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Lisa Borden Written By Lisa Borden
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Bag Habits are hard to break

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 still might accept bags at checkout? 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!

Ditching taking plastic grocery bags is an honorable goal if you have not yet tackled that one, but if you want to lift your eco efforts to the next level, try kicking your other retail bag habits too. (for example, those paper or plastic retail bags from every store at the mall that advertise where you’ve just dropped your paycheque! What do you DO with those bags anyways?)

In Ireland where they imposed a 15 cent tax per plastic bag, consumption went down by 90%…quickly. In Toronto, everyone seems to be using reusables…DUH! Incentives and penalties work.

And, keep this in mind: having a huge collection of $1 reusable bags is actually worse than hoarding plastic bags. Think of the resources used, the landfill space they take up when they break or wear out…and, they don’t make good garbage liners!

Here are your 8 steps to highly effective check outs.

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 see that your consumption is a problem…no matter how small, we all add 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, maybe you are excited to stop the excess consumption and save our health.

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 it’s full potential. Big ones with durable handles - especially ones you can put over your shoulder are best. The more ways in which your bag is better for the planet, the better you’ll feel about using it. Consider my favourite shopping bag solutions (and I have used and tested many!): Fair Trade made, RuMe Bags at www.rumebags.com – the original size holds up to 50 pounds (but there are 3 sizes, including ones for kids (never too young to learn to shop responsibly!), they are foldable and washable…and they happen to be beautiful!  

STEP 5 – REMEMBER TO TAKE THEM WITH YOU. This is crucial. If you don’t have them, you can’t use them. Leave them by the door? 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…good habits are as hard to develop as bad habits are to break…stick with it!).

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”. And make sure you proclaim this right away, loud and proud. Some retailers 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 do know that 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, 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.”

Lisa Borden is an eco-advocate and mother of three, whose business is a direct reflection of her commitment to better, more responsible living. She is a dedicated workaholic, admitting that it takes a lot of time and effort to change the world, especially in her non-preachy, fun, engaging and inspiring ways. Lisa consults, writes, engages the media, runs private workshops, and enjoys speaking to large and small groups. Her full-service marketing firm, Borden Communications + Design Inc. is based in Toronto and takes great pride in being an ethical business providing exceptional ideas. You can sign up for Lisa’s rants and raves at
www.bordencom.com or reach her directly at lisa@bordencom.com.

© Lisa Borden 2010

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