When Yerdle, a new sharing website, asked me to provide one of the tips for its 7 Step Stuff Diet, a project to reduce clutter, I immediately thought of the huge pile of reusable bags cluttering my house. Now, we’ve all heard of the Bag Monster — that scary mountain of disposable plastic bags that accumulate in cupboards and closets–or worse, blow down the streets and into waterways and threaten wildlife.
But have you encountered the Reusable Bag Monster? Witness the one in my kitchen:
Good lord! How many reusable bags do two people actually need?
Apparently, I am not alone. My friend Amber Strocel has blogged about having too many reusable bags. And in her post, she links to others in the same situation. Reusable bags have become the swag du jour at many events. Some of them are so cheap that companies buy them and hand them out like disposable bags. Usually, the give-away bags are not cotton, like the ones in my growing collection, but cheap non-woven polypropylene bags that look like cloth but are actually plastic.
Reusable Bags are not magic
It seems like some companies think that just providing a reusable bag with their product will suddenly make the product “green.” Here’s a recent example: When my employer asked me to order a new computer monitor, I chose Lenovo because their monitors are all certified GOLD by EPEAT, an organization that rates and ranks electronics by their environmental impact. So when I opened the box, I was shocked to find mostly a whole lot of Styrofoam and plastic packaging. Ironically, the monitor itself, tucked into all that Styrofoam, was covered with a reusable bag that read, “Going green with Lenovo.”
“Oh!” I shouted, slapping my forehead. ”That’s why it’s green. Because it comes with a reusable bag!”
A reusable bag is not green in and of itself. It doesn’t magically counteract the impact of Styrofoam just because it’s added to the package. it isn’t green lying in a pile of other unused reusable bags. Reusable bags require materials and energy to manufacture, and just like anything else, are only green if they take the place of disposable bags. Many disposable bags. Which means, we not only have to remember to bring them with us whenever we go out, but we should resist the urge to accumulate more of them. The person with the most reusable bags does not win.
I like to carry a couple of ChicoBags with me in my purse because they stuff up very small, so I am never without a reusable bag, no matter where I find myself. And I carry several canvas bags when I am going on a planned grocery shopping trip or to the farmers market. Some people keep a few in their car. I don’t have a car, so I just have to remember them.
What to do with Extra reusable bags
Michael carries extra bags with him and offers them to people in line at the checkout counter who don’t have a bag. He says, “Here, would you like one of these? Just please remember to bring it back with you and use it again.” There are still a lot of people who don’t have their own reusable bags.
We can also offer them on sites like Yerdle, Freecycle, Craigslist, or use them to drop off unwanted items at thrift stores.
My goal is to reduce that pile to only the number of bags we will actually use, and to USE THEM! What ideas do you have for remembering to bring your bags and for spreading the wealth if you have too many?