ones. A converted shoe-bag is used for loose fruit/veg. 3-4 reusable shopping bags completes the collection.

    Plastic bags are out of the picture permanently. I have been given an occasional one which is used to hold bin waste. This happens only at Christmas and maybe on my birthday.

  2. maisie says:

    I have made it a little rule that once the bags have been emptied they all go straight back into the boot of the car; as it is only me that goes shopping this is easy to enforcr.

    I also have a couple of bags folded neatly in the glove box just in case.

    My main problem still with shopping is that our deli counter in Tesco will not use your own boxes they insist on using all the plastic wrap etc.

    I have a veg box delivered weekly which comes in a returnable cardboard box which the company reuses, most things in the box come loose or are in brown paper bags.

    Milk I buy from the doorstep delivery so that is in returnable glass bottles, I also buy fruit juice from him as well now.

  3. Sarah says:

    My kids are in charge of remembering the bags and they’re pretty good about it.

  4. Kris says:

    I have nylon bags and net bags stuffed inside the trolley dolly bag in the hall and behind that are several jute bags, plus a couple of cotton and recycled ones. The plastic tubs seem to be colonising my kitchen so are invariably on view so I’m prompted to remember them, though I tend to take them when I’m planning to go to the supermarket, and not everyday. In the car boot I’ve got a collapsible crate and basket (with handles – came from Lidl, ideal for Lidl!!) plus most carriers seem to find their way in there post emptying at the recycling centres, so are handy for fishing out to start a new collection at home, or at the end of the line making it to the carrier bag recycling bank.
    And I usually carry what I refer to as my daybag, a cloth book bag with long shoulder strap which can be folded small enough to stash into a smallish handbag, but usually rides around alongside it with my book and water bottle in, plus a fold-up pouchbag clipped on.

  5. Rik Boland says:

    Why are we not made to use brown paper bags like they do in the U.S or reclaimed plastic carrier bags or box like in more basic supermarket, is branding more important than environment?

    A friend of mine used to go to S.M to buy her food and after buying her stuff she would remove the food from its packaging and leave it there for them to deal with. She got barred but after a few months (what she was doing isn’t illegal as she paid for it and not left premesis)it was funny to watch security guards pushing her trolley out to her veggie oil powered car! (Bible college students!!!!!!)

  6. Maureen says:

    it took me ages to learn this one, so many times I got to the till and realised I had left my reusable bags at home AGAIN
    now I have a system which works for me, I have re/usable bag rolled up tight with a rubber band round it tucked in my handbag. At the till I unroll it,and put the rubber band in the bottom of the bag. when I get home, I unpack the shopping and find the rubber band which reminds me to roll the bag up again and put it back in my handbag

    well it works for me!

  7. Mrs Jackson says:

    Great blog again Mrs G. Until this week we actually felt we needed our bags because it’s what we use to keep our rubbish in. With limiting our rubbish right down we’re finding that we don’t need them as much. I do wonder what everyone puts the rubbish they do create in mind. We’ve bought some fairtrade bags yesterday and I’ve already remembered to take them out. Am going to put some different sized boxes in them and try my luck at getting meat and cheese in them tomorrow.

  8. Di Hickman says:

    When I decided to start this journey using reusable bags was one of the first changes I made. I used some cloth tote bags from tradeshows I’d attended (and kept, knew they’d come in handy!) and I made a couple of my own too.
    I do the same as Maisie. Last step after getting home and unpacking is putting them all back inside the large blue tote and popping them back in the car 🙂

  9. Mrs Green says:

    It sounds like you all have some great ideas that work for you – that’s the main thing. It’s all about playing with ideas until something clicks and falls into place. Then a new habit is in place and away you go……

  10. Layla says:

    Ooh, great discussion & great vid, can’t believe I’ve missed it!! 🙂

    Beeing organized so you really take all the containers & bags with is really essential, so I hope we’ll learn from y’all & come up with our own smart system/s too!! 🙂

    Personally, I just carry previously used plastic bags everywhere with me ‘just in case’ (in winter in the jacket – small pockets, otherwise in my cloth rucksack or handbag..) – that’s the absolute minimum.. – am thinking about nicely foldable Onya & more cloth bags too, for fruit & veggies too.. (we do have not-so-foldable reusable bags & those go to the store too.. :))
    my parents have often picked up a cardboard crate or box at the store too, it’s actually a great idea to bring your own so you don’t have to pick another one! (though my Dad likes to have some cardboard for the furnace! 🙁 hmm.. )

  11. Carole says:

    I have bags everywhere lol. One small cotton one (with Cornwall logo on, a freebie when I bought a Cornish tshirt on a couple of years ago), which is permanently rolled up in my handbag for impulse/last minute/drat I forgot to get buys. About half a dozen cloth and jute ones in my tiny hall lobby where the jackets and coats and my brolly is, so I have to see them when I get a jacket to go out, and more in the boot of the car for the occasional big supermarket shop. My flat is within 100 yards or so of the main shopping area of our town which includes a decent sized Co-op so I hardly ever need to go “up top” to the evilness that is Tesco.

