Single bag it or go canvas all together

On the way back from my recent grocery adventures, I was sitting on the bus and a woman sat down next to me with two paper bags, doubled up, carrying her groceries from Safeway. She looked over at me with my bags and asked, “Where did you get those big canvas bags? They only sell the small ones now.” It’s true, my bags: massive. My reuse: nearly endless. But the bags I carry (below right) are somewhat hard to find now. This point was further driven home by one of the lesser Whole Foods employees (keep in mine that the best of breed there can’t get hired at an art store) said, “Wow, these are like the old Whole Foods bags. I mean, like, the really old ones.” “So? They work still work great after five years. Some day I might even wash them.” “But, they’re just soooo old.”
This cud chewer was one of the league of people that is of course missing the point in using canvas bags. They aren’t for fashion; they’re for sustainability. I can reuse them until they literally fall apart. Given that they’re still solid after five years and if I don’t wash them in our destructive top loading washing machines, I’ll probably get at least another five years out of them. Given that when we still had plastic in San Francisco I would use about four bags or more a week in groceries, that’s 16 bags a month, 192 a year, and easily over 1,000 plastic bags I’ve not used just by returning with two canvas bags for five years. While I only use maybe two paper bags, because they double bag everything, then that’s easily about 1,000 paper bags I’ve saved if I had been using paper instead of plastic and not been using the canvas bags at all.
Here’s a nasty question about our SUV-mentality in this country: Why is everything double bagged? When I was growing up, I looked down on people bringing their own bags to the store. I was in fact conditioned to do this as it’s what they supposedly did in Communist countries due to a shortage of bags (I later found this out to be one of the few true things in American Capitalist Propaganda) and so, because we lived in the great US America, we didn’t need to do this. Only old people brought bags to the store. But the one thing that was different between when I was a kid and now was that a) everything was bagged in paper and b) double bagging was something that had to be asked for. Obviously, I’ve come around to the utter waste of getting new bags at the grocery store every time, but the one thing I cannot get past is how double bagging is the norm now. If the bags are so weak, then why not just make them twice as thick. And if I buy two watermelons, is there the possibility of triple or quadruple bagging please?
When waiting in line at a Trader Joe’s a few months back, I realized that my head was in the clouds and I had forgotten my bags at home. I watched the woman in front of me have her salad mix, tomatoes and bag of celery (maybe 2-3kg of food) be double bagged. I asked the cashier why they just automatically double bag everything to which she barked at me, “Because we just know the customers who want double bags and so we do it automatically. I assume you’ll want single bags?” She was outright pissed at me for asking what I feel is a very valid point. It’s ridiculous that in today’s society of more environmental awareness that I have to specifically request to have a single bag when during the grossly wasteful 1980’s, that’s all you got in the first place.
But back to the canvas option because really, that’s the best way around this whole mess. They’re even better than synthetic bags as they biodegrade and I believe they last longer than any of those plastic mesh bags that places like IKEA try to pawn off on you as the “green” alternative. It seems to be tough to find the bags that work though. I spend $16 apiece for the canvas bags that I bought at Whole Foods. It’s a bit pricey for something that allows them to have me advertise them all around town, but I was in to it in order to save trees/landfill. There are better options these days, especially since Whole Foods only seems to want to sell these dainty things that I’d need at least 10 of in order to haul home my weekly feeding trough needs.
These bags are clever, albeit quite expensive due to this being a Cafe Press store. These bags are damned cheap, big, and plentiful. Something like that is the route I’d probably go. It also used to be the case that if you supported a public television like KQED, you’d get a pretty kick ass bag that was better than just about anything I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if those are around anymore due to the organic foods mafia wanting to control the canvas bad market. But, if you can get one with a donation to a public organization, you’re being doubly awesome in one action.
However you go about it, in the end it’s all about being sensible and saving bags, right?
Single bag it or go canvas all together