The Price of Convenience

Two weeks ago, we decided to stop using plastic or paper bags from the grocery store. We got some nice, sturdy, reusable bags that are relatively inexpensive from the grocery store.

Current behavior
Our behavior was to make a list, jump into the car and tear halfway through Ann Arbor to the grocery store. Then laden with about a dozen plastic bags we trudged back to our car. In contrast, I always remember my mother taking a large bag before she went grocery shopping. Grocers in India expect you to show up with your own bag. Of course, that has changed over the years and plastic bags are available everywhere and supermarkets in India are like supermarkets anywhere else.

American sales clerks are rather liberal with the use of bags and in their offers to use more bags. They always want to double-bag the milk container. I can see why, but do it really need them? I use the bags for about 30 seconds to load them from the cart into the trunk of my car, and then again for another 30 seconds to unload them back at home. Every week, we ended up with a litter of a dozen plastic and paper bags and I wondered if there was any justification in using a dozen bags for less than a minute to justify the convenience (read: or laziness) to not bring our reusable own?

Interestingly, when I visited my friends in Germany I was a little amazed as they began to packing the small stuff in their purses and backpacks. The concern for the environment is perhaps more in Europe because they are affluent and overpopulated. Americans have such ubiquitous resources and abundant space that they are yet to feel the pinch.

There are reasons to do it apart from the obvious tree-hugging ones.

1)The bags are larger than plastic bags and hence you can carry more stuff per bag. It's a real pain to carry nine bags when you can stuff all of it in six.

2)The bags are sturdy. What plastic bags are notorious for is giving up on your when you are halfway up the stairs by tearing and out tumbles the jar of salsa.

3)The bags look cooler and don't make one of the most annoying sounds in the world: people fiddling with plastic bags

How hard is it to change behavior?
Last week, we actually forgot to take the reusable bags to the car before we set off. I cringed at every plastic bag that we ended up using. That was rather instructive. Changing the habits of the past is harder than you think. I expect that the personal and private embarrassment of last week will affect future behavior.

Hopefully, the planet and we will be a little cooler next week.
Changing the world, a bag at a time.


Ajeeth said...

The flipside to this is what I have to deal girlfriend and I buy the cloth reusable bags and always forget to take them with us and over time she's managed (somehow, I never buy these bags) to collect 35 reusuable bags. Please tell me if you want some, i will send them to you.

Hirak said...

Excellent point! As I said, in my next post this is worse than actually using the plastic bags. In In my experience too it's really hard to change behavior to remember to take the bags.

Once stores start charging for the bags and you start feeling the monetary pinch, there will be an incentive to remember to take the three dozen bags you have collected.

Anonymous said...

Hey,there is a simple solution! Just keep 4 big reusable extra bags in the car all the time & whenevr u remeber add extra one to that.that way u won't exhaust all of them!
\next time i see u,i am going to give u a beautiful market bag from Canada & if u like pets then i can give u the one which has a cat & dog posing together with a word "peace".I feel that is sort of cute!
Again,who am i?Guess!