‘Did you bring a bag?’

“I suggested to the shop keepers to change their question of ‘Do you want/need a bag?’ to “Did you bring a bag?” That would at least stop the automatic “Yes thank you”. If shoppers hear that question in every shop, they will somewhen start thinking and hopefully bring their own bags.”

I spotted this quote on the Boomerang Bags Communities Facebook group and thought it was a brilliant way to rephrase the question, so that the expectation is on the customer to have a bag rather than the shopkeeper to provide one. Charging for and/or phasing out plastic carrier bags has been in the news a lot in recent months, and it seems that public opinion is driving changes faster than policy changes, although with a more sympathetic government we may yet see some ‘top down’ driven changes as well as from the flaxroots up.

Carrying a reuseable bag with you is a habit that might take some a while to get used to, so here are some tips:

  • have bags that you keep in your car/handbag all the time, when you’ve unpacked your groceries or whatever you’ve used them for put them straight back in your car/bag once they’re empty! That way you don’t have to remember to take them.
  • a plastic carrier bag you already have can be folded up small and takes up hardly any room, these are great for chilled items, plants from the market etc. – ie the things that might get other shopping in your bag wet. You can get bags made from waterproof material (like tents, and raincoats are made of), most of which will also fold up small, usually they’re not that cheap but they do last for years. Otherwise use a bag that can be thrown in the washing machine for such items and keep them separate from your other shopping.
  • give/ask for bags as presents! There are some really beautiful bags out there as well as ones which a more functional than aesthetically pleasing.
  • More shops these days will ask if you need a bag rather than give you one automatically, but be ready to say ‘I don’t need a bag thanks’ when at the counter, having your bag already in your hand helps remind you as well as signalling to the more observant cashiers that you’re well prepared.
  • If you do end up with bringing new plastic carrier bags home with you then at least reuse them or put them in the recycling rather than the bin. Reusing is much better than recycling straight away!

We have cloth shopping bags for sale at the EcoCentre, also various stalls at the market sell bags, as well as shops in town. You should be able to find something to suit your style and pocket without too much effort. Our bags are made by volunteers from upcycled materials, offcuts, curtain samples etc. This means we can keep our prices low to encourage people to use them. If you’d like to join our team of volunteers please get in touch! We don’t have set patterns or sizes that we use, we aim to make the most of the materials we have available to us and cut accordingly.

We also have a box of old conference bags etc at the EcoCentre that folk are welcome to borrow if they find themselves without enough bags to take home their purchases. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to get Boomerang Bags going properly in Kaitaia, but need someone with the time and energy to coordinate it – if that sounds like you then get in touch! We have access to materials and sewing machines for regular workshops, we just need volunteers with the time and energy to bring all the pieces together.

I’m really looking forward to seeing more reuseable shopping bags in use around town, and it becoming the norm rather than the exception.

by Anna Dunford

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