15 June 2010

It all began with Canada

Back when I lived in Canada, which was a really long time ago, in 1992 or 93 or something like that, I found out that at the liquor store, which is provincially run and called the LCBO, at least in Ontario — like in that Sloan song (listen below), where they say something about “on the way to the LC”, (though I never actually otherwise heard that expression the whole time I was in Canada, Sloan, with their earnestness and their pop song on the radio (this is before they became a 70s band with a light show) convinced me that somewhere in Canada, there were youth saying such things) — they had reusable bags for a loonie. And that was really cool. I’d never seen anything like that before. They were these fairly high-quality, reasonably attractive, eminently smooshable cloth bags, and they were only a dollar! I mean, think back to 1992 or 93, or whenever it was. You couldn’t buy a cheap bag. The weren’t on every corner as a readily-available impulse consumer item. You had to go to the bag store, and buy a bag. And it was probably going to say something dumb on it, too.

So, back when I used to go to the liquor store in Canada, which I did quite a bit, being, at that time, a avid consumer of martinis and other cocktails requiring mixing and a store of plentiful ingredients on hand, they had these bags. So, I picked up a few. The designs changed from time to time and I collected them all. Ok, like 3 of them.  And it was really great, because I could put my heavy liquor bottles in them and not have to deal with a breaking paper bag while walking home.

I still have the bags. And they’re still really handy. And I just used one at the grocery store and it was very convenient.

Nowadays, 18-some-odd years later (really?! It’s been that long? How the hell old am I?) even in many countries less progressive than Canada, such as the United States, you can get reusable bags pretty much everywhere. So, there’s really no reason to use plastic or paper bags that they give out at the store. In fact, some states, like California are attempting to make the regulations stricter — in San Francisco, Oakland and Malibu they already use only corn-plastic bags, which is a great step, although there’s some debate as to whether the corn-plastic material really biodegrades properly in typical compost settings. But that may be too serious a topic to discuss right now.

Eventually, and hopefully soon, the practice of giving out free paper and plastic bags at all stores will just go away. It will seem as archaic as, oh I don’t know, well, something really unreasonable. Something where people dig really far into the earth, make a big mess, ruin their surroundings, kill plants and animals, extract oil, make it into a cheap material, create billions of bags out of that material, give them out everywhere, constantly, to be used for about 1/2 an hour and then put into a pile of refuse somewhere to not rot for millions of years while further disturbing the plants and animals and looking awful. And so, you might as well get used to the bagless lifestyle now.

And when I say “bagless”, I don’t’ really mean “bagless” (nor do I mean “bagels” which spellcheck insists I do mean), I mean, bringing your own. I know it can be kind of a hassle to remember and to have bags on hand at all times — for example when you think you’re just going out for a walk but find you desperately need soy-pudding or something along those lines. Here’s how I manage to have bags on hand. And this took me a long to figure out.

How I handle this bag thing

First of all, I have several bags that smoosh up really tiny itty bitty. Most of them I got for free at conferences or trade show type places as schwag. One, that’s really great is is Baggu brand, and although I lost the little pouch thing it came in, though capacious when unfurled, it smooshes up pleasingly compactly and fits nicely into this tiny pocket of my purse-type-bag. (Check out their site… these things come in terrific colors, including stripey!) I almost always have that one with me, except when I forget to stuff it back in the purse-pocket after unloading it.

Then I have a couple other ones that I got recently at An Event Apart as an Aquent giveaway. They’re from Chico Bags and they’re they’re not as capacitous, but do come replete with a small carabener fold back into their own little integral pouch — and such things are always pleasing. Indeed, for a recent trip I purchased a Sea to Summit day bag which folds into its own pouch and is super lightweight and micro-tiny. It’s completely awesome. And, though he has thusfar restrained himself to just zip-off legs, my gentleman friend has talked, rapturously, for years, about the pants from REI (or is it EMS? Somehow, searching for “pants pouch” did not lead me to my expected results!) that fold into their own pouch. But I digress. I was going to say, these bags are great to clip on to one’s backpack or bag and to generally have on hand at all times — especially when traveling about the world by foot and public transport. And Chico Bags make a whole line of other things too… the Sling bag looks especially appealing to me. And they use recycled PET bottles to make their fabrics… that’s very cool.

The car trick

Then there’s the car. If you have a car. The trick here, I’ve discovered by trial and error, is to have a lot of bags. Especially if you have better things to do with your brain than remember to bring bags out to your car (or are flakey, or both). You need to have so many bags that even if you fill up a bunch of your car bags, and bring them in the house, and don’t remember to bring them back out, you still have more. My hatchback trunk area thing (boot, caboose, whatever you want to call it) is quite full with totebags of all shapes and sizes. I don’t even know how many. Zillions. Twenty. Twenty-five. And I cycle them in the house, out to the car. It’s handy to have them in the house too — because you can, you know, carry things places.

So what I do is: when I come into the house, I try to empty any bags that have come with me. Then I hang the empties on the front doorknob. This seriously irritates my gentleman friend, who does not like obstructions in doorways, but it does help me remember to take them back out to the car next time I go. So, that’s the secret. Once you hit this critical mass of bags, you always have one handy. And I’m not advocating buying bags all the time, or spending a lot. But, you get them for free places… people are always giving out totebags for this and that reason these days. Very trendy.

And, despite inflation elsewhere in the economy, you can still pick them up for a dollar at lots of places — when you do forget yours, until you reach that critical mass. That’s how I got a lot of mine, when I was always without a bag and had to punish myself in stores for forgetting them by buying more, rather than getting a free paper or plastic bag.

My campaign

So I was thinking of making some badges that say “bagless” (and by badges I mean buttons, pins, whatever) and starting a bit of campaign and to celebrate the whole not-asking-for-a-bag-at-the-store lifestyle — but I do think it might be kind of confusing. The whole having a bag that says “bagless” on it. Maybe that doesn’t make sense. Maybe I’ll just imagine making these badges for now. Ok, sounds good. That’s all.

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