One small step for reusable bags …

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Food and Drink, Robbie White, Tips, Waste Management | Posted on 27-03-2009


by Robbie White 

I believe in small steps when changing behaviors. My latest battle has been reusable bags. It all started for me when I started riding my bike to the grocery store on occasion to bring home a few items. 

I feed three growing kids, so provisioning my kitchen is no small chore. The bulk of  my grocery shopping cannot be done on a bike. Neither, however, can it be done well at a big box store. It is a subtle balance of healthy and sustainable. I have written about this before in my Fresh Greens post, Mothering Sustainably.

As I stated then, I do spend a good deal of time on the issue of feeding my family — like all mothers and fathers since time began. In addition to theactors of cost, health impact, organic quality, hormone/antibiotic presence, and environmental impact, by riding my bike to the store, I add in the space factor. How much can I pack onto my the baskets of my bicycle? Besides all of that, it makes me smile to ride to the grocery store! I feel a sense of joy in a menial task as well as the satisfaction of my car sitting in the garage!

The biggest change our family has made is to stop buying two weeks worth of groceries at once. Instead, we focus on a few days

worth. When my husband and I ride our bikes to the store together, we can pick up enough food to last a few days. We have to be thoughtful and avoid too many impulse purchases but it can be done if you pack the groceries into reusable bags of the right shape to fit right down into the baskets on our bicycles. For me, that means canvas totes from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. They are sturdy enough to hold anything and they fit into those baskets perfectly. You can even tie the handles over the top to secure the food inside for the ride home. 

A couple of weeks ago, I rode my bike to the store. I had a short list of things my family needed and the weather was absolutely beautiful. I set out with two tote bags. What I did not

realize was that my son had given me a list of snacks he needed for a club meeting at school (three bags of chips and two boxes of cookies). I eyed the growing bulk in my basket uneasily. What was I going to do with those huge bags of chips? I braved on thinking that I could make two trips if needed. The light was fading fast, however. So, I packed up my purchases and wheeled them out to my bike. I wish I had a picture to show you but many of my neighbors had a good laugh that lovely evening as I rode home with three bags of chips tied on top of two tote bags on the back of my bike—thank goodness for those long tote bag handles to secure them. The pile rose well above the baskets swaying with each revolution of the pedals. I made it home, chuckling at how pleased I was to have made it home in one trip with all those bulky chips. I did make a mental note to bring along one of my children for extra bicycle storage space the next time I am asked to buy snacks! 

The point of this silly story is that trying to accomplish this short ride to the store with thin disposable plastic bags they give out at stores these days would have been a disaster! The reusable bags are the right tool for the way I shop now. It is that simple. When I am not limited by the number of bags I brought with me, I buy more stuff than I need. It is the same when I drive to the store. I just buy more when I know that I don’t have to fit it all into my bicycle baskets. There are times when that is appropriate. 

The challenge with reusable bags is having them with you when you need them. I have begun keeping a few in my car for quick stops at the drug store or wherever.

My best tips for actually using the reusable bags are:

  • Put them where you actually need them (in the car, on the bicycle, etc…)
  • Go back to the car to get them when you forget (this is hard).
  • Be really nice to the hard working cashiers and sackers who struggle with the myriad shapes and sizes of reusable bags.
  • Smile when you use your bags!!
  • Be sure to get yours from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

Comments (1)

I would add to the tips: My husband and I always bag the groceries ourselves. Of course, it helps to have two people available to do that.