HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
What's your latest food quest? Get great advice
TELL US

Paper, plastic or BYOB?

a
AnneBird Feb 10, 2008 01:08 PM

I recently bought reusable bags (called Baggu) with the intention of bringing them to the grocery store and hopefully cutting down on the number of bags we bring home... When I shared this with a friend she was horrified that I was going to be one of "those people".

According to her, bringing your own bag (BYOB) is a hassle because it creates such a commotion at the cash register, it slows the line down, etc. I on the other hand have made it my new years resolution to go a little greener...and believe that BYOB is very easy and convenient. As they say, its the little changes that count.

This topic has been in the news lately as a result of Whole Foods announcing that they will no longer carry plastic bags as of Earth Day. Is it that crazy to BYOB? Do other people do this, and if so, do you think its easy or hard to BYOB? As a Chowhound, do you have other tips to go a little greener?

  1. d
    dustchick Feb 10, 2008 01:12 PM

    I live in San Diego (and previously in Tempe) and have never had any grocery clerk be flustered when I bring a reusable bag. In fact, at my local Vons (Safeway), a clerk told me this is becoming much more common. All of my grocery shopping is done this way. Trying to do it at other stores (like Target) is more problematic. Good luck to you!

    2 Replies
    1. re: dustchick
      g
      grlwprls Feb 10, 2008 02:15 PM

      Actually, Target is now selling its own BYOB bag. It's red and typically in the grocery area. My cashier loaded my stuff right in it without skipping a beat.

      1. re: grlwprls
        d
        dustchick Feb 10, 2008 04:18 PM

        Good to know. The last time I tried BYOB at Target, the clerk put the items into the plastic Target bag and THEN put it into my own.

    2. n
      ndcaligurl Feb 10, 2008 01:27 PM

      Good for you for going green! We have also been trying our best to bring our own bag when we go grocery shopping. A good tip - if you have access to an Ikea, purchase one of their shopping bags. I believe they are around 59 cents and can hold a week's worth of stuff. Also, at our local Trader Joe's, if you bring your own bag, you are entered to win a $25 certificate each week. Good luck!

      1 Reply
      1. re: ndcaligurl
        j
        justagthing Feb 10, 2008 02:05 PM

        Don't forget that TJ's also has great bags that they sell for grocery shopping. I use it for so much more. They make great picnic or beach bags as well.

      2. a
        assorted Feb 10, 2008 02:10 PM

        Commotion? Ridiculous. Bring your own bag. It's easy, conserves resources, etc. etc. You can even get a bag discount on your bill at some stores.

        My tip would be to make sure you keep one bag in the car, one bag at home, one collapsible bag in your purse if you can. I'm always frustrated when I've forgotten my reusable bag somewhere and have to bring home yet another paper bag.

        And another thing... consider *not* using plastic produce bags. Some produce might require bagging (I'm thinking... pea pods, beans, etc.). But a lot of produce can just be heaped in your cart and then put directly into your reusable shopping bag. And for those pea pods and beans and the like, there are small and light reusable bags that work well specifically for produce.

        1. bards4 Feb 10, 2008 02:17 PM

          BYOB is definitely status quo here in Oregon. Not only do grocery stores not mind, they encourage it and often pay you five cents or so per bag you bring -- even if the bags you bring are paper bags from another store. Anything we can do to save trees (and dinosaurs, apparently, by not using plastic bags).

          1. linguafood Feb 10, 2008 02:21 PM

            I frankly can't remember the last time I used a plastic bag. I own about 5-6 cotton tote bags which are perfect for shopping. One of them is huge with a shoulder strap, it's actually from Whole Foods NYC...

            At the register it never creates a commotion because I pack the bags myself, and it's not exactly rocket surgery --

            I am always blown away at what a ridiculous number of plastic bags some people have in their carts -- it's like 2 or 3 items per bag. That is simply outrageous. Not sure why the baggers at the grocery store go so over the top with this.

            7 Replies
            1. re: linguafood
              d
              dolores Feb 10, 2008 02:52 PM

              I like plastic and if they do away with them, plan to bring in used plastic bags that I am now stockpiling.

              1. re: linguafood
                goodhealthgourmet Feb 10, 2008 08:27 PM

                it kills me when i see someone using a gazillion plastic bags for a few items, and it's all too common.

                i've accumulated 9 or 10 reusable shopping bags over the last several years, and this being LA, they're stashed in my car since i always drive to the store. at this point it's become second nature for me to just grab one or two out of the trunk on my way in.

                cashiers at grocery stores don't bat an eye when i use my own bags. [at the drugstore they get a little confused by it.] they're typically more flabbergasted by my insistence on bagging my own groceries. i get a kick out of the way they're always so grateful to me for "helping," when in actuality, i do it because i'm a control freak and i want them packed my way :)

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                  cayjohan Feb 10, 2008 08:37 PM

                  ghg, your drugstore issues are your own <g> but I salute your use of reusable bags. Good for you, also, in bagging your own.

                  Cay

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                    c
                    currymouth Feb 10, 2008 09:21 PM

                    I love that"Thank you for bagging" thing.If I wanted my eggs scrambled by the 5lb bag of onions, I would have done it myself. I was at my local Shoprite and read where they refund .02 cents for each of their regular bags. Seems like a good start. Although I have yet to see them bag a customer's groceries in a "recycled" bag

                    1. re: currymouth
                      goodhealthgourmet Feb 10, 2008 09:28 PM

                      i grudgingly let someone at WFM bag my groceries for me when i threw my back out last month, and when i got home i discovered 4 broken eggs in a carton that had been just fine when i inspected them in the store.

                      WFM gives you a 5-cent refund for each bag you re-use, or for using your own, and as a previous poster mentioned, TJ's holds a weekly raffle for the same. of course, i've been filling out those raffle tickets for YEARS and i have yet to win...

                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                      linguafood Feb 10, 2008 09:24 PM

                      it really is no biggie for us. we shop @wegmans practically every day of the week, and the cashiers who don't already recognize us we tell "we got bags" before they can even start putting stuff in plastic. and I bag. it's fast & efficient.

                      1. re: linguafood
                        c
                        currymouth Feb 10, 2008 09:46 PM

                        Wegmans is the temple of foodstuffs, and I wish I could shop there every day , If only for the cheese and vegetables.Too far and frequently, too expensive

                  2. l
                    lagatta Feb 10, 2008 02:53 PM

                    I have taken cotton bags everywhere for a good 25 years. Occasionally I get stuck with a messy thing that needs plastic-bagging, but it is really the exception. I have cotton bags and also the heavy plastic bags supermarkets sell (cheaply) in Québec and in Europe - no doubt elsewhere. And one with dividers to hold wine bottles from the SAQ (government booze chain) that I use for other jars and delicate things as well.

                    I'm used to schlepping them about, whether walking or cycling - no car.

                    I don't see how they can cause a problem. I had one really weird shop assistant who thought I was carrying my bag around to shoplift - I of course offered to open it, and said she was welcome to put the shopping in it. Sheesh.

                    1. alkapal Feb 10, 2008 03:31 PM

                      this thermos iso-tec insulated tote bag is GREAT for keeping groceries cold for your trip home. proper name:Thermos Raya 24 Can Quick Access Cooler Tote
                      search for it on QVC by name (i don't have item #).
                      http://www.qvc.com/qic/qvcapp.aspx/vi...

                      it actually holds lots of ice (without leaking). ( i got mine at target, but be careful if you order it from target. be careful to order the quick access one -- different opening). very handy. it sits upright because it has a proper bottom (which tj's insulated bag does not have). it has easy velcro-access on either side on the top, or the whole lid opens up with a zipper around the edge. it helped me transport boiled peanuts from SC to FLA on ice. can't recommend it more highly.

                      btw, qvc is excellent for products and service. shopping there for years.

                      1. im_nomad Feb 10, 2008 03:31 PM

                        from what i hear...some supermarkets will soon be charging if you take plastic instead of BYOB.

                        I've been trying to get on the bandwagon, particularly as i recieved a new Lug bag x-mastime. Got another one recently. What i love about these ones, is that they zip up small and i can keep them in my purse (my purses tend to be pretty big). I always had good intentions before, but never remembered to keep the bags in my car or take them out of whereever i had the cotton ones stored.

                        I've never had trouble with using these...and checkers usually comment on what a neat bag they are (plus i got a recent tip for a cheaper model of the zip up bag too).

                        What i have noticed during the times when i've needed extra plastic, is that the checkers put FAR less items per regular plastic bag than what they'll cram into the BYOB.

                        One thing i will note...i don't eat meat, so there are no runny juices and stuff stinking up my bags, that could potentially pose a problem for other byob'ers.

                        Otherwise i guess there has to be some etiquette for these things...i.e. have your bags out and waiting before the checking starts and so on.

                        p.s. thanks for the baggu tip..these are also neat !!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: im_nomad
                          d
                          dolores Feb 10, 2008 03:47 PM

                          How could they possibly charge me? I'll pay and then pack.

