Step Five – Bag It


(my current favorite tote)

Cloth Bag It, that is.  I imagine many of you, dear readers, already bring your trusty cloth bags to the grocery store.  Mad props to you (er, congrats).  That is super good news, because not only are plastic bags and even paper bags for groceries ugly and wasteful, they could pretty much single-handedly destroy the earth if we keep using them like there’s an endless supply.  As in: the trash circle in the Pacific that’s bigger than Texas. As in:  every year, according to the Worldwatch Institute, we throw away some 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags.  They leach chemicals into our groundwater, fill our landfills, kill wildlife and sealife, and use precious resources (trees and oil).  As Colin Beaven points out, why is something meant to be used for only minutes made out of material that will never biodegrade?

As a shopowner, I can testify that very, very few of us (yup, I’m including myself here), have taken the leap from reusing a big cloth bag for groceries to reusing other bags (mugs, napkins, etc) for other items.  We sell Ecobags and SnackTaxis at the bakery, with the original hope that customers would use them for their breads and pastries.  That has happened twice in the past 2 1/2 years.  I serve maybe one cup of coffee a day to someone who has brought a reusable mug.  Why don’t we take these simple steps?  Is it really so hard? Why does it seem easy to bring trash into our lives, when we have to live with it, throw it “away,” and then live with the consequences?


I started using Ecobags a few years back at the grocery store, for produce or bulk bin items (flour, grains, nuts, etc) – anything to stop the ridiculous bag waste.  They’re awesome, and you can also make your own in about 10 minutes, using our grain bag tutorial.  I keep some silverware and cloth napkins in the car to use when we’re out, and I try to remember my own mug.  I try to do all of these – and I’m certainly not perfect.  But if you tried to do them too, and you, and you .  . . how sweet it could be.

Oh, and how could I forget?  Buy bulk baby!  Save yourself time, temper tantrums (yours and theirs), gas, money . . . the list goes on.  Consolidate your trips (think once a month) – buy dry goods (flour, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, nut butter) in bulk, buy meat, butter, and cheese (preferably in big pieces also) and freeze it.  It might seem silly, but think for a moment about all those tiny containers of peanut butter, all those tiny, plastic wrapped juiceboxes, bundled together and wrapped in – you got it – more plastic.  Now imagine if you and all your friends didn’t buy (and therefore didn’t say to the system, “Make more of those”) all those tiny, wrapped packages.  Happy day.

You can do it, friends!  What tips do you have for reducing packaging in your life?

bagpeek(a peek inside – knitting, bank deposit)

12 Responses to “Step Five – Bag It”

  1. 1

    It’s fairly simple to make your own sandwich and snack baggies and takes only minutes, even by hand. I use printed PUL fabric for sandwich bags and sew velcro on to fasten it shut. We’ve used the same baggies for about three years now and they are still going strong.

    This morning is my big shopping trip of the month (and library, bank, recycling, etc.) and you reminded me to put my mug with my other things to go out so that I can enjoy a mug of coffee while shopping.

    Great blog!

  2. 2

    Hi Ardie,

    I am a new reader. I read about you at Shivaya Naturals – Circle of Stones post. I have been reading since that very day. This post hits home for me. I try to do what you have written about today but find I do “slack off” sometimes. It’s all to easy to just walk into the coffee shop and buy a coffee with their cardboard cup or you quickly run to the grocery store and you forgot to bring your “green” bags. So you end up using the paper. But you are right, is it really that hard? No it is not. My green bags are now always in my car and starting today I will bring my own mug every time I go out to get my coffee. I also have plans to sew THIS WEEK my children reusable snack bags for school, to stop using plastic baggies. It’s a little bit here and there. But like you said if i try it and you and you and you …. what a difference we all could make. Thank you for giving me a boost in the right direction!

  3. 3

    Thanks Adrie! I am guilty as charged! While I ALWAYS bring my own grocery bags and even a mug if I plan to grab a tea while out, I do not bring bags for bulk grains and produce. Thanks for passing along the links. Aaaaaand….I had just seen someone with a “snack taxi” and had been trying to find them online, thanks for ending my search! Hope your well and stirring your seeds today, it’s Imbolc!!!!

  4. 4

    We put a note on our door that said “DON’T FORGET BAGS”. It took about a month, but now we remember them without fail.

    After watching the Story of Stuff, we swore off disposable cups. If we don’t have our travel mug with us, we don’t get coffee/tea/etc. A few times of really wanting coffee but not having your mug will help you remember next time.

    If you haven’t seen the Story of Stuff, I *highly* recommend it!


  5. 5

    Another thought about reducing packaging (less in the realm of food, more about consumer products)– buy less. A lot less.

    I was thinking, what if you want to buy something but it ONLY comes in one of those plastic clamshell thingies? Around here at least, those aren’t even recyclable. Maybe it’s time to resolve not to buy products that arrive that way.

    I was really tested on that recently. My dentist recommended that I buy an electric toothbrush because I’ve been having so many problems with my teeth, no matter how diligently I brush and floss and use fluoride rinses and special toothpastes and whatnot (also not eating sugar). After many root canals and cavities and such, I am highly motivated to do whatever it takes to take care of my teeth. And what do you know, but the electric toothbrush my dentist recommended ONLY comes in a plastic clamshell. Plus it’s an electric appliance and I’ve been trying to avoid buying any more electric appliances. I admit, I went ahead and bought the toothbrush, and it really does clean in a way that I can’t replicate manually, but it makes me mad that I had to buy the packaging. Plus the toothbrush itself is made of non-recyclable plastic. That’s where I really get stuck, on purchases that involve dental or medical needs…. so much plastic involved.

  6. 6

    Our family was pretty typical in terms of getting almost all of our organic food in plastic packaging. When my husband had the idea of taking a four month “plastic fast” and not buying or otherwise acquiring any new plastic, I was at a loss for how we would eat. It took us a few months to wean ourselves off our old ways, but once we had made the decision, it was clear we wanted to go as far as we could with cutting back on waste. Without the commitment though, I’m not sure we ever would have started. As Wendell Berry says, once we realize that climate change is a moral issue, it is impossible to not make the changes we know need making. I make a lot of our staples, and consider the bulk aisles a wondrous affair–so much that I never knew existed is there for the taking. Why do all those other aisles exist!? Some times when I feel a bit nuts for refusing plastic wrapping, or asking for bulk cheese in a tin, or anything else, I just remember that this isn’t nuts, our disposable culture is. I blog about our efforts to live with less waste and more joy at

    Kudos to you all for running such a conscious business. Our CSA has a terrible habit of pre-bagging 90% of the produce, which is so frustrating.

    I’ve been wondering how the baking soda tooth powder works for you family. Any tips?

  7. 7

    Plastic fast – I love it. It is staggering, once you start to look around your home, how much plastic there is everywhere. Look forward to reading more at your site.

  8. 8

    Oh yes, and we love baking soda tooth powder. I mix together approx. 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 tsp myrrh powder (antibacterial, antifungal), and a few drops of essential oil (we use peppermint – this is just for flavoring). Just a dab on the toothbrush works -even the wee one likes it.

  9. 9

    These are tricky questions for sure, and it’s hard when our society offers so little choices, with the illusion of so many. At least you’re thinking about these things!

  10. 10

    Seth, Love the note idea. It really does take two months to make/break a habit, I find – and always easy to slip back!

  11. 11

    Thanks so much Rhonda – and especially for the blessing on our seeds! Happy Imbolc/Candlemas to you and yours as well.

  12. 12

    Shelley, Thank you for sharing this. I’m off to sew our family some more cloth napkins, as we never seem to have enough!

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