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A jump in reusable use
Reusable bags, mainstays in Europe for decades, started making inroads into the United States around 1990.
“When they started showing up in mainstream places like Lunds, people realized that they weren’t just for tree huggers anymore,” Lo said.
Lunds and Byerly’s started selling reusable bags in 2006 and began tracking their use in 2009 via an incentive program in which the stores donate 5 cents to the Second Harvest Heartland food shelf for every reusable bag a customer brings into the store. As of last week, the stores had donated $220,000, which translates to 4.4 million reusable uses.
But lapses of memory hamper the bags’ use.
“That’s a big issue for us, getting people to remember to put the bags back in their cars after they unpack their food at home and then remembering to bring the bags into the store with them,” Lo said. “Just having the bags isn’t enough. People aren’t going to use them if they’re not convenient.”
Some grocery stores are posting reminder signs in the parking lot and on their doors. Hennepin County is making available free “Don’t forget the bags!” window clings.
“I have a sticker in my car to remind me to bring reusable bags into the store, because I would often forget,” said Mia Olson of Bloomington. “But eventually it becomes habit-forming.”
Sometimes, however, even the best intentions go awry. Laura Toledo of Minneapolis admitted that even though she and her husband try to keep bags in the trunk of their car and put a couple of spare ones on a hook by the kitchen door, they still occasionally arrive at the checkout stand empty-handed.
Rather than buy even more bags, they have a backup plan.
“If we do forget our bags, we’ll take plastic at the store and re-use them at home,” she said. “We never throw them away right when we get home. We’re trying to save the environment in as many ways as possible, even small ones like this.”
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392