                          Simple.

                          1. re: dolores
                            im_nomad Feb 10, 2008 03:50 PM

                            it's like the recycling fee you pay on pop bottles and such (at least here in my area of Canada).....i'm guessing. Like a 5c charge per bag or something.

                            1. re: im_nomad
                              d
                              dolores Feb 10, 2008 03:54 PM

                              But how are they going to know? I pay, pile the groceries in the carriage, and bag at the car. Much like the warehouse stores which have carry out cardboard boxes for their goods.

                            2. re: dolores
                              Jennalynn Feb 10, 2008 04:01 PM

                              Maybe you read it wrong...

                              They will charge you for their plastic bags. Not if you bring your own.

                              1. re: Jennalynn
                                d
                                dolores Feb 10, 2008 04:15 PM

                                Ah, yes I did.

                                Thank you.

                                1. re: Jennalynn
                                  im_nomad Feb 10, 2008 04:18 PM

                                  yep, that's what i meant.

                            3. enbell Feb 10, 2008 03:34 PM

                              Here here for green CH movement! If I remember to, I also bring my own containers for deli items. I live off my Nalgene bottle, and use my own coffe cup at coffee houses. There are some great sites on the internet about how to me more conscientious about your consuming habits everyting from depleting the fish supply in our world's oceans to buying fairly- traded goods. Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, and the Sierra Club are some great places to start. Good for you for looking at the big picture!

                              Here are some more websites:

                              http://www.greenerchoices.org
                              http://www.idealbite.com
                              http://www.greenlivingonline.com

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: enbell
                                im_nomad Feb 10, 2008 03:44 PM

                                re: bringing your own containers for deli....can deli's refuse on the base of sanitary reasons? Not that i'm saying this is the case with yours...but who's to say they've been cleaned properly before the server is dishing and tapping spoons and such in there?

                                1. re: im_nomad
                                  enbell Feb 10, 2008 04:00 PM

                                  Gosh I definitely suppose they could (but they haven't yet) - and your explanation makes sense. I wonder, out of respect fir others, I shouldn't do this anymore? What do you think.

                                  1. re: im_nomad
                                    x
                                    xanadude Feb 10, 2008 09:50 PM

                                    Serving utensils shouldn't touch the container. That said, I dont think it's unreasonable to refuse to fill a dirty container for fear of contamination.

                                    1. re: xanadude
                                      t
                                      TampaAurora Jul 24, 2008 04:44 PM

                                      I've seen others try at my local grocery store chain and been turned down. Heck, my school's starbucks turned down a latte-obsessed friend with her own cup - with a starbucks logo! I think people friendly with me just have bad luck, but who is to say.

                                  2. re: enbell
                                    linguafood Feb 10, 2008 04:17 PM

                                    I've totally considered doing so as well. I cannot count the plastic containers we take home every day from Wegmans, be it with stuff from the olive bar, or when you get their prepared chicken salad, or shrimp, or scallops -- all are in a round plastic container. That adds up to a lot of effin plastic, which is crap-ola for the environment as most of us know. But I've wondered about what im_nomad brought up -- whether they might refuse to use my containers.

                                    One of the reasons I stopped buying their mâche and mâche mixes (even though I am a great fan of that lettuce) is because they come in a ridiclously large rectangle box of plastic. Not only does it take up way too much room in the fridge, it is also as ungreen as you can get.

                                    1. re: linguafood
                                      cayjohan Feb 10, 2008 06:28 PM

                                      linguafood: try what I did. (Back story: I use glass containers at my co-op for almost everything I can buy in bulk. Reducing packaging is one of my goals.) The last time I was at an olive bar, I asked the counter person to use my (clean) container and give a tare weight. Refused, as I expected. I did my shopping, paid, then dumped my olives into my glass jar, returned to the olive bar and handed back the plastic container. I told them I didn't need it, suggested they think about alternatives, and if they didn't want to, well, they are resonsible for the packaging. (Sideline: we bring our own for almost everything) The more retailers that hear this from consumers, the faster we will see some change. The counterperson to whom I returned the packaging (same one - young and apologetic in scene one) told me "thank you....I wish more felt this way,'" despite the inability of anyone under current protocols to do anything differently. HOWEVER: if the purveyer needs to deal with the refuse, perhaps things will change. Turn the container back.

                                      Takes guts. Still, try it.

                                      If we return superfluous packaging to the purveyor, who can perhaps then push on the wholesaler, we can make a point, even beyond bring-our-own-bags. If we shop in places that let us put our mache into our own bags, well more power to them.

                                      Keep pushing,
                                      Cay

                                      1. re: cayjohan
                                        alkapal Feb 10, 2008 06:39 PM

                                        i'm sure the purveyor would be happy to reduce cost of goods sold by nixing containers. but talk to your health inspectors...them and the politicos. of course, pressure on purveyors will be conveyed to the politicos, eventually.

                                        1. re: alkapal
                                          cayjohan Feb 10, 2008 06:54 PM

                                          Bingo, alkapal! Once purveyors talk to politicos (in perfect world...still hoping!) we can do something about the waste. Seems like years ago that I read about German legislation regarding manufacturers being reponsible for packaging - why not morph that into take-away food?

                                          Some day.
                                          Cay

                                          1. re: cayjohan
                                            a
                                            adventuresinbaking Feb 12, 2008 05:15 AM

                                            My local co-op lets people bring in their own containers when they shop. You just need to stop by the customer service desk and have them inspected and weighed before you shop.

                                            They also started charging for produce bags and other bulk bags. People complained, but I kind of like the fact they are starting to make people think about how much packaging they consume.

                                            Another program they do is reusing the bags people bring in. People save their bags from other stores, and volunteers sort and distribute them in the cashier lines. So if people forget to bring their own bags, there are bags available that don't create any new waste.

                                            1. re: adventuresinbaking
                                              g
                                              grlwprls Feb 12, 2008 05:52 AM

                                              I will admit that once when I ran into Whole Foods without my bag, I grabbed 3 clean paper ones out of the recycle bin by the door.

                                    2. re: enbell
                                      x
                                      xanadude Feb 10, 2008 09:52 PM

                                      Rainbow Grocery in SF actually charges for containers, so you're encouraged to bring your own.

                                    3. Jennalynn Feb 10, 2008 03:41 PM

                                      I'm sorry... your friend must fluster easy. What kind of "commotion" could it possibly cause? How could it possibly slow the line down? Seriously! And even if it did (which it does not)... isn't the planet and our collective well being worth it?

                                      Whole countries have begun to ban the plastic bag. BYOB is not just green, it's the only way it will be within the next few years.

                                      I made everyone on my holiday list this year three reusable bags in fabulous colors. I keep a couple in the trunk of my car for unexpected grocery stops.

                                      Other green ideas: Don't buy individual bottles of water. Carry a refillable. Get a filter for your tap. Don't buy canned soda... or for that matter try to cut down on individually packaged everything. Overpackaging is a waste of so many things.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Jennalynn
                                        n
                                        NE_Elaine Feb 12, 2008 02:17 PM

                                        I think her friend must be like my sister. My sister got upset with me in the grocery store when I asked the bagger to put more than 2 items in each bag. Sis thought I was being too bossy.

                                      2. Gio Feb 10, 2008 03:43 PM

                                        We've been bringing our own bags for about 20 years. Bought 4 large canvas bags at the Vermont Country Store, and a couple from the farm stand we habituate. Save one strictly for meat another for dairy and the others for produce. I do not think using them ties up the line at the cashier at all. The only thing we have to do is indoctrinate the baggers.
                                        Once we figured out which bagger we can depend on.... easy peasy. Once in a while we get a plastic bag because of the propensity of baggers to isolate soaps and detergents from food - and that we agree with. I sincerely hope we are making a difference.

                                        1. p
                                          picapau Feb 10, 2008 03:54 PM

                                          I think it's great to be more concerned with the environment and anything we can do to help is a step in the right direction. I've been using my own bag for years now and it has never been a problem. If that's what you want to do, do it!!

                                          1. optimal forager Feb 10, 2008 04:31 PM

                                            We're all BYOBers in my family, in part because my sister lives in Ireland, where they instituted the Plastax a while ago (you're charged per disposable bag you use), and she brought us some cheap, sturdy and cool-looking Marks and Spencer reusable bags. If there's any comment on check-out, it's usually, "what cool bags!", although there is one checker at a local store who hates them and if you turn around for a second, she'll start putting everything in plastic.

