Old habits are always hard to break, and change is never easy, even when we know how important it is. We’re all aware by now of how harmful single-use plastic shopping bags are to wildlife and the environment. For years, scientists, environmentalists, and even everyday citizens have been pleading for local, state, and federal agencies—as well as large corporations—to help curb the prevalence of single-use plastic bags.
Many state governments are finally listening to that advice and banning, restricting, or placing penalties on these bags. And even though some of these penalties aren’t necessarily steep (10 cents per bag, in some states) they are sending us a priceless reminder: it’s time to change our habits and commit to bringing reusable bags with us any time we go shopping—whether it’s to the grocery store, or the mall, or the sporting goods store. While it might take some time for each of us to fully embrace that change, here are a few hints to help make the transition easier.
We’re all working hard to do our part and make the switch to reusable bags for our groceries. Maybe you’ve already purchased some heavy-duty, reusable shopping bags specifically for this purpose. Great job—but you probably also know that remembering to use them isn’t always so easy. Since reusable shopping bags aren’t very useful just sitting at home, try moving them into your car instead—you’ll have a longer grace period for your memory to catch up to the new habit you’re trying to form. And every time you unpack your groceries, leave the empty bags somewhere easy to see on your way out the door, so they don’t all migrate back into your house again.
But what if the problem is that you have bags in the car, but never remember to bring them with you? Or what if you don’t want to drag around a bulky bag when you’re walking through the farmer’s market, or strolling in the mall?
Another potential solution is to invest in a few smaller reusable shopping bags that are lightweight, packable, and easy to stow in your purse, backpack, or even pocket. Many of these bags are designed to fold into a tiny stuff sack so they won’t get tangled up with any other items, and they’re so small you’ll likely forget you even have them. That is, until you bring your purchases up to the counter, and you suddenly remember how clever you were for throwing that tiny shopping bag into your purse.
Whatever solution you choose, remember to keep using reusable bags—don’t let a setback discourage you from trying next time. Like every other change we incorporate in our lives, starting small often leads to huge benefits. And in this case, the rewards aren’t limited to our health, but the health of the entire planet.