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Take the Pledge: Say No to the Bag


While many of my neighbors are grumbling, I’m celebrating.   Our county, Montgomery County, Maryland, recently passed a bag tax to encourage consumers to bring their own bags to the supermarket by asking stores to charge customers 5 cents for disposable bags.

Plastic bags are littering our waterways, strangling wildlife, and increasing our demand for oil (plastic bags are made from petroleum). (For more on the problem, click here.) When I’ve grocery shopped lately, I’ve noticed so many more people are bringing their own reusable bags, and many markets sell or give away inexpensive bags to encourage customers to use them (and gain a little free advertising in the process.)

When I first started using reusable bags, I had a hard time remembering to bring them into the store. Now both of the supermarkets where I regularly shop, Trader Joe’s and Chevy Chase Supermarket, have posted signs reminding shoppers to bring the bags in from the car. (Tip: I recommend returning the bags to the car as soon as you have unloaded the groceries.)

I’ve become so anti-bag that I’ve gone a step further and have started bringing reusable bags on all my errands. I even keep a bag like this in my purse in case I run an unexpected errand.


One of my pet peeves is that the clerks at many stores don’t ask customers whether they need a bag for their purchases before giving them one. I believe this simple step, which some stores have adopted, would greatly reduce the number of bags that need to be produced and are later added to landfills or blow away and become litter. After all, when you buy one book at a bookstore or a pack of gum at a drugstore, do you really need a bag to carry it?

Scramblers, if you agree with me about the need to reduce our disposable bag consumption, will you join me and “Say No to the Bag”? If so, take the pledge on the Scramblog by leaving a comment below, and tell me how you have reduced or plan to reduce your use of disposable bags. Thank you for joining me in trying to clean up our precious planet!

18 thoughts on “Take the Pledge: Say No to the Bag

Great blog post, Aviva. This is something we all need to think about.

One thing people need to remember is that reusable bags must get washed and dried after being used. Recent studies found serious bacterial cultures in such bags after just one use. Think of all the things that leak or shed crumbs and you can understand why.

So, if you’re going to take the pledge, make it include being healthy and safe, and wash and dry those bags. In fact, turn them inside out after drying to make sure no moisture gets left in your bag. It’s one more step to a healthy future, both for the environment, and for yourselves.

Oh, and btw, that includes reusable water bottles, too. They need to be cleaned periodically and well dried.

Safe and happy new year everyone!

Diana Belchase

Jennifer Lee says:

Great reasons to ban the plastic! You’ll like this infographic which summarizes exactly what you’re saying.

Those Chico bags are fabulous. They make it really easy, because half the time I forget to bring my own bag! These ones clip into your purse so I rarely forget…and am often happily surprised to have my own bag :)

Colleen says:

I LOVE my Chico bag! I get lots of compliments when I use it, too!

Jocelyn says:

I agree completely! Also, once I got into the habit of bringing my own bags it has been so much better because most are much stronger, can carry more, and don’t flop over in the car like plastic bags. You can even get the insulated ones for your fridge and freezer items. It is very easy to use your own bags where I live- San Francisco- because every store clerk asks you if you need a bag. Now I have one in my purse all the time so I don’t end up with unnecessary bags. Oh- and the Whole Foods in our neighborhood gives you a credit (5 cents per bag) for bringing your own bags or will make a donation (5 cents per bag) to a selected local charity. So you get to feel doubly good for reducing waste and making a donation at the same time.

Karen C says:

I have a zillion reusable bags and my biggest problem is remembering to put them back in the car! But I 100% agree with the bag tax. I completely agree that a simple “Do you need a bag with this?” would save so much waste. Even if I forget my reusable grocery bag, I nearly always have my work bag with me which has plenty of room for that book, pack of gum, or even a few groceries in it.

Sabrina says:

I love the tax idea! I wish our area of PA would do that. Love your site, by the way. I will pass it on to my organizing and small business clients. =)

Kate E. says:

I think it is wonderful and an area where other countries are way ahead of the US. It’s about time that we catch up on protecting our environment! I love the idea of the tax revenues going to clean up costs that Ansu John mentioned. People get upset about bag taxes because they feel their freedom is getting taken away, but what about everyone’s freedom and right to a clean environment? Our beaches are getting worse and worse. How many of us want future generations to be able to enjoy the same treasures of nature that we got to enjoy? Bringing your own bag is a small price to pay to preserve that freedom for all!

staci ericon says:

I want the instructions on that recycled bag crochet project. It would be great for my girl scout troop!

Ansu John says:

The County’s Bag Tax directly redresses the litter problem created by plastic bags in County streams. The County’s streams which flow into the Anacostia River are full of plastic bag litter (determined by year-long empirical studies at trash traps in 2008-2009). This is being regulated by the State’s water quality protection laws (under the Clean Water Act) so that the County is now required to remove 622 pounds of trash per day which currently flows into the Anacostia River. The County spends $3M tax dollars on clean up of litter countywide annually and costs are only projected to increase. Bag Tax revenues go directly to clean up costs (into the Water Quality Protection Charge). Those who bring their own bags will now not be paying for the clean up costs.

cindy says:

I use reuseable bags. But sometimes I forget them on purpose so I can score some free bags to scoop kitty litter into. I don’t see the point of taxing something like this. The social pressure seems intense enough.

I’d much rather see a huge soda tax.

Karen says:

I live in Montgomery County but work in DC. DC put a bag tax (5 cents each) in place a year or so ago. I forever forget to grab a reusable bag, but that’s my problem, not the environment’s. So I pay the 5 cents when I have to, and just go bagless when I can. (Most of what I’m getting is lunch, not a whole set of groceries.)

I hope our grocery stores put up signs like Aviva mentioned. I will suggest it to the managers. It would REALLY help to have a reminder clearly visible before I’ve gotten more than a step or two away from the car. After that, re-coralling my two DSs is just not worth it. :)

A lot of places are giving away re-usable bags. I got a ton at a health care workshop day (all the insurance companies offered one with their ‘buy us!’ stuff inside – tossed the paperwork and kept the free bag).

Donna says:

People getting together and deciding to make a difference is great. I personally use reusable bags, but the government taxing citizens to make them behave a certain way is dreadful. That is a government that has overstepped it’s bounds and it’s ashame when American citizens don’t recognize when their freedoms are being slowly taken away.

Jennifer says:

You’ve got to be kidding. A bag tax???? Is that really the answer? I agree with the sentiment, but taxing the people in yet another way is not going to help. This change should come FROM the people, not be forced ON the people. Get out there. Spread the word. Encourage people to bring their own bags. Stores could even offer a small discount for customers who bring their own bags. All of this is good. But the government? Imposing a tax? I don’t think so. Bad move.

Linda Wolpert says:

You rock, Aviva! It’s not hard to get used to bringing bags into the store; just keep them in the car. And those little chico bags are great to have in a purse as an emergency back-up.

JoAN says:

Yeaa for environmental responsibility! I also refuse bags. But in the case where they are unavoidable (bread bags, etc.) I wash them out and crochet into reusable bags. They are simple to make, flexible, water resistant, and really cool. All my 10 grandchildren even want one.

Denise says:

I agree that it’s important to reduce our use of plastic bags, and I have been using reusable bags at the grocery store for years. However, I still like to get some plastic bags at the store because I haven’t found a better way to deal with used kitty litter! Can anyone suggest a better way to do that job without plastic bags?

Kimberly says:

My pet peeve is a clerk that turns their nose up at you and REFUSES to use my bags because it is more work for them than using the ones on the hooks.

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