Although this idea is not new, it has been becoming increasingly more popular with the advent of 99 cent reusable bags. The idea is simply to buy a few of these bags, and bring them along with you when you go grocery shopping. By doing this you save the use of plastic bags at the store, and further waste down the line into landfills, etc. I thought it might be an inconvenience to do this, since I usually have a lot of trouble remembering things, and often will decide to go shopping on the spot. However, after I put the groceries away, I simply put the bags by my purse so I remember to take them out to the car. Then, I just keep them in the backseat of my car so they are there whenever I decide to get food, or anything else. If you go into a place that is likely not to use reusable bags, I typically impose. At CVS this past week, I gave them a reusable bag and asked them to put my items in there. Although I got a weird look, I'd like to think I am admired for my cause ;) In addition, many grocery stores will reward you for using reusable bags. Most take 5 cents off of your total per reusable bag used, because not only are you saving the Earth, but you are saving them money. As a former grocery store employee, we are told to impose using plastic unless paper is requested because plastic bags cost 1 cent to make, while paper bags cost 5 cents.
Some bags are nicer than others, some are more expensive, and some are even more fashionable. The bags I bought from HyVee, a local grocery store, are much taller and even come with a rubber plate for the bottom so groceries stay level, than bags bought from Wal-Mart. They can be found at Co-ops, Wal-Mart, Target, most grocery stores, and online if you are looking for something special. If I can make a recommendation, I would say to definitely grab an insulated bag for cold things (bag with the silver lining on the left). They keep things cold up for 3 hours, which means that you don't need to rush home to put things in the fridge (should you worry about that kind of stuff). The bag has a zipper on the top so it closes completely, and only cost 50 cents to a dollar more than a regular reusable bag.
If you don't feel this is the route for you, some say to save the plastic bags you do use when you get home to either be recycled or be reused by you or your family in some way (Target often posts multiple ways to reuse your plastic bags on their bags themselves). However, many websites claim that plastic bags collected for recycling never get recycled due to the economic costs of such, so educate yourself about doing this. The big problem with plastic bags is that they end up in the oceans, in our environment, slowly releasing toxins into our water and being eaten by animals. Wal-Mart, Kohl's, and some grocery stores will have a bin to recycle plastic bags up by the front doors of the store. By using reusable bags, you are sending a message to other shoppers, believe it or not. Either way, help the Earth and all of its inhabitants by getting and using reusable bags, they are worth the small investment.