Me Against the Plastics

Say yes to canvas

Say yes to canvas

A few years back, I announced my commitment to using my own tote bags for grocery shopping.  Last year, I also turned to shopping at local farmers market more after having watched Food Inc., which for me means the one at Alamitos Bay in Long Beach on Sundays.

This market, because of the proximity to the water, does not allowed the use of plastic bags.  Paper only over here except for the pre-bagged salads and other veggies, the salad vendors, the fish mongers, and the bison guy.

One lady who sells mushrooms eventually stops supplying us with paper bags altogether. “Even with paper, you’ll still throw that away eventually,” she said.  So she’d either bunk your purchase with other produce you’ve already bought, or you have to bring your own.  I now stash a few paper bags I saved from other vendors in the pouch of my wheeled duffel bag/cart thing for her.

Last weekend, because of the Long Beach Grand Prix, I didn’t even want to go near that side of town.  So, I went to check out the new farmers market on Clark and Spring instead.

My friend has warned me that this market has less produce but more food, merchandises, and entertainment.  I knew what I was going in for so I left the rolling cart/bag in the car and just shouldered my tote.

Music blasted from a van parked by the bouncy house.  Okay then. More of a fair than a market. But alright.  Then, the train almost ran me over.  Passenger kabooze towed by a golf cart, I guess.  I thought originally was for kids but it turned out to be people mover.  To move people from one end of the parking lot which wraps around this office building to the market itself. Seriously? People can’t WALK around the building?  At Alamitos Bay, I see people walk the lot end to end. Not a train in sight.

So far, this wasn’t promising.  But I was committed.

What surprised me the most, however, was the plastic bags offered by the vendors.  I was so used to the paper bags that the appearances of plastic was jarring.

My eggs came in a reuse foam egg container, not the paper crate held together by rubber bands.  Again, not I was used to. But kudos for reusing the foam container.

The worst offender that way was the salad and herb guy.  Obviously, the pack-your-own-salad greens would have to go into a plastic bag–a clear plastic bag for food but about the size of the bag you carry off the loot from Target.  My meager salad selection filled only a quarter of the bag.  I added a bundle of thyme to my purchase the last minute, so I asked him to just go ahead and throw that in my salad bag.  He put the thyme in another plastic bag the same giant size and put THAT in my salad bag.

I had a feeling that if I asked him to remove the thyme and save a bag, he’d just chuck into a trash can anyway.  So I just got my stuff and left.

Only 2 years into my switch to reusable bags, I found myself staring at people loading up their grocery carts with plastic bags. A mild loathing bubbles up inside me when I see people buy one easy-to-carry item and take it out in a bag.

And here’s a guy who used giant plastic bag to hold a tiny bundle of thyme to put in another giant plastic bag for me without even batting an eye.  Even the mushroom lady even admitted that not only her not giving us bags an environmental responsibility, it was also a good business sense for her–no bags wasted.  This guy was just giving away his plastic bag farm.

That was the final straw for me for that farmers market.  I am not going back.

With all my ranting here, I am still not completely living bag-free.  I still take bags from Target when I go shopping there instead of bringing in my own which we save for around the house use like lining our bathroom trash bins or packing shoes for travel.  We try our best to not bring home more bags than we need to.

It is such an easy habit to pick up, using reusable bags.  With all the free bags people are giving away these days, there are no lack of supplies for bags. Heck, I have to donate half a dozen away recently I had so many.  The trick was to remember that you have them.  For the longest time, I’d put them on the back seats of my car so I would remember to use them.  Once I get into the habit of taking the bags in with me, then I moved them to the trunk.  It is now second nature for both Brandon and I.

However, refusing to accept unnecessary bags is harder.  Telling people you DO NOT want bags takes a little more courage and getting used to.  You’ll have to first be assertive about not wanting a bag and not be embarrassed when asked, “Are you sure you don’t want a bag?” or the awkward “Oh, I don’t need a bag, here take it back” bag removal.  It’s only a bag. Don’t let people make you guilty for doing the right thing!

In a larger scheme of things, what I’m doing is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to taking environmental responsibility.  But I’m doing my part nonetheless.

Now, your turn.


  1. divacowgirl   •  

    The farmer’s market on Spring/Clark is super close to my house. I’ve tried it twice, but I don’t like it. The parking at the one down in the Marina is getting worse every week. SInce I haven’t been working I’ve been going to the one in cityplace on Fridays. A lot of the same vendors that are in the marina on Sundays are there.

  2. MazingAmy   •  

    I’ve been on the bring my own bags bandwagon for about 18 months. When I forget them and get plastic in store, like you I use to line my bathroom garbage can, for doggie poop bags when I run out of the recycled plastic bags the pet store sells, etc. It drives me nuts that Trader Joe’s uses those huge old fashioned paper bags.

  3. oakmonster   •  

    I saved a bunch of those paper bags for transporting potluck stuff. Works out well. I don’t mind if I have to toss them if they’re dirty. But I totally understand ya.

  4. KU   •  

    Plastic bags are ubiquitous in Thailand. But surprisingly, when I tell vendors I don’t need their bag, they don’t make me feel quilty wa. Instead, most of them say, ‘thanks ka’! Platinum vendors are also the same.

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