The following originally appeared on 4/6/09 at Exit 51.
In The Bag
I am one of THOSE people. You know what I mean, the ones who bring their own bags to the store. I have a stash of them in my trunk; my favorites would have to be the old Trader Joe’s bags. They hold an incredible amount of stuff. And not only is my handmade market bag from B-More Bags great for produce, but it’s also terribly fashionable. Who said that utility has to be ugly?
I will admit that I remember when plastic bags became fashionable. And I was thankful. I remember lugging in brown bags full of groceries as a kid. Of course, without those brown bags, my school books would have gone naked. But I could never carry more than two of them in a single trip. I think that’s what I hated most, all those trips up and down the steps on grocery day. So when blue bags took the world by storm, I rejoiced. I could now load myself up with as many bags as I could carry. And if I distributed the weight between my forearms and hands just right, I could make it in one trip. I probably looked ridiculous shuffling up the walk, and getting the front door unlocked was a challenge, but I only made one trip for a week’s worth of supplies.
Then blue bags became the enemy. Their versatility to hold just about anything and everything couldn’t make up for their environmental impact. So people started to look for reusable alternatives. I recall that those brown bags from my childhood were also reused. As soon as the groceries were unloaded, the bags would be folded and put in the pantry for the next trip. My grandparents were thrifty like that; it had nothing to do with the environment.
Thankfully, the awareness of ‘byob’ has increased. When I first started to carry my own bags, people did not quite understand what they were for. The bags would ride up the belt and the cashier would promptly move them aside and start putting scanned items into their plastic bags. Or they would try and ring them up as though they were part of my purchase. Most stores finally get it. I still get funny looks when I bring my own bags some places – yeah, that would be you Target and Macy’s – but I figure they that eventually will figure it out.
In my mind, all of this begs the question ‘how much is too much’? How many bags does one person need? I would say that I have nearly one dozen reusable bags. They are all different shapes and sizes and some serve specialized purposes. Like that cute little bag with cubbies for bottles of wine…genius. But specialty items like that aside, am I obsessed with shopping bags? Maybe.
Because despite knowing that I do not have a need for another single grocery bag, I am really finding it hard not to order one of these gro-pak kits from blue avacado. I love the all in one system they designed so that everything breaks down for easy storage. Some even look small enough to fit easily in a purse. Because really, nothing is more frustrating than getting to the checkout and realizing that I forgot to bring in a bag.
Now, if only the cashiers would understand that just because the bags are sturdier it doesn’t make them less heavy when they put every single canned good into a single bag. I will never understand that. Is there some unwritten rule among cashiers to make the bags as heavy as possible? So if you happen to be in line behind me at Harris Teeter, don’t be surprised if I ask for some bags to be repacked. I’m just that kind of a person.