Habits are routines of behavior that are repeated so regularly that we continue to do them almost automatically and involuntarily. Isn't that exactly why you accept bags at checkout? Or forget your bags at home or in the car? The only way to change such impulses is to replace them with beneficial behavior. Why do we so often fail? Because change is hard work and there is no short cut.
Toronto City Council has taken a firm stand on the issue and just voted to ban plastic bags outright by 2013. Rather than wasting your time getting your plastic bags in a knot, just look at it as the catalyst you need to bring about much needed change. And, keep this in mind: having a huge collection of $1 reusable bags is worse than hoarding plastic bags. Just think of the resources used to make them, how they got onto your arm, and the landfill space they take up when they break or wear out.
How to break your bag habits (start today):
STEP 1 - ADMIT/UNDERSTAND THERE IS A BAD HABIT TO BREAK.
Every choice you make has an impact, whether positive or negative. Take the time to pause and realize that our consumption is a problem...no matter how small, it all adds up.
STEP 2 - IDENTIFY THE TRADEOFFS + PAYOFFS.
Everyone has different pros and cons. What are yours? Maybe you are concerned about what to use for garbage bags, or maybe you are excited to gain the space in your cupboard where your bags collected.
STEP 3 - MAKE YOUR CHOICE.
This step is easy. Because of "step 2" above, your eyes are now wide open; it's no longer an involuntary behaviour. You will be not only making a choice to not do the old action (hurray!), but you will also be making a choice to replace it with a better, more responsible, alternative action (hurray again!).
STEP 4 - INVEST IN GOOD REUSABLE BAGS.
If you don't trust it, you won't use it to its full potential. Big ones with durable handles and large gussets -- especially ones you can put over your shoulder -- are best. Ones that are washable and foldable are ideal. Think about where it was made, and who made it. The more ways in which your bag is better for the planet, the better you'll feel about using it.
STEP 5 - REMEMBER TO TAKE THEM WITH YOU.
This is crucial. If you don't have them, you can't use them. Perhaps your best technique will be to leave them by the door, or in your purse, or in both. You'll figure out what works best for you. (Yes, I believe this is the hardest part of the habit to develop for all of us). You don't leave home without your wallet do you?
STEP 6 - STASH A FEW.
Keep a compact, foldable bag stashed away in various places. Tuck one into your purse, knapsack, glove compartment, briefcase, diaper bag -- you never know when you might shop. This practice was pivotal to my success and avoided many awkward having-to-carry-it-all-out-in-my-arms occasions.
STEP 7 - LEARN TO SAY "NO BAG PLEASE."
If you're somewhere that still offers them. And make sure you proclaim this right away, loud and proud. Some retailers and restaurants will quickly "bag you" -- but it's never too late! Tell them that you don't need it. And, if they claim the bag is biodegradable, still refuse. I know it might be less evil, but it is still evil...and a waste of precious resources.
STEP 8 - KEEP IT GOING.
You now own some great looking, hopefully sustainable, long-lasting bags that you finally remember, and, as you use them you will feel like your own mini eco-hero. Now, convince a few of your friends, family or colleagues to break a few of their bag habits.
By replacing bad habits with positive ones that can save a little money, save a little time and save our little planet, you'll wonder why you didn't do it all sooner...and you'll quickly be considering your next habit to break.
Quoting Aristotle, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Follow Lisa Borden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisaborden