Baggin It

BagsBefore I get started on Monday’s post, I want to let my readers know that there will be another fun giveaway this week. Watch for it and learn how you can win something really cool!

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming:

Going to the grocery store is a chore I’ve always disliked. Making the list, getting all of the stuff on the list, paying for it (that really bites these days), and then getting it home and lugging it all in, sorting and putting away.

My mom and I did this errand together for most of my adult life, which made it a bit more fun.

Now though, all I have left of those outings are her cloth grocery bags. I’ve been using cloth bags for grocery shopping for 21 years, since one of the pushes to “go green” in the 1980s. My husband was working at a large landfill and was coming home telling me horrible stories about birds getting the plastic bags forever tangled around their feet or in their bills. Then there were the stories the landfill would fill up much faster than the middle of the 21st century, as they first thought.

One week while my mom and I were at the store, we saw cloth bags (the ones pictured) and decided to buy some. It is the easiest thing any of us can do to have less of an impact on the earth, with probably some of the most benefit.

My husband pooh-poohed the idea. “Do you really think the few bags we use each week will make a difference?” he asked. He was used to seeing the really BIG picture, the tons of trash coming into the landfill each day and couldn’t imagine anything we would do could make a difference.

My mom and I believed in starting small, so we got ourselves into the habit of using our cloth bags. It got so that if we forgot them, we felt well, naked.

Sure, the clerks looked at us most of the time like we were from Mars and more often times than not, didn’t know how to sack them, trying always to pack them too heavy to carry, but we persevered. I even expanded and started using the bags for other shopping outings.

When I had been using the bags (approximately 9 per week) for 20 years, I added it up and estimated with all the shopping trips, we had saved approximately 10,000 plastic bags from the landfill.

I think that’s a pretty big impact for three people.

There’s still even more benefits by using cloth bags at The Little House in addition to helping save the planet from more plastics. Given the space constraints, there are fewer bags to maneuver around the small kitchen than if they were plastic and once they’re unloaded, they go back out to the truck, instead of the recycle bin, cutting down on the clutter.

The other benefit is that I now have my mom’s cloth bags, still going after all of these years, and the memories of our outings together still makes the grocery store less of a chore.

What small thing have you done to help the environment?

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14 Responses

  1. Becky says:

    Found your site about a month ago on “Champion of My Heart” (love that Lilly). I grew up in Oregon and so I’ve been recycling for 50 years (all bottles and cans were returnables!) so I love anything that helps us be a little greener. In Georgia I searched and even found a place there that would take junk mail and paper. Of course I had to take it to them! Here in Florida recycling gets picked up where we live but it’s much more limited. We switch our computer monitor completely off which helps save some power but like others have found it’s hard to do the big things. We are remodeling a house built in 1935 and want to buy the green products too but sometimes it’s a matter of green or finishing in the budget. We all do what we can and thanks for your help and suggestions. Becky

    • Kerri says:

      Welcome, Becky. So glad you found me! Yes, love that Lilly and love her mom too! 🙂
      Good luck with your remodel. My mom bought and restored a 1920s Tudor and it was great fun for her. A lot of work, but was one of her dreams and it was lovely when it was done. I love older homes and feel that getting one is the ultimate act of conservation!

  2. Lauren says:

    Hello Kerri,
    I saw your house in my parent’s issue of Mother Earth News yesterday and had to check out your website.
    I too use cloth bags and have been for a year now. Before that I would reuse (and reuse and reuse!) my paper bags. A pet peeve of mine now is when I go to the grocery the person bagging always seems to sneak one item in a plastic bag in with all my others. Why? I don’t want anything in plastic? I don’t think they get it!
    Target has just started giving 5 cents per cloth bag to reuse. I guess I have brought a whole new meaning to the expression “bag lady”!
    Keep up the good work!

  3. Joanne says:

    I use cloth bags when grocery shopping as well, but sometimes plastic ones sneak their way through. I save those and then put them in the store’s recycling container. But I wonder how those bags actually get recycled? And how frequently do people put them in recycling bins to begin with?

  4. OK. Fine … all hail, Kerri, the early adopter among us.

    Seriously. That’s really cool you were so far ahead of the curve. I got my canvass bags (about 10 of them) for FREE at a garage sale a couple summers ago. They has been washed and got all weird and rumpled, so they sat in a pile off to the side with a free sign.

    I asked, just to be sure, then happily took them home. It sounds silly, but that was my best find that summer.

  5. Alexandra says:

    I have a large canvas purse now, so that if I forget my bag, I can always stuff stuff in the purse. The cashier recognizes me now, but whenever there’s a substitute, I have to explain why I don’t want a bag for one item and why she shouldn’t offer a bag for, say, a gallon of milk. I also go crazy with the way the NYT comes packaged in blue plastic. Ugh! It’s great that you have been aware of this problem for so long.

    Too many small things to mention, since I run a green B&B, but now I’m taking on a big thing: NStar has received permission to spray herbicides underneath the power lines on Cape Cod to remove brush. I am trying to stop them.

  6. MarthaandMe says:

    You were ahead of this trend for sure! I’ve been using them for a few years. I often say I don’t want a bag if I’m just buying one or two things at the drugstore or hardware store. People haven’t grasped that concept yet – they look at me like I’m nuts. “Are you sure?” Yes! I can carry a prescription and tube of lip balm without a bag!

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, I know! I get the same response when I decline a bag. The other day it was for a book. I carried a lot more books than that at the same time when I was in school!

  7. kerri says:

    It’s funny you brought up balloons, Kathy. I never gave them much thought, but read an article just this morning about the environmental impact. They pose such a risk to the environment that it’s illegal to release them in some states.
    I’m in awe of your conservation efforts at South Fork. I’m so glad you got that land and are doing what you can for those milkweeds!

  8. Kathleen Winn says:

    I am so impressed that you’ve been using cloth bags for such a long time. Plastic bags are a scourge on the planet. California has banned them, despite a bitterly fought battle by the plastic bag manufacturers. We find them blowing around at our land all the time. We also find a lot of deflated balloons, especially the mylar kind. Every time I see people doing a balloon launch as a memorial or celebration, I cringe. Those balloons will land somewhere, and not only create litter but are a hazard to wildlife.

    We switched to cloth grocery bags a couple of years ago, and I am glad to see how many others have, when I go grocery shopping. Our biggest environmental contribution would have to be South Fork- a lifetime of conservation projects await us there, but the most important is saving our little population of Mead’s Milkweed- an endangered plant species.