Grow a Reusable Bag Habit This Earth Day

Reusable bags are beautiful, functional, and a really impactful way to help halt plastic pollution. So why don’t we all use ‘em?

The EarthWays Center staff poses this question whenever we educate companies, classes, or visitors about recycling. The #1 answer we hear is: I can’t remember to take my bags when I go to the store.

Get the Reusable Habit-Forming Bag

Take heart, dear memory-challenged reuse wannabes. The Missouri Botanical Garden has the solution for you! When you join or renew your Garden membership this year, we’ll give you a gloriously colorful way to cultivate an impactful habit.

This kind of sturdy nylon bag has a wee storage sack sewn right into itself. When stuffed, you can tuck it into your backpack or purse to always have a bag on hand when you check out at any store. When you unpack it, stuff it right next to your wallet and keys. Before you can say “environmentally preferable” you’ll be remembering your reusable bag and ready for more advanced bag actions.

Best Bag for Your Big Buys

For stock-up shopping, you need a bag that will tote the load without any strain on your arms or back. The serious, ergonomic bag will feature:

  • Extra-long straps, for an easy shoulder-carry
  • Canvas or other sturdy fabric construction
  • A double bottom, to guarantee no bag breakage

Joyce and Rob from the EarthWays team model this option. The logos on these bags show they were made for an event in 1994. Rob is holding one that’s new; Joyce carries one that is worn, but still hauling strong, after 25 years!

Can Reusable Bags be Fun?

You bet your planet! A good bag makes a great gift, and a smart gift-wrapper. Let these artisan bags inspire you.

  • Sew Sack Sew, a crafty St. Louis enterprise, repurposes the banners displayed on the Garden’s Ridgway Visitor Center. This elegant bag promoted Garden Glow.
  • A treasured present from artist friend Liza Fishbone came from her stint on the paint crew at The Muny. She created bags from painted canvas scenery. This bag was “wallpaper” in the parlor of Marian the Librarian in the Muny production of The Music Man.
  • The lightweight bags given away at stores and events come in every color. These freebies can be transformed with fabric scraps and a little simple stitching. Bags of beauty, DIY!

Why Should We Bother? Why Should We Care?

Plastic bag waste is 100% preventable! Worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are consumed every year, nearly 2 million each minute. Adopting just one reusable bag saves 1,000 plastic bags.

Changing our habits with single-use bags can cultivate sustainability with other high-impact food-related single-use plastic stuff. How could a set of reusable ware carry your lunch or enhance your picnics?

When You Do Get Plastic Bags, Recycle Responsibly!

Plastic bags should never go into your home, school or workplace recycling bin. Bags mixed into single-stream recycling lock up the equipment in recycling plants, endangering workers and cutting productivity in these facilities. Take your bags right back to the store where you got them. Your bag recycling can include grocery bags, produce bags, bread bags, dry cleaner bags, shrink wrap, bubble wrap and those air-filled plastic pillows packed into online orders.

Bag recycling programs are a win-win-win for consumers, businesses and the environment! This convenient special recycling system was launched by companies that use plastic “film” to manufacture new products, especially the kind of plastic lumber that’s great for decking, railings and outdoor furniture. Garden visitors can enjoy the view from our Ridgway Center on handsome benches made from bags.

Earth Day You-Can-Do

  • Commit to the habit of reusable bags!
  • When you do get single-use plastic bags and other “film” packaging, keep your clean and dry bags in a convenient Bag-Of-Bags recycling spot, take them with you when you shop, and deposit this material in the plastic bag recycling bin at your favorite store.
  • Be a reusable bag advocate: tell your family, friends and folks you meet what you’re doing and why you do it.
  • Let your bags help you grow the reusable habit—with convenience and beauty!

Questions about reusing, recycling or anything else green? The Garden’s Green Resources Answer Service is at your service with information you can use.

Jean Ponzi
Green Resources Manager, EarthWays Center

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