    My containers are all around the kitchen, and if I know i’m going to the deli counter or butcher, several get picked up on the way out. It helps if you plan your food buying so that you know exactly which ones you’re going to need!

    As Mrs G says, it’s only about changing a habit. I now NEVER forget a reusable bag, and I’ve educated my other half to do the same too. He’s much greener since he met me!

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Layla: Ohhh, Layla, how could You of all people have missed this one LOL! IT sounds like you don’t really need it though; you are already organised with just having bags in your packets and bags 🙂
    I like crates in the car, but our last plastic one fell apart, so now I’m reluctant to replace.

    @Carole: Carole, you are well organised. Like you say, you need to forward plan shopping trips. Once you get used to it, you realise how much money it can save too – no more impulse buying!

  13. Layla says:

    Aww, Carole, this is so great your other half is greener since he met you!! 🙂 Gives me hope!! 🙂

    It’s really inspiring to hear how everyone is organized! I think I may need to print out or jot down some ideas! 🙂

  14. John Costigane says:

    A report on the stated that the plastic industry say that reusable bags are a health hazard. I looked further into this ridiculous claim and they say that meat juices leaking from a pack would leave bacteria in the bag, causing a hazard when other food items are placed there.

    They must really be desperate to promote the plastic bag which is being dumped from North American cities usage. I cannot wait until this nonsense is tried over here. They will be laughed off the web.

    There is some humour among the seriousness and the opposition are losing the plot, judging by the Canadian post.

  15. Layla says:

    Hi John! This is really interesting!

    The link above didn’t work for me, this one does:
    I couldn’t comment at the actual article, so I commented at the blog.. Indeed who puts meat in non-resealable containers?!
    Oops, the plastic industry does!! I bet there are more leaks from plastic bags/plastified paper or such!!

    I love the comments there too!! 🙂

  16. John Costigane says:

    @Layla: Hi Layla, Glad you enjoyed the site. There are many articles there but few comments. When I came across this one criticising reusable bags an answer was required to the nonsense statement.

    The various environmental challenges are shared with North America and we can certainly learn from each others experience.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: I saw that too, John and I believe the study was carried out on 25 bags??!!

    Hardly scientific study …

  18. John Costigane says:

    When you are clutching at straws, Mrs Green, any data, no matter how small a sample size, is “highly important”. Who is to say whether they used some “specially chosen members of the public” to give an air of authenticity to the sham.

    Cleanliness is good practice and container use helps to isolate difficult items like fish and meat. There is also the consumer who prefers the plastic wrapped cleanliness of the supermarket. That last aspect is soon forgotten when shopping local.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: that was my thinking John – if you take meat in a reusable container then contamination of a plastic bag is not an issue; I’m afraid I didn’t understand the findings at all…

  20. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Mrs Green, Their findings concern the use of small plastic bags, with paper wraps around the loose meat/fish. These are delicate, subject to tears or loose taping/knotting. In theory, they are weak packages and among the millions purchased there are bound to be damaged packs.

    The plastic industry thinking is that we all should use supermarket plastic packs with their stout, but extremely wasteful, design. Another factor is that these packs can be placed in single plastic bags isolated from non-meat purchases, a double protection from contamination. These are arguments for the Chain of Waste, which remains unsustainable longterm.

    Our counter argument is to provide reusable sealable containers for these contaminating foods. That is the central importance of using containers, which the opposition cannot knock down. Promoting their use is our way of ditching the chain.

  21. Mrs Green says:

    Hi John, the more I look into this, the more I realise it was a ‘convenient’ study, based on nothing more than trying to promote the continuing use of disposable bags. I think we just let them get on with their antics and continue to spread the word about safe and hygienic alternatives – with a good dose of common sense thrown in 😉

  22. shawna says:

    I agree the best way to kick the plastic bag habit is to start a new habit , It just takes awhile, not overnight. Do you remember when the seat belt laws went into effect? What a change! Sometimes I still have to be reminded. I own a reusable bag business. We send out key chains with each order. Our hope is that when you get the keys you’ll see the “iTySE” tag and remember your bags! Our bags are stuffable. They are very sturdy, compact and stylish! They are also very easy to wash. The store checkers tell us they love our bags because they are clean.
    We have all seen the info from the Plastics Council about how dirty the reusable bags and how they can harm us and we shouldn’t use them! CRAZY! Anyway check us out we have some great forum topics going.

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @shawna: Hi Shawna; good to see you and thank you for your comment. The idea of a key chain is good to help people remember their bags. We were on holiday recently and I noticed just how many people used their own bags – it was like a different world!
    Your site is not opening for me at the moment, so I’ll have a visit later.

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