                                            People say I can't be bothered or why should I change my habits or it doesn't make that much difference. It's not that much bother, it's just an adjustment, and it feels kinda cool and European. And I don't have the numbers on hand, but the sheer amount of petroleum that goes into making plastic bags for the US market in a year stunned me. It's a worthwhile change.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: optimal forager
                                              rockandroller1 Feb 10, 2008 05:59 PM

                                              I prefer to use the "self check" lanes when I go to the regular grocery, which isn't all that often, and I bring my own bags. It doesn't take any longer to bag with them than any other bag. I have the 2 person system from Eco Bags and when I go, I buy a LOT of things and completely fill up my bags and then (gasp) CARRY them to my car instead of wheeling them out. I don't use the anti-environmental plastic bags, use organic cotton bags that hold a lot AND get exercise to boot. I'm like an Anti-American. Nobody has ever gasped or acted exasperated. If I bring them to a lane with a cashier, more often than not I get a DISCOUNT, depending on the store, per bag. It's not a lot but hey, a discount is a discount. And I just tell them to "fill them all the way up" and they usually do. Sometimes they just can't help it and put plastic around something and THEN put it into my canvas bag but I just politely take the plastic bag off and give it back to them. ecobags.com

                                              1. re: optimal forager
                                                optimal forager Feb 11, 2008 12:01 PM

                                                Here are some numbers from an article in today's Daily Herald (suburban Chicago newspaper) by Marni Pyke, who cites the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, SCARCE, Northern Illinois University, and Environment Illinois.

                                                • 4.4 million plus tons of plastic bags go into the waste stream each year.

                                                • < 6% of plastic bags are recycled each year.

                                                • It takes about 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose in a landfill.

                                                • Americans use about 100 billion plastic bags a year.

                                                • It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce 100 billion bags.

                                                • More than a million birds and 100,000 marine animals die each year from getting snared in or eating plastic bags.

                                                • A shopper takes home five to 10 bags from an average trip to the grocery store.

                                                1. re: optimal forager
                                                  linguafood Feb 11, 2008 12:10 PM

                                                  and yet, there are still people out there who *like* plastic bags. go figure...

                                                  1. re: linguafood
                                                    Firegoat Dec 20, 2009 05:38 AM

                                                    Hey I'll admit i'm one of the people that likes them. Not necessarily at the grocery store, but for the other uses I get out of them after I get them home. Great for scooping and sealing off cat litter (because even if it is the flushable kind you don't want to flush it because it will kill sea otters), great for shoving in your pocket on a dog walk to invert and pick up dog poo. I like the canvas bags, and in fact have never seen them cause a problem in a grocery store line, but without the plastic option I'd just be buying some more plastic to accomplish the same thing.

                                                    1. re: Firegoat
                                                      linguafood Dec 20, 2009 08:27 AM

                                                      i have to admit that we use the few plastic bags we get on occasion (take-out, or at the grocery store when we managed to forget our canvas bags) for kitty litter, too. they are perfect for that, and at least are getting a second use. i didn't know there was such a thing as flushable litter, only litter that people flush and bust their plumbing '-)

                                              2. chowser Feb 10, 2008 05:58 PM

                                                I brought my own mesh bags for years but the food pantry where I do volunteer work always runs low on bags (both plastic and paper) for passing out food so I do half and half now. But, for those of you tied to plastic or paper, it might be a good option to check w/ your local food pantries/community centers to see if there is a need. Reusing is better than recycling or throwing out.

                                                1. stellamystar Feb 10, 2008 06:52 PM

                                                  As an ALDI shopped, I always bring my bags - 10 cents for plastic and 5 cents for paper. At my regular store, I get a 5 cent credit for BYOB.

                                                  Apart from the minute savings and the environmental importance, plastic bags are awful! They collect, fly away, tear, etc. I have tried to reuse them many ways, but mostly end up using them as mini-garbage sacks for small cans.
                                                  I have also used them to pack a laptop I had to ship for repair - I had A LOT. Worked GREAT. Just balled them all up and stuck them in there. I have also used them for other packing materials.

                                                  I even saw the "totes" at Home Depot this weekend - orange, of course. Wal-Mart is doing it, too.

                                                  What I am tired of is the plastic bag my newspaper comes in -- but, I also hate a wet newspaper. Hmmmm

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: stellamystar
                                                    a
                                                    AnneBird Feb 10, 2008 07:15 PM

                                                    Wow. Who knew there were so many people doing this! Thanks for the tips on keeping a bag in the car- great idea!

                                                    1. re: stellamystar
                                                      cayjohan Feb 10, 2008 07:50 PM

                                                      stella, look for recycling if you are inundated with plastic bags. Or reuse those plastic bags for something else. What you are currently doing is great. Keep going!

                                                      One stae at a time,
                                                      Cay

                                                      1. re: cayjohan
                                                        cayjohan Feb 10, 2008 07:54 PM

                                                        sorry, "stae" = "step" My bad. Cay

                                                    2. c
                                                      cincyn Feb 10, 2008 08:00 PM

                                                      good for you! Most all stores have that now and we do it whenever possible. Kudos

                                                      1. c
                                                        currymouth Feb 10, 2008 08:03 PM

                                                        Here in central jersey, our groceries are now selling reusable bags as well as Ikea. but we use a Spar bag we picked up in Belgium several years ago, has cool compartments for wine bottles.Very handy for water or soda bottles. I have yet to have anyone bat an eye when I pull the reusable bags out and start bagging. Perhaps a regional thing?

                                                        1. x
                                                          xanadude Feb 10, 2008 09:54 PM

                                                          Not only does it make sense environmentally, they're better bags, too--sturdier and with better handles and such. It's not a hassle--it's the way things were for 99.9% of human history, and the way things are headed.

                                                          1. m
                                                            miss_bennet Feb 10, 2008 10:50 PM

                                                            Although it's not a grocery store, my university bookstore uses only biodegradable plastic bags. Then again, it's protest-everything university. This year, we had problems with protesters protesting a protest. Honestly.
                                                            Anyway, I wonder if grocery stores can use this tecnology. I mean, if they're going to use plastic bags, why not?
                                                            I try to remember to bring my canvas grocery bags, but I'm not quite in the habit yet. I always get a plastic bag at the liquor store, though. They're fantastically strong.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: miss_bennet
                                                              linguafood Feb 10, 2008 11:10 PM

                                                              Yeah, we always end up with plastic bags from the liquor store, too. But they're great for lining the bathroom "paper" basket, and, much more importantly -- for cleaning out the litter box. For that, they are perfect.

                                                              1. re: linguafood
                                                                alkapal Feb 11, 2008 01:38 AM

                                                                litter box duty is where our plastic bags are recycled.

                                                                1. re: linguafood
                                                                  viperlush Apr 14, 2008 04:59 PM

                                                                  Yup- Perfect for cleaning out litter box and lining paper shedder bin. Use paper bags as recycling bins.

                                                                2. re: miss_bennet
                                                                  chowser Feb 11, 2008 04:25 AM

                                                                  The problem is nothing is biodegradable once it hits landfill. They've found guacamole from the 60's in landfill. And, it still takes energy to produce the bags vs reusing more durable ones.

                                                                  1. re: chowser
                                                                    optimal forager Feb 11, 2008 11:53 AM

                                                                    Guacamole? Incredible.

                                                                    I became more environmentally-minded back in college when I saw slides of an archaeological excavation out at Fresh Kills landfill. They showed newspapers where you could still read the date--they were from the 1950s.

                                                                3. scoopG Feb 11, 2008 05:06 AM

                                                                  In NYC, Food Emporium gives you a little "rebate" when you use your own bags. It used to be two cents, then they switched to a complicated system of a penny for your own bag or two cents for re-using one of their own or something like that. Many cashiers are still confused there and will sometimes give me a penny for each heavy duty cloth bag I have etc. And sometimes I have to remind them about the refund. I amazed at the number of times when I ask them where these plastic bags come from to hear, "from trees?"

                                                                  Just as important as it is to try not to add to our ever growing landfills is to try reduce the use of non-renewable petroleum, from which plastic is made. Sooner a later a tax will be placed on the use of these of these bags - like they have in Ireland or Taiwan.

                                                                  I also compost at home - and every week schlep it to the Union Square Green Market. They take anything (EXCEPT meat, chicken, seafood and dairy) including human hair and nail clippings! It all becomes worm food and eventually compost.

                                                                  1. danhole Feb 11, 2008 06:01 AM

                                                                    I detest plastic bags. As others have said, they put 2 -3 items per bag, and if you are buying a lot of groceries, you end up with more bags than food. I see plastic bags stuck in trees, floating in the bayou, flying around yards, and it makes me sick to think of all the wildlife that is getting stuck in these things. I had a cat that got her head stuck in a plastic bag, and thank heaven I was there or she could have gotten strangled. If I have excess bags I use them for trash, but I can take them back to the store to recycle, and I do. I have bought a couple bags, but they aren't very sturdy, meaning the bottoms aren't flat, so they don't work well if you have bought glass jars of foodstuffs. I need to find bags that have sections so I can separate things.

