Green Lent 2020 6

Therefore you also must be ready ~ Matthew 24:44

In this passage, Jesus admonishes us to be vigilant, to be prepared, to be ready.  So don’t be caught off-guard.

Good advice.

When it comes to loving our planet, my best intentions are sometimes thwarted because I’m just not ready.  Good intentions waylaid by lack of simple preparation. Today it’s about bags.

Getting the Groceries Home

There’s no denying that plastic grocery aren’t good for our environment. They take centuries to decompose, they kill marine life when ingested, they uglify our landscape. We’ve all seen one of them fluttering up in a tree, haven’t we? In some locations they’re banned. I suppose you could ask for paper or purchase one of those sturdier plastic bags. Here’s the thing though – the manufacture of paper bags has its own environmental impact. And those thicker plastic bags some stores will sell you?  Most still end up in landfills shortly after that shopping trip. I used to virtously reuse grocery and newspaper bags to pick up my dog’s business.  Then I realized that those stinky packages went straight to a landfill. And there they’ll sit for the next century or so. Not ideal.

The best option, of course, is to bring something reusable to hold those groceries.  And then to reuse it.  Every time.

So Many Choices

I amassed a serious collection of bags over the years.

Bags from grocery stores – Ralphs and King Soopers, Hyvee, Sprouts, Walmart, Safeway, Trader Joes.  And Meijer  – those are fabulous because their design includes a secure way to carry wine bottles along with your groceries.

I’ve had my drawstring Whole Foods bags for nearly a decade – they’re made of parachute fabric, are washable and sturdy.

And I’ve owned more than a few that came from charities or were volunteer appreciation gifts or handed out at an event. I’ve got fabric bags and even a couple of hand-knit market bags. My aunt gave me a cute one that folds up to look a strawberry.  I even had a bunch of mesh bags meant for produce.

Do You Collect Shopping Bags Too?

That is an awful lot of bags. If I ever bought enough groceries to fill them all, I’d need another vehicle or two to get everything home.

Why so many?

There was a time that I’d feel guilty if I forgot my own bags. So I’d just drop a couple of bucks and buy whatever they had next to the register. Then one day I realized that my bag collection was taking up valuable real estate around my house and garage. Yet I still kept forgetting to bring them when I went shopping! This had to stop.

So This Is What I Did

This was not green. Not a sustainable process.  A change was in order.

I’ll share what I did a year or so ago.

First, I went around the house and garage, and, yes, even the backyard, and collected all my reusable grocery bags. I washed all the washable ones and added them, nice and clean, to the stack.  What a massive pile of plastic and fabric and fiber I created!

I chose the ones I couldn’t live without – those old washable Whole Foods bags, a few of my favorite logoed bags, that ten-pack that squishes into its own tiny pouch, and a couple of fabric bags. I

The discard pile was substantial. So I put the discard bags in a box in the laundry room cupboard. And I found ways to get them out of my house without throwing them away. When I brought groceries to the food pantry, they were in one of those bags. We had a garage sale and I unloaded a ton of paperbacks by selling them by the bag (double win!). Casserole for a sick friend? Door prize donations? Christmas cookies on a pretty plate for the neighbors?  I used those bags until they were all gone, and it didn’t take as long as I’d thought.

Success! No more excessive bagginess.  But I’d still find myself in the store bagless more often than not.

And the Ones That I Kept?

So now my grocery bags live in the back of the car in a nice small tote. And in my driver’s door pocket, next to my umbrella, lint roller, and emergency tool, I’ve got one bag that folds into its own little self.  Now when I run to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, I grab what I need. If I run into Walgreens or the spice shop or a boutique, I grab the one right at my side. And when I get home from whatever acquisition-of-things trip, I make sure to put those bags back where they belong for the next time.

At first I’d stroll into the store only to realize that I’d forgotten my bag. Since I didn’t want to begin a new collection, I’d force myself to turn around and go back to get the bags.  And after a while, I stopped forgetting.

These days, I’m prepared.  At least when it comes to begs for my shopping.

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann of ELCA Central States Synod,  who provided the graphics and access to a  fantastic Carbon Fast Calendar. I also used the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, by Leah Schade, which you can use any year you like. And finally, I’ve been going throough Stewardship of Creation, by Sara Olson and Brooke Petersen,  a 30-day devotional you can find at Web of Creation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.