Yes, we’ve all done it. We try to be good, refuse plastic carrier bags at the checkout, buy a snazzy new ‘bag for life’ instead made of canvas or hemp or recycled materials like a good, conscientious consumer, and then the next time we get to the checkout, where is it? Sitting on the kitchen table or in the boot of the car, along with 23 other ‘bags for life’ that had to be bought to replace the last one you left at home/in the car/on the bus.
So, your trolley is full and the checkout assistant says: “Do you need one of our 5p bags?” (You know, the single-use plastic ones that will end up at the back of the drawer with all the other ones) “Or would you like to buy a Bag for Life?”
“No!” You think to yourself. “I can’t possibly buy another bag for life. I’ve got 23 of them on the kitchen table!” So you hang your head in shame and whisper: “Could I have a 5p bag, please.” And then, if you’re British, you add the word “Sorry” and try to leave the supermarket with the shiny, single-use, seabird-strangling plastic bag under your coat.
STOP!! It doesn’t have to end this way. We can change the story very easily so that it has a happy ending – Aaahhh! And we can do it like this:
The next time you find yourself at the supermarket without your trusty Bags for Life, have a look near the tills to see if there are any cardboard boxes. These are always free, supermarkets have loads of them and, once you’ve got your shopping home, you can recycle them. And if there are none near the checkouts, ask for some. Anyone who has ever worked in retail will tell you that the one thing they are never short of is cardboard boxes.
This can work in markets, at the greengrocers, delicatessen, in fact pretty much anywhere that sells food. Just lift your head fearlessly at the checkout, and when they ask you: “Do you need one of our 5p bags?” say proudly, and without fear of shame: “No thank you. Do you have any cardboard boxes?” If it’s a sunny day outside, you might even get a round of applause from your fellow shoppers – but only if it’s sunny because people are generally in a better mood then.
You can even try this in other kinds of shops, even clothes shops. They all get at least some of their wares delivered in boxes. Of course, it’s a lot harder to carry a cardboard box than it is to carry a couple of plastic bags, but the weight of your shopping will be the same, and most of us these days don’t walk too far with our shopping anyway.
And for all the real men out there who say: “Bags? I don’t need no stinking 5p bags. I shall carry this trolley-load of groceries out of here in my pants before I carry a plastic bag like a girl!” That would be interesting to watch, but think just how big and strong you’d look carrying a big cardboard box full of tins and bottles and razor blades down the street.
Of course, if the shop you’re in doesn’t have any boxes left and you really can’t carry all your shopping home in your pants, then make sure the first item on your next shopping list is BAG FOR LIFE and you might not leave it on the kitchen table/in the car/on the bus next time!