I have wanted to reduce my usage of plastic grocery bags for a long time. For years I’ve been reusing them as trash bags and not getting one at all if I was just getting a handful of purchases. In the last couple of years, I’ve started taking my own cloth bags to the grocery store – when I remembered. But, there have been lots and lots of times that I’ve forgotten to take cloth bags.
This past year at The Wallow, I’ve been much, much better about taking cloth bags. When I bring groceries in and empty the bags, I hang the bags on the doorknob, so it’s easy to remember to take them back out to the car. Still, sometimes I would forget them in the house, or be taking the truck instead and forget to get them out of the car.
I realized recently that forgetting to bring the bags reveals my true values. I mean, I never forget my keys. I never forget the money. These are essential to the grocery store trip, and I apparently didn’t consider cloth bags essential. I never forget my cigarettes. I never forget my sunglasses. I usually remember half-way to the grocery store that I’ve forgotten the bags. I considered driving back home to get them. That would be annoying, so maybe it would help me remember. But, I didn’t think it was very responsible to spend more gasoline just to avoid the plastic bags. That didn’t seem like much of a trade-off. It felt like a dilemma.
Then I read these words on Fake Plastic Fish, and it was like a punch in the face:
Stop using single-use plastics yourself. Just stop. No excuses. Forgetting bags at home is not an excuse. You don’t develop a habit by letting yourself off the hook time after time. More than once, I have carried out my purchases in my hands. If I had too much to carry, I put stuff back. Because I don’t have a car. But if you DO have a car, bring your cart out to the car, unload your stuff, carry it home and maybe put it in bags to bring it into the house. You won’t forget again.
I was using “I forgot” as an excuse, and using that to get me off the hook for coming up with an alternative. But, if I really made a commitment, the solution would be obvious: Just Stop.
On the day I read those words, my cloth bags were out of commission since my cat had peed on the pile of them and I hadn’t washed them yet. I probably did six or so grocery trips without cloth bags – when I checked out, the groceries went right back in my cart, then I put them one by one into the car, then I put them in the garden cart at home and wheeled the whole thing into the house to put them away. It’s just that simple.
The cloth bags are back in the car now, but even if (when) I forget them again, the decision is final.
I no longer use plastic grocery bags. Period.