                                                                    If I forget my bags, I ask for paper, then when I recycle my newspapers, I put them into the paper bag, therefore it gets recycled as well. I also, whenever possible, just take the goods without a bag.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: danhole
                                                                      Cheflambo Feb 12, 2008 09:46 AM

                                                                      Danhole - Central Market has great reusable bags that they sell for $1-$2 each. I have a "vintage" canvas bag from their Austin store and one of the black bags from the Houston store that I just leave in my car. They're great! The black one says "Chew with your mind open" and is from greenbag. They both have flat bottoms and are great for everything. I have not (yet) taken them to Kroger or Randalls, but I dont think the sackers there would have a problem with them. I just cannot deal with plastic grocery bags -- they allow everything to roll around in the car on the way home, and only hold a couple of things. I've had things as light as a dozen eggs fall right through them (in the parking lot of course, not in the store where I could get a convenient replacement....)

                                                                      1. re: Cheflambo
                                                                        danhole Feb 12, 2008 12:53 PM

                                                                        Chef, I bought a reusable bag from Half Price Books and I have quite a few canvas bags, but I need something that has a piece of cardboard or something like that so the groceries don't flop over and crush the bread or whatever. Are the Central Market ones like that? I left you a note on Skyline Chili. Check it out.

                                                                        1. re: danhole
                                                                          Cheflambo Feb 12, 2008 02:15 PM

                                                                          Yes! The Central Market (greenbag) bags have a flat, ridgid bottom, but folds up like a paper bag for storage. Not floppy at all (the CM bag from Austin is not like that, so different things go in that one).

                                                                    2. alkapal Feb 11, 2008 06:37 AM

                                                                      i recall when all the stores were eschewing paper bags and going to plastic "to save the trees". now when i refuse a plastic bag, i'll say to the check-out person that i'm "saving a plastic tree". you can imagine the respones...(or non-responses).

                                                                      this is a lesson in the lack of foresight, and the law of unintended consequences.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: alkapal
                                                                        danhole Feb 11, 2008 06:46 AM

                                                                        You know what gets me? When you ask for paper, they roll their eyes, and pile as much stuff into the bag as they can. Then you have 2 -3 bags that need a forklift to carry. But if they use plastic, you get 20 bags, for the same amount if items they crammed into the 3 paper bags! Doesn't make sense at all!

                                                                        1. re: danhole
                                                                          rockandroller1 Feb 11, 2008 07:54 AM

                                                                          Part of why I bought my bags is because I got SO TIRED of saying to the cashier AND bagger "PAPER. JUST PAPER. PAPER ONLY. PLEASE." and yet invariably I would end up with paper in plastic, something in plastic put into the paper, etc. It really drove me crazy.

                                                                      2. Miss Needle Feb 11, 2008 12:57 PM

                                                                        You know, I'm all for the environment. However, I've been reusing my Whole Foods bags as garbage bags as they're pretty sturdy. I have two canvas bags that I generally use when I go shopping. But when my "garbage bag" supply is running low, I do take those plastic bags.

                                                                        Guess I have to look for another source of garbage bags, perhaps one that is more eco-friendly.

                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle
                                                                          danna Feb 12, 2008 06:23 AM

                                                                          I'm a plastic person, and rather bemused about Whole Food's recent announcement. I read years ago that plastic bags were much more efficient to produce, and therefore less wastefull. Plus I have a problem wasting trees...are they farmed? I don't know, but I see a lot of clear cutting around here and I don't want to participate in that.

                                                                          All my plastic bags get stored when I get home and are reused as either garbage can liners or totes to carry my lunch to work, etc.

                                                                          But the real kicker is, the paper bags at WHole Foods have handles which will not stay attached. Sometimes they give me paper without asking my preference, and about 25% of the time, the handle comes loose from the bag while I'm carrying them into the house. I've had several items broken that way.

                                                                          I guess I'll go re-useable, since I'm not happy about going "paper". How do you "re-useable people" remember to bring the bags back out to the car, and from there into the store? any tricks?

                                                                          1. re: danna
                                                                            rockandroller1 Feb 12, 2008 06:26 AM

                                                                            I try to leave mine in the backseat of my car so I visually see them. It's just like any habit I guess; the more you do it, the more you remember.

                                                                            1. re: danna
                                                                              danna Feb 12, 2008 06:43 AM

                                                                              So, to back-up my stance as a "plastic person", I found the following stats just now (on a reuseable bag site...not a plastics industry site):

                                                                              Paper bags take 4 times more energy to produce:

                                                                              ENERGY TO PRODUCE BAG ORIGINALLY (BTUs)
                                                                              Safeway Plastic Bags: 594 BTUs
                                                                              Safeway Paper Bags: 2511 BTUs
                                                                              (Source: 1989 Plastic Recycling Directory, Society of Plastics Industry.)

                                                                              Of course, most paper comes from tree pulp, so the impact of paper bag production on forests is enormous. In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone.

                                                                              The majority of kraft paper is made by heating wood chips under pressure at high temperatures in a chemical solution. As evidenced by the unmistakable stench commonly associated with paper mills, the use of these toxic chemicals contributes to both air pollution, such as acid rain, and water pollution.

                                                                              I can vouch for the deaths of many trees in the Appalachians, widely thought to be due to acid rain.

                                                                              Paper sacks generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.
                                                                              Source: "Comparison of the Effects on the Environment of Polyethylene and Paper Carrier Bags," Federal Office of the Environment, August 1988

                                                                              It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.

                                                                              ENERGY TO RECYCLE PACKAGE ONCE (BTUs)
                                                                              Safeway Plastic Bags: 17 BTUs
                                                                              Safeway Paper Bags: 1444 BTUs
                                                                              Source: 1989 Plastic Recycling Directory, Society of Plastics Industry.

                                                                              1. re: danna
                                                                                Miss Needle Feb 12, 2008 08:19 AM

                                                                                Interesting. I surmise that in a few years, the trend as to what is the most green will change again.

                                                                                If Whole Foods is so concerned about the environment, I feel they should stop carrying bottled water. I mean, they don't carry any food made with trans-fats. So why not water?

                                                                                1. re: danna
                                                                                  susancinsf Feb 12, 2008 08:32 AM

                                                                                  well, aside from the fact that you are quoting 1989 data (surely the technology involved in recycling has changed since then as has technology in just about every other area) from a clearly biased source (the Plastics Industry); your post completely ignores one big aspect of the problem: which is that most of the plastic bags are NOT recycled. I don't know about the paper bags, but I can tell you that in SF, paper bags are accepted in the recycling that is picked up every week at the curb, (indeed, I use paper bags as the container in my kitchen to collect the recyclables, and then throw those full paper bags straight into the recycling bin) but plastic bags are not. Most people do what is convenient, so in my town at least, people are more likely to recycle the paper bags than the plastic bags. (Now, Safeway used to accept plastic bags for recycling at the store, but I don't think they are doing that anymore now that they have been outlawed and they aren't providing them. Bottom line: we are using our left-over plastic bags, and we had MANY since they couldn't be put in recycling, for dog walks and the kitty litter. I am quite sure many others are doing the same.)

                                                                                  Come back to me with data that is not almost twenty years old and from an unbiased source, (do you really think the fact that data from a potentially biased source is requoted elsewhere makes it somehow not subject to bias?) and I might listen more seriously to your argument.

                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf
                                                                                    danna Feb 12, 2008 09:50 AM

                                                                                    Well, here you have the Washington Post, but i can't verify they are free from bias:

                                                                                    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2007/10/03/GR2007100301385.html?referrer=emaillink

                                                                                    And here you have another random web page, their references are from the 90's:

                                                                                    http://www.angelfire.com/wi/PaperVsPlastic/

                                                                                    And finally, what appears to be an empirical study first performed in 1990 and updated in 2004, you have:

                                                                                    http://www.ilea.org/lcas/franklin1990...

                                                                                    Please note: all I did was google "paper vs. Plastic" and look at the first few things that came up. I did NOT attempt to cherry pick based on my original beliefs. Frankly, I'm alot MORE convinced than I was this morning that plastic is somewhat superior to paper for use in bagging my groceries. I had not considered two facts:

                                                                                    that plastics are a BYPRODUCT of petroleum refining (which is going to happen anyway

                                                                                    )

                                                                                    and that although plastic does not decompose in a landfill, it takes up much less volume in the landfill, and that in modern, air-less landfills, NOTHING decomposes.

                                                                                    I'm not saying that wasting packaging is good, no matter what you make the stuff from. But I think the anit-plastic bag hysteria is just that.

                                                                                2. re: danna
                                                                                  l
                                                                                  lizzy Feb 12, 2008 08:41 AM

                                                                                  I keep my re-usable bags in the car next to my purse so they are in plain sight. When I bring groceries in the house, I head straight to the kitchen unpack the groceries then put my purse and re-usable bag by the front door.

                                                                                  I hear you on the handles of the bags at WF. I don't think they used to be that bad, they must have changed their glue. One more thing in favor of paper, I know certain grocery stores use paper bags that are 100% recycled paper. I don't know if WF is one, but I know Harris Teeter is.

