In recent years, reusable canvas shopping bags have become all the rage. They're more energy-efficient because you can use them many times, as opposed to the plastic bags which wear out quickly and produce a lot of waste that ends up in oceans and landfills. These eco-friendly totes are sold by stores ranging from upscale (e.g. Whole Foods) to mid-range (e.g. Safeway) to budget (e.g. Shoppers). You can even buy designer shopping bags costing hundreds of dollars from Valentino, Gucci, and Prada!
Here are a few observations about using environmentally friendly shopping bags:
1) I'm not shoplifting
When I just have a few items to buy, I sometimes just put them in the tote bags while I'm shopping around the store. It's funny because putting items in a bag, while still in the aisles, used to be seen as shoplifting. Now it seems pretty normal. I've never had a shop's employee confront me on this, so I assume it's OK. Any feedback on this from grocery or home-goods store employees?
2) Get reusable produce bags too
We bought reusable produce bags on etsy, and they've been great! We often get told what a good idea they are. They have a drawstring to prevent produce from falling out, without using those plastic tabs or typing a knot. These reusable bags are especially good because otherwise those thin plastic produce bags pile up at home, and I don't have many good uses for them.
3) Checker: please bag as usual
Some checkers or baggers seem to think that anyone who brings their own bags is an expert in bagging, or always wants to bag their groceries themselves. Not true for me! I don't have a great idea of what types of items should go together in a bag. And if you would normally bag my purchases, please go ahead and do that.
4) Checker: please don't make them too heavy
Plastic or paper shopping bags are often limited in their weight capacity: you can only put so much in them before they're likely to break. A virtue of cloth bags is they can hold a lot more weight. This is great because a reusable tote can easily hold a gallon of milk, or soy milk, without double-bagging.
On the other hand, overzealous baggers can also put so much in a bag that it becomes too heavy to carry. You have to figure that the shopper is going to carry the bags at some point. At the least, they have to pick them up from their cart, put them in their car, then carry them into their home, possibly up stairs.
And sometimes I just walk home from the supermarket, so I like to have the weight reasonably distributed across multiple bags. So, dear bagger, if I come in with four bags, please use them all rather than making three incredibly heavy bags. I find four is the best number of bags for me to carry: it's enough to evenly distribute the weight across my two shoulders or arms, but not so many that corralling all the straps becomes a major challenge.
Do you have any experiences using eco-friendly bags you'd like to share?
There has been some press recently that those reusable bags may need to be washed to get rid of bacteria. The ones I have are not canvas so I am not sure how they can be washed.
Good point. I'd heard that in the press too. I remember one checker looking at my reusable bags and saying she was glad they looked clean -- other shoppers' bags were quite dirty!
For bags that can't be washed, perhaps a disinfecting wipe would be good?