A couple of years ago I resolved on something life-changing. I am so happy I did it. I can’t remember if it was January, but I do remember that it took me a long time to truly change a life long habit. I was at the Dollar Store the other day, and the cashier expressed his surprise when I pulled out my reusable shopping bags.
“Are you from California?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I just trained myself to use these. It was really hard to go against the way I was raised,” I joked.
Joking aside, it took more persistence than I expected to change the habit. A couple of things made it possible, so I wanted to share a few of them.
First I decided that I would take the approach I learned about from a stop smoking program. It said, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit. Quit again.” I discovered it’s easier for me to do something hard if I allow myself to fail at it over and over before I succeed. When I started, I left my shopping bags in the back of my car, and I don’t know how many times I walked into the store without them. I finally figured out that if I mentally associated the produce bags as my warning marker, that helped me cue “plastic bag avoidance.” Since I usually go to the produce section first, I felt less stupid going back out to my car because I hadn’t filled my cart by the time I remembered. I don’t know how many times I had to make myself turn around and go back out to the car, but after a series of those walks I finally remembered to get the reusable bags before going into the store.
Bags I Liked
I have a dear long-time friend who totally gets me, and one Christmas she gave me several small re-usable IKEA bags, like THESE.* I loved them instantly. They folded up so small, and they fit right in my purse. Purse carrying women are really at an advantage in this resolution. (That doesn’t mean men can’t make it happen, of course.) Since those first few bags I have also bought a few more to add to my stash. They are very sturdy, and I haven’t had to throw any of them away yet. I even bought a bunch of sets of constellation ones on Amazon* to do a giveaway for marketing at my work. The bags were a hit, and we had more entrants than usual in our drawing.
Before I resolved to avoid using single use shopping bags, I used to throw grocery sacks full of wadded up used bags away on a regular basis. I hated doing this every time. Since my efforts to use only reusable bags, I have run out of plastic bags a couple of times. My family is still working on avoiding single use bags, and sometimes I end up forgetting my purse. Still, Forgiveness, right? Better to try than to do nothing.
Do you ever read the news and just want to give up? I have been reading about the devastation in Australia currently, and the koala situation alone is enough to make me want to take a week off of reading the news—not because it doesn’t matter, but because I can’t handle it. Whenever I think about these environmental problems, I ask myself, Can I really do anything about that? I can’t fly to Australia. I’m not a trained firefighter. I can donate money to organizations who can do something, but donation is limited by my need to feed and shelter myself and my children.
When I avoid using plastic bags, I feel like I am DOING something. At the grocery store today they gave me a 5 cent credit for each bag I used. That incentive would not motivate my five year old to pick up his dirty clothes off of the floor. When I use and reuse my bags, the benefit is intangible. I feel good. I may not be doing everything. But I am doing something. It is very small, but it’s better than nothing.