I'm a bag lady. I am the one, the obnoxious one who doesn't take plastic bags from any store, ever. I'm proudest in 2010 to be able to say that I've been bagless for one year and two days.
It started as a problem: My kids were learning all kinds of ways to help the environment at school and would call me out, "That's recycling mom!," or "Oh, that is mal for the mundo, mama." Dude, a guilt trip from two first graders is hard core. But the issue was that I'd never really been into understanding how to be green. Since Ed Begley, Jr. never came knocking on my door to compost my banana peels and fill my car with rancid vegetable oil, I sort of have missed the boat on how to start being environmentally aware. I was not green, not even that lightest hue of Silver Sage green they sell at Restoration Hardware.
I tried to be a quick study - composting is not for me. Say 'maggot' and I say run-like-a-motha and call Orkin. I tried turning down the hot water heater in our house but I used double the water trying to get warmed up. I tried to do a clean-up day picking up trash while walking to school and went through a full industrial-size bottle of Purell en route. In the end I decided that I'd have to start small.
On January 1, 2010, I stopped taking plastic bags from stores.
For the next three months, I'd fumble around my handbag looking for enviro bags that I'd gotten only to have to pile my groceries unpacked into the cart, car and eventually home. I learned pretty fast after that. I started carrying a larger handbag to accommodate smaller purchases and had a couple of tiny bags that pop open to be pretty sturdy suckers in my car, glove box, handbag and backpack. That made things much easier.
Then came step two: no plastic bags at all.
This meant replacing baggies -GASP. I ditched the Ziplock in Q3. I'm convinced that quitting smoking must be easier than quitting baggies. What card carrying mommy doesn't have baggies of Annie's Cheddar Bunnies at-the-ready? We bought reusable sandwich bags andLaptop Lunch boxes. By October we were truly free of plastic bags and full of pride. My kids would excitedly tell the people in checkout stands, "We don't take plastic, es mal para el mundo." They were proud of themselves -- they were proud of me.
I thought a lot about what the next project would be for us: glass tupperware instead of plastic, no products with BPA (we are halfway there); there are a million things we could be doing. But as the one-year anniversary came near, I decided that our family wasn't ready for more just yet. In 2011 we'll continue to improve on being bagless, working to be more efficient at it and adding in things slowly.
We won't win the greenest house on the block this year, but you could call me The Bag Lady and I'll like it.