The City of Toronto has reinstated a plastic bag ban in all local shops and stores. Implemented as a sensical strategy aimed at eliminating the harmful impacts of plastics on the environment, relearning to shop with cloth bags requires some adjustment time. Similar to relearning new or neglected wellness habits like choosing heart healthy foods, shopping without plastic bags is like an exercise in healthy habit formation.
In fact, you may have noticed that you need to plan to have a bag or two before you venture out into local stores. The type of fabrics used to create your bag may shape your preference as well. Some bags are easily folded into smaller sizes so that they can be tucked away into your purse or pocket without taking up much personal space required for other items. Other bags are large and made with materials that can withstand the heavier weights of canned goods or heavier items commonly purchased in grocery or household shopping. Taking some time before you shop to plan your bag situation is reminiscent of the planning stages required when creating a new health habit. Habits are not spontaneous at the get-go, they also require thoughtful planning at the beginning.
At this point, you probably have some semi-permanent hiding spots with a bag on the ready. For spontaneous jaunts into a local store, you likely have a bag kept in every portfolio, purse, glove compartment, or trunk of your car. Having some bags that fold easily are essential to those of us who walk to local stores. It is not so much that you are worried about paying the extra few cents per bag, but more the amount of cloth bags you may acquire over time. You may not actually need the amount of bags you have amassed to date. Donating some of your bags to local food banks or charities is an environmentally friendly way to share your stash of shopping bags.
Over time, some of the bags do begin to suffer some wear and tear, so replacing older bags with newer ones is also important. Many local stores have their own cloth bags with corporate branding on them. These bags work well and are especially incentivizing when discounts are applied while using the branded bag in the store like at Old Navy. Although purchasing these brand-bags may cost more money in the short term, the regular discount offers savings over the long term.
Developing a new habit works in a similar way. You may find there is a short term cost to doing something new like a loss of time, or increased costs, but over the long term, the new health habit pays off in the end. Learning to cook for heart health may be timely and costly for example, but the long term health benefits are undeniable. You might also find that you grow weary of the same types of foods overtime, and that your diet requires some exciting new changes or updates compliant with heart healthy approaches. Being creative with your health habits help to sustain them over the long term.
Serious shoppers who enjoy walking to stores might consider investing in fabric or cloth portable buggeys for larger purchases. These buggeys are lightweight and easily pulled along behind you. So, stacking your new health habits is also a good way to reinforce your compliance to bringing your own bag! Your buggey will reinforce your decision to walk to shops from time to time.
The next time you need to pick up a few items, and you have not prepared for a bag, remember that we are all relearning this new healthy habit together for the sake of our planet. Creating new habits are challenging, but so worth it in the end.
Lisa Romano-Dwyer, BSC, MSW, Phd, RSW