                                                                                  1. re: danna
                                                                                    Jennalynn Feb 12, 2008 09:41 AM

                                                                                    After I unload them I put them on the door handle to the outside.

                                                                                    When I next leave the house, I can't help but see them

                                                                                3. s
                                                                                  swsidejim Feb 11, 2008 01:03 PM

                                                                                  not something I would ever do.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: swsidejim
                                                                                    enbell Feb 11, 2008 02:30 PM

                                                                                    Why is that?

                                                                                    1. re: enbell
                                                                                      s
                                                                                      swsidejim Feb 12, 2008 04:31 AM

                                                                                      not interested in lugging empty bags to the market, and I do not buy into the movement.

                                                                                      Yet another thing to add to my list of reasons I do not shop at Whole Foods.

                                                                                      Give me the plastic bags. Plus they are good for cleaning the cat box.

                                                                                      1. re: swsidejim
                                                                                        enbell Feb 12, 2008 01:28 PM

                                                                                        Believe me, I have a hard time fully endorsing Whole Paycheck as well! As far as bags go, to each his own, glad you reuse your for the cat box :)

                                                                                  2. m
                                                                                    miss_bennet Feb 11, 2008 02:43 PM

                                                                                    It just occured to me that a grocery where my Grandama lives uses only paper. However, their paper bags have reinforced flat paper handles.
                                                                                    They basically have a square shape, and there's an extra panel of paper to reinforce where the handles attcach top the bag.

                                                                                    But, again, the question is, does it take too much energy to make these bags?

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: miss_bennet
                                                                                      Jennalynn Feb 11, 2008 03:01 PM

                                                                                      It's not just the energy to make the bag. It's also the trees that get cut down.

                                                                                      1. re: Jennalynn
                                                                                        im_nomad Feb 11, 2008 03:20 PM

                                                                                        reforesting is a sumountable task.....as opposed to the renewal of petroleum resources.....

                                                                                        1. re: Jennalynn
                                                                                          m
                                                                                          miss_bennet Feb 11, 2008 03:22 PM

                                                                                          I live in BC. We produce trees. And I (and the BC forestry industry) would love to have people producing paper bags over plastic.
                                                                                          And trust me. There's no shortage. It would take a lot to put a dent in our forests.

                                                                                          1. re: miss_bennet
                                                                                            im_nomad Feb 11, 2008 03:24 PM

                                                                                            it'd be great if the supermarkets (at least where i live), would offer a paper alternative to the rolls of thin plastic bags they have in the produce section. Larger items i don't bag, but it's kinda hard to have cherries or button mushrooms rolling around in the cart !!

                                                                                            1. re: im_nomad
                                                                                              m
                                                                                              miss_bennet Feb 11, 2008 03:51 PM

                                                                                              Weird! I always assumed that every grocery store had paper mushroom bags! I think that they're provided by the supplier, though. Well, they usually say "BC Mushrooms" or something like that on them.

                                                                                              1. re: miss_bennet
                                                                                                goodhealthgourmet Feb 11, 2008 04:36 PM

                                                                                                very few stores offer paper mushroom bags...so most people suffocate them in the same plastic they use for all the other produce.

                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                                                                  rockandroller1 Feb 12, 2008 04:20 AM

                                                                                                  again plugging eco bags, but their "kits" of bags offer bags for produce.

                                                                                              2. re: im_nomad
                                                                                                m
                                                                                                Morticia Feb 17, 2008 04:22 PM

                                                                                                I always try to re-use those smaller plastic produce bags, for the items like bulk spinach, raisins, etc. Many bags remain perfectly clean and dry after one or even two uses, especially if you shop frequently as I do. I agree, most things really don't need a bag (like 2 apples, one onion, etc.) but people often seem to think they need to bag everything. Not sure why...

                                                                                            2. re: Jennalynn
                                                                                              x
                                                                                              xanadude Feb 11, 2008 04:16 PM

                                                                                              Trees for paper are generally farmed on plantations in the US--they're no more endangered than chickens or cows are, in that they're replanted and harvested.

                                                                                          2. im_nomad Feb 11, 2008 03:18 PM

                                                                                            hey something like this can help us put our remaining bags to good use!!

                                                                                            http://crochet.about.com/gi/dynamic/o...

                                                                                            1. poptart Feb 11, 2008 04:16 PM

                                                                                              I love the BYOBs for another reason, too! I don't have a car, and it is MUCH easier to transport groceries in these bags than too many of the plastic ones. If you are shopping with a car, these bags stay put better and don't roll all over the place like the plastic ones do.

                                                                                              1. susancinsf Feb 12, 2008 04:08 AM

                                                                                                plastic bags in grocery stores have been outlawed in my town (San Francisco). My only problem with it is trying to get in the habit of remembering to bring my cloth bags. Yes, I keep some in the car, but still am not in the habit of bringing them in, so end result: I have more paper bags than I want around the house....I do use the paper ones more than once and as containers for my recycling, but definitely trying to make cloth a habit.

                                                                                                My next project is to convince the City that they should make it illegal for our local free rag newspaper (The Examiner) to deliver a paper to me every day, and in plastic whenever the weather is bad, even though I have REPEATEDLY told them I don't want it! exceedingly annoying...and earth-unfriendly.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: susancinsf
                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                  soupkitten Feb 12, 2008 09:21 AM

                                                                                                  plastic bags are starting to be independently banned in msp's stores too, starting with the co-ops this march. dh grocery shops daily for our business (at least once) so we have been byo for a long time, or we'd be buried in bags. he likes these teeny collapsible bags-- they easily fit in a coat pocket or handbag so you always have one, & they have a clip attatched so if all else fails you can attach to your key ring. they are as spacious as a regular large paper bag and a zillion times more sturdy:

                                                                                                  http://www.chicobag.com/shop.php

                                                                                                2. c
                                                                                                  cpingenot Feb 12, 2008 06:34 AM

                                                                                                  I really love the Trader Joe's bags- The stiff plasticized paper stands up for loading and unloading much much better than the softer "cloth" bags that other grocery stores sell, and they fold up neatly for nesting in my car. My folks don't live close to a TJ's, but are dedicated BYOB'ers, so I just mailed them a couple of the TJ's bags.
                                                                                                  My pet peeve is when clerks put wine bottles in their own paper bags- what is that supposed to do? keep them from clinking? I can live with clinking.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: cpingenot
                                                                                                    l
                                                                                                    lagatta Feb 12, 2008 10:44 AM

                                                                                                    I think they don't want them to break. Worst thing I broke in a bag (a backpack) was a pot of honey!

                                                                                                    The SAQ (government booze shops in Québec) sells cotton wine bags with dividers - they are also useful for other small, breakable items such as the aforementioned honey jar.

                                                                                                    I always take a cotton bag or two when I go shopping, and in general there is one in my shoulder bag. Usually the wine bag inside a larger one.

                                                                                                    I have also lived in Europe, so I guess I'm simply used to setting out with a shopper bag or two.

                                                                                                  2. c
                                                                                                    chef4hire Feb 12, 2008 08:10 AM

                                                                                                    I use my own bags as much as possible. I hate that everything falls out of the plastic ones and winds up rolling around in the car. As far as paper bags...I hate those for another reason.

                                                                                                    When I worked in a grocery store (1st job, 16, high end store) we would watch bugs fall out of the pallets of brown bags when the warehouse guys moved them. Something about they liked to eat the glue in the seams. I'm not saying all bags have bugs...but just the thought creeps me out.

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: chef4hire
                                                                                                      r
                                                                                                      Rick Feb 12, 2008 09:07 AM

                                                                                                      I've always wondered why the "green" people seem to choose paper if they didn't bring their own bag. I always thought the making of the paper bag along with the tree it took would be worse than plastic.

                                                                                                      1. re: Rick
                                                                                                        rockandroller1 Feb 12, 2008 10:26 AM

                                                                                                        Because the paper ones can be recycled. Some recycled content makes them reusable and the rest biodegrades. People who choose them are the type more likely to recycle. "Recycle" does not mean I use them again when I go back to the store again or that I use them for trash or kitty litter and then it goes in the landfill. It means actually repurposing the content. You can't do that with the plastic. They wear out pretty quickly and then there's little to do with them but throw them away, and then they go to the landfill. Or more likely, the neighborhood trees and streams and hills, which is where I see them.

                                                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                                                          danna Feb 12, 2008 10:53 AM

                                                                                                          I'm no expert on this, but the reading I did this morning indicated that plastic bags can indeed be recycled, and more efficiently than paper. I did note that the actual RATE of recycling was less for plastic,however.

                                                                                                          Further, you seem to indicated that recycling is a higher use than re-using. Isn't it better to reuse? Assuming you would have bought a trash can liner anyway, you have saved the costs associated w/ making the can liner, plus you don't incur the energy usage required to recycle. I think that's why they say "Reduce Reuse Recycle" in that order.

