Saturday, August 30, 2014

My problem with "reusable bags"

This is how it happens.  I am at the grocery store.  

Finally, miraculously, with my 2 year old daughter in tow, I am finished shopping.

I get to the check out line and realize I have no cloth bags with me.  I stare at the clerk as she readies her stockpile of plastic bags.  I calculate how many of those bags she is going to use on my purchases.  10? 15? Does she really have to double bag everything?  I consider the possibility of juggling my purchases home.  Or simply abandoning them on the counter.  But then I glance at my daughter as she ogles the candy display, and decide I have to get realistic.  And I have got to get out of here.

So I reach to my right.  Where I can happily buy a few brightly colored reusable bags for 99 cents each.  "What's a few dollars for the environment?" I tell myself.

But somehow it never quite sits right.  Either way, disposable or reusable, my stomach churns.   

Because there is something wrong with a disposable plastic bag.  But there is also something wrong with a reusable bag that costs a dollar.  Or 59 cents.

It's too cheap.
I want to know who is making these bags.  And how much their workers are getting paid. 

Because what on earth is the value of my "going green" so that I can support sweatshops?  

Still, stuck in that line, wavering between disponsable and "reusable" I choose reusable.  I promise myself I will really re-use this bag.  I will hang it by the door, and remember it next time I go to the store.

But sadly, this bag is utterly forgettable.  More likely than not, this bag will be stuck, like a dozen similarly colored bags, in a drawer somewhere I never quite remember.

So what is one to do?

I don't have any easy answers, but it strikes me that maybe this is part of the problem.  Maybe real bags don't belong in the checkout lane next to tabloids and cheap candy.  If I can buy new "reusable bags" every time I am at the store, something has gone wrong.  Maybe we have made "going green" just a little too cheap and easy.  Maybe all those "eco-friendly bags" are still far too forgettable and expendable.   

I would like to issue a challenge today.  Buy one of our stunning new SHONA shoppers.

 Yes, at $20, they aren't that cheap.  But this is a real bag which will carry your groceries for years to come. Do we really want it to come cheaper?  These bags honor the real work it takes to handcraft them in one of the most war torn regions of the world.  They are beautiful, durable, and they come with amazing stories behind them.  Leave the tag on and tell someone the story.


Because here is the thing.  These bags, and the stories behind them, are unforgettable. They are the bags you will not only remember to bring with you, but you will look forward to it.  And isn't that the point?  Buy a bag you will remember.

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