Why Is There Never a Bird Around When You Need One?

by guest blogger Rick Chillot, senior editor, Rodale.com

Well, we’re into the final week of our plastic-free challenge at Rodale.com. One thing that’s become clear to me is that each of us has different challenges when it comes to cutting back on our plastic use. For me, I think the biggest issue is getting by without using plastic shopping bags. I avoid them whenever I can, but I just never seem to have a reusable shopping bag with me when I need one. Especially at the supermarket. I simply can’t remember to bring them with me when I leave the house, even though I leave them hanging on the doorknob or on a hook right by the door. They always get left behind. So I spent some time yesterday pondering ways that people like me can sure to have a reusable shopping bag at hand whenever they’re needed.

My first idea is the shopping bag bandolaro:

Basically an over-the-shoulder belt stuffed with folded-up shopping bags, keeping them right within reach when you need them. It’s a very practical option, I think, because it keeps both your arms free. Plus, if the sombrero ever comes back in style, you can create a real bandito kind of look.

That got me thinking about another option: a super-hero-type shopping bag utility belt.

Here, as you can see in the close-up, you press a button on your belt, and the super-compressed bag is ejected by jet propulsion, and expands instantly to full size. Very dramatic! But maybe you don’t want to call that much attention to yourself. In that case…

You could try this under-the-sleeve shopping bag arm dispenser. It’s kind of a less-lethal version of what Robert De Niro used in Taxi Driver. You just flick your arm and a shopping bag is dropped right into your hand, ready for use.

Since yesterday was Presidents’ day, it occurred to me that people don’t wear stovepipe hats as much as they used to. Which is a shame because…

…those hats would be the perfect place to stash some folded-up shopping bags. You could even have a mechanism that would dispense one out of the top of the hat when you press a button. I’m fairly certain that would be simple to engineer, based on the Dr. Seuss books I’ve read. Or, instead of keeping the bags in your hat…

…why not wear one as your hat? Or perhaps as a pirate-like headband. Or maybe hang it over your shirt, where it can protect you from food stains when you’re not using it. You’ll be prepared to eat lobster at a swanky restaurant or carry your purchases without adding plastic to the landfills. Whatever the situation requires!

One last idea…have you ever noticed, like I have, that on a typical day there seem to be plenty of birds flying around that don’t have anything important to do?

What if we trained them to fly around carrying shopping bags? Whenever you needed one, you would give a signal, and a bird would bring you a bag. Then when you’re done, you throw it back into the air and a bird catches it and keeps it until someone else needs it.

If there are any entrepreneurs out there, it seems to me that you could really clean up by making any of these ideas work. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. How do you manage to remember your shopping bags?


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13 Responses to Why Is There Never a Bird Around When You Need One?

  1. kimberly February 22, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    The bird idea is the best yet!

  2. Elisabeth Winkler February 22, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    I seem to spend my life fighting against plastic bags! Why is there no decent way to recycle these all-pervasive things?

    However I have just about mastered the skill of leaving home with a pouch (http://www.onyabags.co.uk/) that turns into a bag when needed.

    Some countries, such as Ireland, have banned plastic bags.

    However, when it comes to a Wicked problem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem), there are no easy solutions. Even banning plastic bags has unintended negative consequences, as this article in the Guardian shows.

    O, it is thorny to be good!

  3. Laura B. February 22, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    That was fun Maria! Thanks!
    I keep them in my car. When I walk into the supermarket & realized I forgot them, I make myself go back out & get them. That pretty much did the trick! I learned quickly to remember them, especially in this weather. 🙂

  4. Jodi A. February 22, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Try keeping a special reusable coffee mug in your shopping bags. If you remember to grab the bags, reward yourself with a deep, dark cup of joe. If you forget them, you only get a groggy, unfulfilling shopping trip. It you need additional reinforcement, try loading your mug with a piece of dark, rich chocolate to be eaten only while enjoying your shopping coffee.

  5. M February 22, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    We always keep reusable shopping bags in the trunk of our car. That way, if we forget to grab one on our way out the door, we’ve got back-up. The only trouble it remembering to put them back in the car after you’ve brough the groceries in!