                                                                                                          1. re: danna
                                                                                                            x
                                                                                                            xanadude Feb 12, 2008 11:02 AM

                                                                                                            Plastic bags can theoretically be, but since they clog sorting and recycling machines, they're usually banned from mixed recycling programs like the one in SF. That said, there are bins to recycle them at many grocery stores.

                                                                                                            1. re: danna
                                                                                                              rockandroller1 Feb 12, 2008 05:25 PM

                                                                                                              Where I live, there are basically no places to recycle the plastic bags. Maybe if this were common everywhere, and all the plastic bags were recyclable, I wouldn't have a problem. But in my midwestern city, I think I've only seen one place. But it's not just the GROCERY that gives the bags. Every store at the mall, every drug store, every takeout restaurant. Those businesses are not paying whatever extra to get plastic bags that are made out of recyclable plastic, and the few occasions I've seen the recycle containers for plastic bags, they are only "certain kinds" and not the kinds that most retailers seem to carry. I've had the misfortune of getting plastic bags at the grocery when I didn't have my ecobags with me and when they were "out" of paper, and the bags are completely worthless. Re-use? You can't even get ONE use out of them, they break before you get them to the car, and often you have 2 or 3 for ONE item like a chicken. What a waste. And then to have to find the one store that actually takes the bags back and doesn't have a bursting-full container of them, it's just not very feasible or probable for the consumer. We can't even get consumers to bring their own sturdy, nice, re-usable bags to the grocery, you think they're remembering to take out the huge stash of plastic ones in their kitchen and drag them out to the car and then to the store? No, they just throw them in the trash when they're done. Ever look across the street from a Wal-Mart? That's where I seem to see the most bags, like people just throw them on the ground after they've gotten their purchase into or near the car. They littered the woods so bad by the Wal-Mart I used to live near that I used to regularly go out on my own with gloves to collect the trash, it was awful.

                                                                                                              Re-use means nothing unless you're going to do it for a long period of time and then and when you're done with it the matter will biodegrade. If you re-use your plastic bag for kitty litter or whatever, it still goes in the landfill and doesn't biodegrade. It's no better than one use, except for you, because you're getting 2 uses out of it. If you re-use your paper bag until it's no longer usable and then recycle it, it continues to be re-used or the waste is put somewhere where it can biodegrade, not a landfill.

                                                                                                            2. re: rockandroller1
                                                                                                              Jennalynn Feb 12, 2008 03:04 PM

                                                                                                              When I do forget my cloth bags, I take paper.

                                                                                                              And I do use it for trash... but only paper trash... then the whole shebang goes into the recycle bin.

                                                                                                            3. re: Rick
                                                                                                              m
                                                                                                              miss_bennet Feb 12, 2008 01:10 PM

                                                                                                              Also, paper bags are from a renweable resource. Yes, it can be difficult, but trees are more renewale than oil.

                                                                                                          2. linguafood Feb 12, 2008 09:28 AM

                                                                                                            Well, that's why the smart decision is to use neither plastic nor paper, but cotton. They last forever & are sturdy. Mine are always either in the car, and after I have brought them in from shopping, they go right on the door handle for the next time I leave the house. Easy.

                                                                                                            1. Xiao Yang Feb 12, 2008 11:02 AM

                                                                                                              My local Trader Joe's is now using "compostable" plastic bags made from corn and yes, they are edible, cllaimed the clerk when I asked him. This is in San Francisco, which has outlawed conventional plastic bags for retailers over a certain size.

                                                                                                              1. n
                                                                                                                nosh Feb 12, 2008 11:32 AM

                                                                                                                I am sensitive to environmental issues. I believe that even small changes that an individual or single family institutes can have huge effects when multiplied over a population. But before reading this thread, and now especially after, I am unconvinced that paper bags at groceries have a beneficial environmental impact over plastic. Sure paper seems more recyclable, but it also costs trees, which can be regrown... Paper bags are MUCH heavier than plastic, bag for bag, but they can carry more, but then those darn handles rip off. And few have discussed another aspect of the equation: Paper bags are sturdier, but aren't waterproof, thus the "paper in plastic" preference which I reluctantly admit is my usual preference.

                                                                                                                My rationalization: I ask for the paper in plastic, but I make sure they are filled to their and my limit so I never use more than two. I then use the bags as wastepaper bags -- I never buy the Hefty or other brand garbage bags, which are expensive and much thicker plastic. I also make sure that I recycle all of my newspapers, magazines, cans, and plastic bottles. But even that requires extra gas for the heavier car trip to the recycler. I do my best, I try to balance responsibility vs. guilt.

                                                                                                                I am more concerned about the bigger wasteful items. My milk comes in big plastic cartons that are opaque and not the grade that the recyclers will accept. My OJ comes in coated cardboard cartons that also aren't recyclable. I don't even buy the 8-packs or 12-packs of plastic-wrapped groups of cardboard boxes enclosing plastic innards as so many single-serving stuff is overpackaged. I use a Brita filter rather than buying packaged, processed water.

                                                                                                                Everything has a consequence, and some of those are indirect and unintended. If stores stopped providing both bags or charged enough for them, yes, I could adapt to bring in my own cloth bags. But then I'd have to buy the garbage bags for my kitchen waste and the cat box.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: nosh
                                                                                                                  l
                                                                                                                  lagatta Feb 12, 2008 12:24 PM

                                                                                                                  We are required to use the standard trash bags for our waste (including cat poo), the city no longer accepts the little grocery bags. Of course if you can use them for waste that is a different matter.

                                                                                                                2. m
                                                                                                                  mmuch Feb 12, 2008 12:46 PM

                                                                                                                  just wanted to raise my hand in this conversation. BYOB. I HOPE it becomes more mainstream soon. A friend of mine said the same thing to me..that I"m one of "those people". I guess I am, but am happy to be! :)

                                                                                                                  1. manraysky Feb 12, 2008 01:18 PM

                                                                                                                    As mentioned by another poster, San Francisco banned plastic bags in grocery stores recently. I have honestly been amazed at how quickly the grocery stores have adapted to people bringing their own bags.

                                                                                                                    Before the ban, when I would bring my own cloth or reused paper bags to Safeway, it did seem like it slowed things down a bit. I definitely had to stop the bagger from putting my stuff into plastic bags anyway. I sometimes felt like I was getting the evil eye from the people behind me for slowing up the works, even though I was bagging my own stuff. But now the process is really smooth, and the cashiers seem to look for the bags that customers bring in before using new ones. It's great.

                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: manraysky
                                                                                                                      d
                                                                                                                      dolores Feb 12, 2008 01:51 PM

                                                                                                                      Hmmm, manraysky, maybe you're right. I think I'll try it your way next time I'm shopping. I know the local supermarket was giving away some green cloth bags recently. They might be the better way to go after all.

                                                                                                                      1. re: dolores
                                                                                                                        manraysky Feb 12, 2008 02:00 PM

                                                                                                                        Give it a shot! Once you get used to it, it's really easy.

                                                                                                                        1. re: manraysky
                                                                                                                          BarmyFotheringayPhipps Feb 12, 2008 02:17 PM

                                                                                                                          Our greengrocer here in Boston has only very recently gotten into the swing of having customers bring in bags: as recently as last summer, we absolutely flummoxed a bagger there by having our own bags, but now there's no problem, and we see other people in there with their own bags too.

                                                                                                                          Also, I now totally have "Feeling Gravitys Pull" stuck in my head.

                                                                                                                          Shaw's, one of our local supermarket chains, has reusable bags with Simpsons characters on them. We have one or two of those, and also some bags we've picked up in other cities just for the novelty factor of them saying "Cub Foods" or "Dominion" instead of Shaw's or Stop and Shop.

                                                                                                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                                                                                                                            l
                                                                                                                            lagatta Feb 12, 2008 03:38 PM

                                                                                                                            Oh, I'm surprised about that, I thought Boston would be pretty much the same as Montréal.

                                                                                                                            Yeah, I'm one of "those people". Old hippie? (I don't mean I smoke dope any more).

                                                                                                                            1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                                              optimal forager Feb 12, 2008 05:32 PM

                                                                                                                              I would have thought, as well, that Boston, as a major college town, would have been on the forefront of this. Maybe I'm thinking more of Cambridge.

                                                                                                                              1. re: optimal forager
                                                                                                                                BarmyFotheringayPhipps Feb 12, 2008 09:39 PM

                                                                                                                                I live right in the heart of Boston's student ghetto, and I almost never see students use reusable bags. But that's at least partially due to the small fact that a large subset of college students in Boston are...well, morons. Seriously, BU has to put it in their orientation booklets that students should not try to walk across the Charles when it's frozen over. I truly wonder how people who need to be told something like that managed to pass their SATs.

                                                                                                                                1. re: optimal forager
                                                                                                                                  jgg13 Feb 2, 2010 09:35 AM

                                                                                                                                  In terms of the antics of the college students, there really isn't much difference between the ones in Cambridge and the ones across the river in Boston. The whole peoples republik thing tends to apply more to the older crowd in cambridge.

