BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag

Kathleen Shaw - Contributing Writer
Posted on Wednesday 1st July 2009

Thanks to a variety of inexpensive, trendy and accessible reusable totes, cutting down on plastic shopping bags has never been easier, or timely, for that matter. As cities across the U.S. consider legislation to add a tax on shopping bags and some retailers choose to do so of their own volition, now is the time to pick up a few reusable totes. Allow me to make a few recommendations from my personal collection:

The IKEA bag

This IKEA bag is amazing for big jobs. If you’re going to drop off donations at the secondhand store or you’re lugging home a week’s worth of groceries, especially if you live in a city and walk or take public transportation, these are the best. Even though they are huge when opened up (you’ll be amazed at how much you can stow in there) they roll up to a manageable size that can tuck into your purse or bag when you are done. The bag also has both shoulder straps and handles, so it’s easy to pick up and easy to haul. The shoulder straps are great because you can distribute weight on your whole body instead of dealing with the loss of circulation in your fingers that comes with plastic bags.

The in-store option

A lot of places sell their own inexpensive reusable bags. Though this is most common in grocery stores, I’ve seen it in bookstores and once even a cosmetics store. These bags are usually medium-sized and conveniently located near the checkout. If you are out shopping and have forgotten your own bag or ended up with more stuff than you thought these bags are usually cheap enough to buy and use right then. These can also fold up to fit in your everyday bag.

The closet tote

This is the bag you already have, but never use and sort of forgot about. Maybe you obtained it at a promotional event or a conference and just never got rid of it. The great part of this one is you already have it, so it’s free. I have a couple like this that were given to me but I never would have used them as an everyday bag. For grocery shopping, the bag you already have is great. The only drawback is that these bags tend to be canvas or nylon and have pockets and zippers, so they don’t fold up as easily to stuff in another bag. These are better for pulling out for a planned trip.

There are many designers and different brands making fashionable, storable versions of the reusable shopping bag. Whatever you use, it is a good idea to have an extra with you, either in the bag you carry or in the trunk of your car. This way you won’t feel restricted if you want to make a quick stop or guilty for ending up with plastic shopping bags. Another tip, if you’re forgetful like me, is to carry your everyday stuff in a messenger bag, tote or big purse with a little extra room. This way if you are unprepared and make an unexpected stop, you have a place to throw in those last minute purchases you didn’t know you’d be making.

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