Change is widespread this time of year. The weather is getting colder, the trees are quickly losing their clothing, the produce quality at the grocery store is diminishing… And that’s not all that is changing at the marketplace. Since November 6, plastic bags for customer use at the checkout have ceased to be present. The intention is to encourage shoppers to bring their own bag or pay ten cents for a paper bag. Most European cities have charged for bags for years but the US has been a little slow to get hip to this. Now Ashland is the fourth city in Oregon to pass a bag ban, and states and towns all over the US are moving in similar directions. In fact, California and Rhode Island have both passed statewide bans!
I’m guessing you’re leaning one of two ways about this change. Either “What?! But I use those bags in my trash can and for picking up after my pet!” OR “Fantastic! Reusable bags are great!”
I, personally, have been an active own-bag-bringer for some time now so I am excited to see the establishment of this new law. I do sympathize with those who may feel put off by it. Fortunately, carrying your own bag can be easy, fun, economical, stylish AND earth-friendly.
Whichever way you feel, here are some tips for Bringing Your Own Bag.
Trust in your bag!
I’m sure everyone has found themselves, at one time or another, faced with way more items than intended and no one to help carry all the bags inside. Sure, you could take multiple trips. But let’s be honest here, no one really wants to do that. One of the major advantages of reusable bags is that they are capable of holding so much! What would normally be a 3-bag trip, is easily done in a single bag. If that’s not incentive to not forget your bag and end up throwing away 10¢, I don’t know what is. Get a reliable, sturdy bag with rigid sides as an all-purpose shopping bag. You’ll feel comfortable carrying multiple glass bottles next to a cake. Long straps make heavy bags feel less cumbersome. Find one that is machine washable (let it air dry) or easy to wipe clean to enhance reusability. My favorite all-around bag is from the Ashland Food Co-op. It’s not machine washable, but it is made from a sturdy plant fiber and has a slick coating on the inside which makes it easy to wipe out if something happens to stick around. It’s great at the Farmer’s Market when I’m usually walking away with plants and berries, and it’s great for holding everything I need for dinner.
Keep it handy!
I keep a Chico Bag in my purse at all times so I don’t get caught without a bag on spontaneous shopping trips. Mine packs down small, about the size of an avocado, and can carry a lot. I am often surprised by how much I can manage to squish in there. Plus, you can find Chico Bags for sale at just about every checkout stand anywhere.
Be proud of your bag!
Find a bag that makes you happy show off. I often get compliments about my snazzy bags so it excites me to use it! Get yourself a bag that fits your personality and you’ll never feel silly whippin it out. Prize in downtown Ashland sells a wide selection of Baggu bags, one is sure to suite your fancy.
Get creative with it!
Some of the best bags I’ve ever seen are homemade, “upcycled” bags. I’ve seen bags made from crocheted plastic bags, soda can tabs, basketball shorts, and pillow cases. Have an old t-shirt laying around begging for a new life? Turn it into a shopping bag! Can you crochet and are looking for a new project? Make a bag exactly how you want it. Do you like to sew? Follow a pattern and get supa fancy and creative.
If you still feel overwhelmed by this commerce shift, have no fear. The bag ban is [currently] only in effect in Ashland, so you can still shop in Talent, Phoenix or Medford and get your beloved plastic bags. Some plastic bags will still be allowed under the ordinance, including those used to package bulk items, produce, meat, frozen foods, potted plants and other damp items, hot prepared food and liquids, unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods, prescriptions and dry cleaned clothing. If you’re not excited about spending ten cents on a paper bag, well, go return your bottles and cans and take up a paper-bag-fund. Oregonians are estimated to use more than 1.7 billion bags a year, too many of which end up as pollution in Oregon’s waterways, like the Rogue River, and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. Plastic pollution is especially harmful to wildlife, killing thousands of birds and marine animals every year. Local plastic bag bans keep more disposable plastic bags out of our waste stream and away from our waterways, thereby decreasing the threat posed to wildlife. Plastic bag bans in these four Oregon cities are estimated to keep nearly 272 million plastic bags out of our waste stream annually.
If you’d like to read more about the ordinance details, you can do so on the City of Ashland website here.
Ashland Emergency Food Bank is seeking donations of reusable bags to give out to customers who visit the food bank. Paper and reusable bags can be dropped off at the food bank, 560 Clover Lane, during operating hours from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and the first Saturday of each month, and from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month.