I produce a lot of garbage, and I’m not talking about just my writing. Here’s one reason: Even though the grocery store is only about a block or two away from my apartment, I tend to take large shopping trips infrequently rather than smaller trips more frequently.
Here are the problems with this approach.
I’ve been going through a large number of plastic bags, producing more garbage than necessary. Formerly, I saved the plastic bags with the intention of reusing them for the next trip, but I never did so. This usually resulted in a ball of increasing size underneath the sink in the kitchen, consisting of crumpled plastic bags. Every once in a while, when I decided one particular ball of bags would never be used, they would go in the garbage and the process would restart.
Also, because I wait long between trips, I have a lot of food and paper products to buy, more than I can carry in one trip. Rather than walking two blocks to the store, I drive from one parking lot to the next to pile the full bags into my car, transport them back to my apartment, and carry them up to my second-floor apartment in multiple trips.
I’ve solved the first problem. Stop & Shop, my local grocery store, offers reusable fabric bags for sale. They cost $0.99 each and one fabric bag holds more than one plastic bag, and it does so more comfortably. Every time you bring a fabric bag back to the store and use it for your shopping, the cashier will provide a $0.05 credit per bag on your receipt.
I purchased ten bags in a recent shopping trip to help reduce my plastic usage. In order for this purchase to “pay off” for me, I’ll need to buy 198 bags of groceries. My initial purchase was probably too high — I didn’t realize the bags were so capacious. For one of my large shopping trips, I use only five or six bags. At that rate, it will take 33 to 36 trips to the groceries, or about three years, for me to “break even” on my purchase.
More importantly, I won’t be producing as much plastic garbage.
In terms of the second problem, my girlfriend suggested I purchase a cart to transport my groceries to eliminate the necessity of driving. It’s not a bad idea. It would reduce the short trips I take in my “gas-guzzling” Honda Civic and provide me with more exercise. I’m just about out of storage space in my apartment, however, so I’m not quite sure where I’d leave the cart when not in use. I understand there might be folding carts available, in which case, I could probably store the cart in the closet, so I’ll have to research this further.
Updated May 26, 2009 and originally published July 8, 2008.