    My friend keeps a reusable shopping bag in her purse, too. It comes in a little pouch and can be removed and unfolded for a full-size bag. When she’s done, she tucks it back into the pouch, and back into her purse!

  6. Karen February 22, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    I like the Chicobag – http://www.chicobag.com. They also have a bag that folds into a little pouch but you clip it to your belt or purse. And they come in pretty colors. I also think if we start charging for plastic bags you would have more incentive to remember the ones hanging on your door knob!!!!

  7. Helen February 22, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    Hi Maria! We swear by little bags that form into their own pouches that we bought from the Hang Out Place in Vancouver- see http://www.thehangoutplace.com They are dual coloured and incredibly strong as they are made out of the same material that parachutes are made of and are so small when packed away that they can fit easily into a pocket or purse. Chris was charged with buying some more when he went over to Vancouver after THE WEDDING! Over the pond here we are often now charged for plastic bags at supermarkets so it pays to remember them!

  8. JoAnn February 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    it is hard to remember the ‘bags’ I tried to put them back in my car the next time i go out by putting them right under my purse. 90% of the time I do… it’s hard to break routine isn’t it…but we must I hate those plastic bags…I feel like one of these days they are going to turn into some sort ofGremlins and attack! lol!

  9. Myra February 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    I always take a shopping list and I check it before I leave the house. The first thing on my list is “REMEMBER the bags”!!!!

    I love your clever ideas, expecially the bird. We all need a carrier pigeon, but then, we would have to feed them. They are saying, “please take a bag, so I won’t be tempted to eat it”.

    If stores started charging us for disposable bags, we might learn to remember.

    My daughter leaves her shoes outside the door and wears slippers inside. How about doing that and stuffing the shoes with bags? Could not ignore that!

    I also leave bags in the car, too. If there is a container attached to the door, they might be notices as you are getting out.

    I like the purse pouch idea, too. Actually, mine has a long strap. Just tie a few bags around the strap. That would be handy. Just do not take that purse to church! On second thought, it might make the idea spread. Just twist them small and use a veggie twistie to attach it to the strap, so it is more compact to carry around.

    This was an entertainly important message, Maria.

    GMOs, Pesticides, and Herbicides – No No.

  10. Sharon February 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    Thank for the the smile. I always have mine in the front seat floor board and still forget to grab one as I walk into the market. What’s a girl to do? I finally just stopped taking a bag at the check out and carried and balanced my stuff back to the truck. Figured it would be a good retraining strategy…still working on it. Years of “undoing” the “paper or plastic” does not come easy…We just keep at it!! Not to mention that when we do we are teaching the next generation and the one after that and so on and so on…And please keep drawing…

  11. Alina February 23, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    You are the best! I bet you had double sugar in your morning coffee yesterday… keep it up:) I’ll send you several of our hemp bags so you can keep them in a car trunk, even if you leave few at home. But come to think of it, instead of disgusting Lady Gaga meat attire, you can design a stylish skirt with grocery bags. If one needs to strip too many… people might give us a pass to the front of the line at the checkout…

  12. Myra February 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    I have a sister-in-law who is collecting the colored bags to make vests. Perhaps, they could be worn in the rain. Maybe one could really make a rain hat, taking your idea seriously, Maria. I cannot wait to see what your next post will be!

    When my kids were small and did not have boots, I put bags on their feet so they could play in the snow.

    Put a bag over your hand when you are building a fire in the fireplace, or cleaning the oven.

    At least, they are getting more use than one take-home trip.

    I like the collapsable bag idea. Thanks.


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  13. Amanda February 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    OMG, I can’t stop laughing!!!! We also keep bags in the trunks of both vehicles (although remembering to bring them into the store is also a problem for me)! I could certainly use any one of those lovely designs. Maybe a leg-mounted garter version for more formal occasions, or a hidden shoe compartment style for business men 🙂

    p.s. Your bird idea just might have “wings”…check out the CrowBox: http://www.crowboxunleashed.com/.

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