It is the holiday season which for many of us means shopping and a lot of it. This weekend, despite the snow, the streets were still filled with people carrying all sorts of plastic bags full of presents.

More stores seem to be putting customer purchases into fancy but flimsy cloth bags with the logo of the brand printed on the front. I saw quite a few shiny new super durable, reusable shopping bags that stores often charge a few cents or a few dollars for. They always have pictures of animals or plants on them and have “reuse me” or “save the world” printed on the front. The idea of course is that if you get a really strong plastic bag, or even the flimsy cloth bag, you will use it over and over again. Sounds great.

Problem is, and I have been watching, very few people actually reuse these bags on a day to day basis.

I imagine that by now most people have a stash at home, as I do, of reusable plastic bags and flimsy cloth bags from a variety of events and stores. I have a handful of mine that I use all the time, about 20 I keep around just in case and then the rest I inevitably give to charity in the hope that they can use them. Question is, how many reusable plastic and cloth bags does a person really need?

So what worries me is that inevitably these super durable plastic bags end up in the garbage and I wonder what is worse, 10 traditional cheap plastic bags or one superdurable, indestructible, often non-recyclable, reusable plastic shopping bag?

So I thought up a system yesterday on the train that could help called “Leave a bag, Take a bag”. The idea is that you bring all your cloth and durable plastic bags that you no longer need and drop them off at the stores. People shopping can pick up a handful of them to put their shopping in to take home. They can then keep and use them, or bring them back to another store. This way not only do we not need plastic bags, we don’t need to keep buying and be given bags that proudly say they are reusable but we don’t actually reuse.

Until then, if you know you are going to buy something, grab one of those reusable bags you have at home and bring it with you. Simple.

Happy New Year!