                                                                                                                      2. v
                                                                                                                        Val Feb 12, 2008 06:19 PM

                                                                                                                        Yep, I bring my own cloth bags. Years ago, I would re-use paper bags until they started to fall apart and I still keep some doubled paper bags folded up in the car in case I forget my cloth bags. I rarely see others using green bags here in Naples, FL. The challenge for me is putting the green bags back into my car after unpacking in the kitchen.

                                                                                                                        1. t
                                                                                                                          twh1475 Feb 12, 2008 08:39 PM

                                                                                                                          I have been using reusable bags for some time, however I do use the plastic bags provided at the meat counter, to contain any juices that may leak out of meat packages. I guess I worry too much about cross contamanation.

                                                                                                                          Tim

                                                                                                                          1. cayjohan Feb 12, 2008 10:02 PM

                                                                                                                            After reading various replies to this post, I want to say this: let's ALL use re-usable bags for a month. Preferably our canvas totes. Secondarily re-usable paper. Let's post about it. Even more than HAS been posted. It IS important to do this.

                                                                                                                            Cay

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: cayjohan
                                                                                                                              Gio Feb 13, 2008 04:04 PM

                                                                                                                              As I noted above, we've been doing this for years in the Boston area. Our children as well. I cannot bear to see plastic bags flying in the tree tops as we drive up & down the turnpikes around here. The canvas totes are sturdy, hold a lot and launder beautifully...without shrinking!

                                                                                                                              1. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                cayjohan Feb 15, 2008 06:02 PM

                                                                                                                                Gio,
                                                                                                                                Agree.

                                                                                                                                Cay

                                                                                                                            2. k
                                                                                                                              Kagey Feb 15, 2008 03:24 AM

                                                                                                                              Sorry if someone already mentioned it, but I think Ireland has now gone totally plastic-bag-free in its supermarkets. The rest of the world can't be far behind.

                                                                                                                              Anyone who thinks bringing your own bags causes a commotion or a delay at the register is just being silly. And seriously, are there still people out there who refuse to bag their own groceries (I'm not talking about markets where they have baggers, just people who stand there and wait till the cashier scans everything, then stand there and wait while he or she bags everything)?

                                                                                                                              I started using my own bags a little while ago. I have a combo of cloth bags and more heavy-duty plastic shopping bags that I got from purchases long ago. I found the hardest thing was remembering to keep a bag in my work bag/purse at all times, for those unexpected trips to the supermarket on the way home from work. A little tote bag weighs almost nothing and doesn't take up much space.

                                                                                                                              Also, for larger shopping trips, it's good to remember to bring more than one bag. One huge bag may be able to hold everything, but can become way too heavy to carry!

                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: Kagey
                                                                                                                                linguafood Feb 15, 2008 10:30 AM

                                                                                                                                Yeah, that's why we have about 5 or so canvas tote bags. That's usually plenty to stash our groceries. And they are either kept in the car, or hung over the door knob so we don't forget them. Nobody has ever complained, be it people at the register or other customers... I admit, I've gotten pretty fast at bagging. We always tell the cashier right away "we brought bags", and that's that. Easy.

                                                                                                                                1. re: linguafood
                                                                                                                                  v
                                                                                                                                  Val Feb 15, 2008 03:20 PM

                                                                                                                                  I usually just lay the bags on top of the beginning of my order...at Publix here in Florida, they WANT to give you plastic so badly, so badly that most cashiers will greet you with "Will plastic be alright?" <shuddering>

                                                                                                                                2. re: Kagey
                                                                                                                                  im_nomad Feb 15, 2008 04:16 PM

                                                                                                                                  while i don't consider myself a "refuser".....for the most part, i don't bag my own groceries unless i'm in the "ten items or less" line, or the auto check, and therefore i have to. Besides which, they usually just start doing it to quick (which is why people sometimes have to act quick to get your own BYOB in front of them ). Most checkers scan and bag, scan and bag...they don't wait til the end. I put my own bags in the cart.

                                                                                                                                  Seriously...while i know checkers don't get a lot of money for what they do....they don't even have to key in the prices anymore...if they don't bag, all they do is stand and move their arm back and forth all day.

                                                                                                                                3. PDeveaux Feb 15, 2008 03:27 PM

                                                                                                                                  I didn't see where anybody mentioned Publix and Wal-Mart. They are both selling the reusable bags and there is never a "commotion" at the checkout. We just recently purchased some reusable bags. We, like a couple of other people mentioned, take the bags back out to the car the next time we go out so they're always available. Publix also has recycle bins for styrofoam, plastic bags and paper bags. Not sure what they do with them, though.

                                                                                                                                  1. m
                                                                                                                                    Morticia Feb 15, 2008 09:50 PM

                                                                                                                                    Having spent a lot of time in Europe, where BYOB is the norm and stores actually charge customers for bags, I always always always bring my own bags to the stores. It actually SAVES time at the register, in my experience, as I can bag my own groceries while the clerk is ringing them up. I have 4 canvas tote bags, and I keep extra clear plastic produce bags (that I reuse) inside them, so when I go to the store, I never have to waste any more plastic than needed. I have also travelled in the third world, and believe me, when you see how many plastic bags are drifting around the streets and beaches of Asia, you would never use another bag frivolously again!

                                                                                                                                    1. d
                                                                                                                                      Deborah Feb 17, 2008 01:35 PM

                                                                                                                                      In my city in Canada, bringing your own bags is so common that most stores now sell reuseable bags and I get .10cents off my grocery order for using them.

                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Deborah
                                                                                                                                        a
                                                                                                                                        AnneBird Feb 17, 2008 01:49 PM

                                                                                                                                        Someone mentioned BYOB might be a regional thing, and it seems they are right! Canada, Ireland, Europe was mentioned- if they can do it, I see no reason why we can't.

                                                                                                                                        As an update, I've been carrying a pack (the bags I bought fold up into this tiny envelope-like-packs) with me everywhere, and I've been getting lots of compliments on them!

                                                                                                                                        Going to the grocery store was not bad either! I had the bags open and ready to go. I placed them on the line before any of my items, and neither the cashier nor the bagger seem to mind! I think I will definitely look into getting some more bags so that we can have all of our groceries bagged in re-usable bags!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: AnneBird
                                                                                                                                          linguafood Feb 17, 2008 01:52 PM

                                                                                                                                          AB -- welcome to the club :-D!!!

                                                                                                                                      2. v
                                                                                                                                        vousami Jul 21, 2008 12:34 AM

                                                                                                                                        I'm new on chowhound and am reading over the posts on reusable bags - I'm a cashier at a general store (we sell everything from groceries to building supplies) - and cashiers have to bag whatever comes through their lines- prior to working here I had a couple bags and if I remembered them great and if not so what but now I really try hard to- is it a little more work to pack it into a BYOB bag - sometimes - but only a minute or two more - and the amount of bags it saves - and what it does for our environment is worth it- a normal cartload of groceries can take anywhere between 5 and 15 bags depending on what is being bought - in a reusable bag it will take between 2 and 5 - and they don't end up in a landfill - so as a cashier and a bagger - please bring your own bag - even if you see the bagger having trouble - cause some don't know what to do - just jump in and help them bag - it saves so much in the long run!

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: vousami
                                                                                                                                          grayelf Jul 21, 2008 11:13 PM

                                                                                                                                          I do most of my shopping on my way home from work, so I keep two mesh bags in my napsack that have handles long enough to go over my shoulder. It's rare I need another bag, but if I do then it's the Chico bag mentioned by soupkitten upthread that is stashed in my purse for "shopping emergencies." I have a number of great looking reusable totes that I've collected, including a super one from BiRite in San Francisco and an insulated bag from Les Amis du Fromage (who BTW have outlawed plastic entirely at their two cheese shops). These totes get pressed into service when I have to do the "big" shopping in the car once a month: TP, cranberry juice, laundry detergent etc). I keep them all in the utility closet and have gotten good at remembering them when I head out on the weekend.

                                                                                                                                          A couple of observations: if you do end up with paper bags, they work really well in the composter when shredded (we always need "brown" material in ours). And a hidden benefit of not carrying plastic bags is that your knuckles don't get mangled!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: vousami
                                                                                                                                            m
                                                                                                                                            Morticia Dec 19, 2009 08:02 PM

                                                                                                                                            I'm really happy to see your post, as I also bring my own bags religiously (I can't stand the waste that I see everyday at the supermarket) - and I always help to bag my own groceries, too. It's simple & easy, and I think that every American should follow the lead of our European brothers & sisters, and carry our own shopping bags with us or be charged $1 for each bag provided by the store. This would go a very long way toward resolving that giant plastic waste vortex in the center of the ocean...let's all pledge to do this as a New Year's Resolution for 2010!

