In the past when you bought groceries, the bagger asked you, “Paper or plastic?” and that’s how you carried them out of the store. Those bags often ended up in landfills, or cluttering up your home. The world has changed and we realize now that reusable bags are an environmentally friendly alternative. Many of us have accrued a collection of these reusable bags – but don’t use them.
How do you get in the habit of using your own shopping bags? By building a routine, step by step. Creating a new habit takes time – and motivation. You will need to force yourself to develop this new practice by being diligent and maybe imposing a consequence. Here is what I did to teach myself to bring my reusable bags into the grocery store – every time:
Keep your bags – IN YOUR CAR!
First gather all the reusable bags you have and store them in a box or bigger bag – in your car! I use a bag that is so big that it would be way too heavy to carry if I put my stuff in it. All my reusable grocery bags fit in here and it keeps them contained in the car. Look around; you probably already own something that will corral all your bags so they can live in your vehicle. Duplicate this step for each vehicle in your household.
Make sure you have plenty of bags.
I have about 20. Some were purchased for $1.00 and others were free promotional bags. But for me, having an abundance of shopping bags is key. This way, if they are not returned to the car immediately (or for a week or two), I still have plenty to pull from. This keeps my habit development from being interrupted.
You have your bags. Now, how do you remember to bring them IN to the store?
Create a consequence (negative) or a motivation (positive) to keep yourself accountable. I started by writing “BAGS” down on my grocery list. Normally I look at my list before I go in the store, but if I was in the checkout line and realized they were in the car, I went back out to get them. I stayed committed to this for several weeks, even in the rain or when I was in a hurry. It didn’t take long for me to remember at the entrance to the store, and I would turn around immediately and go back for them. One of my clients rewards the child who reminds her about the bags by letting them pick out the fruit for that week’s lunches. (I LOVE this idea for so many reasons!)
Be consistent and it will become a habit.
Now, I automatically reach for my bags before I get out of the car. Developing this habit took some time (and many, many trips back out to fetch them). Do I ever find myself at a checkout with no bags? Yes, of course. My husband doesn’t keep bags in his truck, so I’m out of luck if I borrow his vehicle. When I go to a new store or get distracted, that trigger to remember my bags doesn’t always kick in. I am not perfect. But 95% of the time I have my bags with me when I walk into the grocery store.
Modify or build on your new habit when necessary.
My town recently imposed a ban on those thin, flyaway, plastic bags in larger stores of 3,000 square feet or more. These businesses have changed to paper bags or started handing you back your items without a bag. It’s astounding to realize how automatic it had become to expect a bag when buying lip balm, or batteries. This new change has prompted me to revise my routine to now include the drugstore, Home Depot, etc. I added some smaller bags to my car’s collection, started writing myself a reminder with my to-do list, and will start again to force myself to go and retrieve them. For extra motivation, I decided to write this blog post. It would be mortifying to have someone believe that I don’t practice what I preach.