Suffering from eco bag guilt

Tomorrow is Earth Day, and to some degree or another, all of us are trying to do our small part to reduce our carbon footprint. One common (and trendy) way to do this is to use eco-bags when grocery shopping. Simple enough, right?

Unless you’re like me and you suffer from eco-bag guilt, a problem created by the fact that it’s very difficult to shop at only one grocery store in Dallas. Four or five is more likely (the one with the cheapest produce, the one with the gourmet food, the one with the organic offerings, the one with Cheerios and Charmin … )

In my case, I have collected eco-bags through grocery promotions over the years, and I have a large bundle of bags bearing the logo of competing stores, with only one or two from each store. This poses a problem when I venture into Central Market, for example, and I want to use my sturdy, roomy Whole Foods bag. But I can’t bring myself to bring it into the store because I feel as though I will somehow insult the Central Market employees, who are so kind and helpful. I feel the same way when at Whole Foods — what will they think when they see my Central Market bags? Will they know that I regularly forfeit organic health for foodie goodness? And which is more insulting to Whole Foods employees — when I use a Central Market eco-bag or when I ask for a paper bag?

So instead of worrying about how my use of competitors’ eco-bags will be interpreted, I usually grab the bags branded with the store at which I’m shopping plus one or two of my inferior, non-branded bags. (Why is it that grocery store bags are so much better?) Here’s the thing, though: I somehow don’t have as much of a problem taking a Central Market bag into a Tom Thumb store, or using my Whole Foods bag at Albertson’s. It’s akin to shopping at the Gap while carrying a Neiman Marcus bag — the Gap would be thrilled with the presence of a Neiman’s shopper, right?

Were grocery stores cognizant of the guilt they would inflict on shoppers like me when they started making branded eco-bags?

And while we’re on the topic of eco-bags, here’s another problem: I have too many. Does anyone know if eco-bags are recyclable?


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  • Freecycle’s an excellent idea! So is the local food pantry, which regularly distributes food and would welcome CLEAN bags. That’s the catch – clean bags.

    Full disclosure – I work for ECOBAGS.com, the original eco bags company. We’ve been around for 20+ years preaching the gospel of “bring your own bags.” We have NEVER recommended that someone feel guilty – every clean reusable bag is a good bag! Notice that emphasis on clean again :).

    I’ve never noticed a clerk getting offended when I bring an A&P bag into Whole Foods. They’re struggling to fill them all and keep the line going :). So march in there with pride, with your assortment of “I’m participating” bags and if they have an attitude…let them clean it up!

    One final note. Canvas bags are now available in tons of really cute designs and they’re washable. The challenge with a lot of the store branded bags is that they’re not washable – wash them and they fall apart. So how do you keep them clean? You can spray the interior with anti-bacterial but who wants your food to touch that?? You can wipe it out with bleach and then let them air out…or you can buy washable ones. End of commercial message :). Canvas lasts 8-10 years so consider it.

    And remember, NO GUILT – it’s Earth Day!

  • ellie

    haha I don’t think they get that insulted. Just be happy yourself that you’re saving resources… Anyway yeah instead of recycling why not donate to someone less fortunate than you who won’t spend the $1 or so on one. Post them up on freecycling.com?