                                                                                                                                          2. s
                                                                                                                                            shuvah Dec 19, 2009 01:14 PM

                                                                                                                                            Tell your friend to get a grip on reality. Has she seen photos of plastic bags that have been blown to the most remote parts of the earth? Does she realize trees are not an unlimited resource? Bringing my own bags is faster, and just all around better.

                                                                                                                                            1. l
                                                                                                                                              lgss Dec 19, 2009 04:16 PM

                                                                                                                                              We bring our own bags most of the time. Other tips? Cloth napkins, and reusable lunch bags are easy and chowhound relevant.

                                                                                                                                              1. s
                                                                                                                                                soonerhound Dec 19, 2009 08:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                BYOB causes a lot less "commotion" and delay than people who still wait until they are finished purchasing, write out a check, and then enter the purchase in their ledger... I sometimes feel like time is standing still when I am behind that person.

                                                                                                                                                I have been lazily BYOB for a couple of years now, but am working to make it more of a habit rather than something I have to remember each trip to the store. Sounds like a good resolution.

                                                                                                                                                1. t
                                                                                                                                                  taos Dec 20, 2009 03:54 AM

                                                                                                                                                  This thread was started nearly two years ago and things have changed, I think, since then. BYOB seems more common in most parts of the U.S. with some stores even giving monetary incentives to customers who bring their own bags.

                                                                                                                                                  I always bring my own bags and if I'm at a store that has handheld scanners that you carry around with you, I bag the purchases as I go. Then when I get to the checkout, I just return the scanner and pay. It saves a lot of time.

                                                                                                                                                  I use my own bags, or no bags at all, everywhere. No has has ever stopped me.

                                                                                                                                                  Also, it probably goes without saying that you don't need to buy the newest branded bag from the store you're shopping in. Many of these are also made from non-recyled polypropylene so when you buy them you're purchasing something made just for this use from a non-renewable resource. . Why not use something you already own, though I have found that for carrying groceries it helps if the bags have a flat bottom and long loop straps you can put over your shoulder.

                                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: taos
                                                                                                                                                    q
                                                                                                                                                    queencru Dec 20, 2009 03:59 AM

                                                                                                                                                    I agree completely. I recently read that Florida is considering a plastic bag surcharge because the plastic bags have such a detrimental effect on wildlife when people leave them behind on beaches or parks. I haven't seen any stores that have handheld scanners around here. Just out of curiosity, how common are they in your area?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: queencru
                                                                                                                                                      t
                                                                                                                                                      taos Dec 20, 2009 04:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                      I live in New England have seen the scanners only at Stop and Shop which is the largest food retailer in the area.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: queencru
                                                                                                                                                        jfood Dec 20, 2009 05:18 AM

                                                                                                                                                        the hand scanners at S&S are great. You can bag as you go and the items go in the "correct" bag.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: taos
                                                                                                                                                        c
                                                                                                                                                        Cachetes Dec 20, 2009 04:14 AM

                                                                                                                                                        That was precisely my thought when I read the OP just now - that things have changed a lot in these past two years. BYOB has become mainstream (not prevalent yet, just much more common), so much so that you can now see people getting out of their huge gas-guzzling SUVs with their bags in hand as they head into the grocery store. When they make a bag that can accommodate a case of individual serving water bottles, they'll be all set!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Cachetes
                                                                                                                                                          e
                                                                                                                                                          elvirabarker Dec 20, 2009 10:16 PM

                                                                                                                                                          I love my reusable wine bags. I have some that will hold 6 bottles of wine and one that holds 4 with a section in the middle for other groceries. Without these bags the wine would either be put into a wine box that holds 12 bottles or else would be put into a single plastic bag per bottle and then put into another plastic bag with two bottles of wine. Btw, sometimes the plastic bags broke and created a huge mess.

                                                                                                                                                      3. greygarious Dec 25, 2009 03:14 PM

                                                                                                                                                        It is really interesting to see how quickly common practices can change, one the tipping point is reached. Now, reusable bags are sold at virtually any cash register, regardless of the type of merchandise the store carries.

                                                                                                                                                        I usually remember to bring my bags but now and again I purposely don't, because it's useful to have a few plastic ones on hand for various purposes including waste from produce prepping, tying up styrofoam meat trays so they don't stink up the garbage, and carrying prepared food to gatherings. Without them, I'd be buying small trash bags, which wouldn't break the bank - either way, there's a certain number of small bags that most households will continue to need and want. Hopefully, non-leaking and strong, but bio-degradable, bags will become commonly available and affordable in the future. I have brown paper bags in the car, bathroom, and kitchen - to hold the paper and plastic recycling until it goes out to the weekly curbside recycling container.

                                                                                                                                                        1. Rojellio Feb 1, 2010 06:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                          Tip to be greener... Re-use a good old fashioned Kraft Paper sack. Those re-usable ones that say "look at me" have a carbon footprint thing of having been shipped from China. How green is that exactly??

                                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rojellio
                                                                                                                                                            BarmyFotheringayPhipps Feb 2, 2010 10:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                            I have market bags that are still going three and four years after I bought them, and that's daily use. Show me the paper bag that can withstand that and we'll talk.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                                                                                                                                                              Rojellio Feb 2, 2010 09:20 PM

                                                                                                                                                              I happen to prefer not having the carbon footprint thingie of shipping it from China. I might also wonder how green Tyvek is, and how much more pollution we are outsourcing to China. Plus the 5 cent Paper bag is free if you ask nice. The $1 ones are made from the same stuff DEVO's hazmat suit, only slightly stronger. I happen to have a DEVO hat, and a tyvek suit.. I just prefer good old fashioned paper when it comes to bags.

                                                                                                                                                              As for fabric, I would prefer that Canvas fabric were actually made from Canvas.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Rojellio
                                                                                                                                                                BarmyFotheringayPhipps Feb 2, 2010 09:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Good for you, but you're either ignoring or failing to understand my point:

                                                                                                                                                                I can use a "free" paper bag maybe two or three times. I can use one of the Evil Horrible Chinese Bags for two or three YEARS. So on a per-use basis, the Evil Horrible Chinese Bags shred the Sainted Holy Paper Bag in terms of carbon footprint, even though they're imported, evil, horrible and Chinese.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                                                                                                                                                                  Rojellio Feb 3, 2010 07:38 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  I get it. You like the tyvek bags. I prefer old fashioned kraft paper. Unfortunatly my paper bag is not made of Canvas {hemp} fiber. When my bag wears out, I throw it in my compost pile and apply a special urea nitrate solution to it.

                                                                                                                                                                  China is not the evil and horrible country in the pollution outsourcing scheme. I have to sleep at night, so I prefer that I outsource as little pollution as possible.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Rojellio
                                                                                                                                                                    Jennalynn Feb 3, 2010 08:26 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    You could sew some nice bags out of clothes you no longer wear.

                                                                                                                                                          2. greygarious Feb 2, 2010 08:32 AM

                                                                                                                                                            Since someone revived this thread, I'll take the opportunity to mention that Joann's Fabrics, a national chain, sells flat-bottom re-usable bags (I think they're the same $.99 as in the grocery stores and elsewhere) that are at least half again as large as the typical re-usable bag. I prefer lugging a couple of these up from the car than 3 or 4 smaller re-usable bags. They are strong enough to carry at least 20#, and the straps are just long enough to carry on one's shoulders.

                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                                                                              v
                                                                                                                                                              Val Feb 2, 2010 08:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                              I'm with you, GG...love a larger, really strong cloth bag with shoulder straps. There are times in the store when the checker will say "Are you SURE you want the bag that heavy?"--heck, yes. One of my green bags touched a hot pot the other day and burned a hole in it (some of them are made of a woven micro-fiber, I guess) , so I might go to Jo-Ann's this weekend. I do appreciate the tip!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Val
                                                                                                                                                                greygarious Feb 2, 2010 09:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Although you might think that the bags sold in a fabric store would be a better cloth, Joann's bags are also the dark green microfiber. I didn't realize they melt easily, so thanks for that info. I once considered making bags from an old bedspread but realized the bags wouldn't stand upright as the storebought ones do. I have also seen people using VERY large, colorful print bags at Costco, which had the Costco name on them, but I never noticed them on display and neglected to ask - they were NOT sold at the registers, which would have been the best place for them.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                                                                                  v
                                                                                                                                                                  Val Feb 2, 2010 11:08 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  I really do LIKE the microfiber...they wash so nicely and require NO time in the dryer ... at all! And, that bag I melted a hole in--I've had it for 3 or 4 years now and the straps have never broken which amazes me! I still have the bag...I'll use it for larger items that won't fall thru the hole...LOL! It will still serve me well!

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Val
                                                                                                                                                                    m
                                                                                                                                                                    Meann Feb 2, 2010 03:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    Duct tape!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Meann
                                                                                                                                                                      v
                                                                                                                                                                      Val Feb 2, 2010 04:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      You know, Meann...that is a VERY good idea...or crazy glue!!!

                                                                                                                                                            Show Hidden Posts