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Family Fun

Tricks for remembering to bring reusable bags

I try to resist the convenience of plastic, but I'll admit that it isn't easy. Dog owners know that those darn bags do a great job scooping pet poop.

But with every empty-handed trip to the grocery store, I think about the time it takes a plastic bag to break down in a landfill, if it breaks down at all.

It's way past time for our reusable tote bags to get some hang time. With a little organization, both of us can do better for the planet. Here are a few tips to get started:

Stock up:
Reusable tote bags have replaced T-shirts as the ubiquitous freebie at festivals, conventions and even concerts. Stock up, and store your bags in the place you associate with shopping. There is strength in numbers because you are likely to have at least one around when you need it.

I have one folded up in my weekend bag (yes, I have more than one handbag). I also keep one in the car that holds coupons and a calendar showing when local produce is in season. For good measure, place one in the same area where you store those plastic bags. A little guilt goes a long way in my house.

Follow the money:
Finally, it actually pays to BYOB. Target stores offer discounts of 5 cents per bag when you use their reusable totes, which happen to be made from recycled PET bottles. The chain also has in-store recycle bins for your old plastic shopping bags, empty bottles, ink cartridges, cell phones and mp3 players.

CVS drugstore chain offers cold hard cash when you BYOB. Buy their corn-based "Green Bag Tag" for $1, attach it to your reusable tote and scan it at the register. You earn a $1 coupon with every fourth visit. Of course, Whole Foods helped kick-start the reusable bag movement. In 2008, the green grocery chain stopped offering plastic bags.

That translated into about 150 million plastic bags avoiding a landfill. I don't exactly load up on goods from Whole Foods, but it's nice to know they will give me a 10-cent discount for bringing my own bag to purchase sushi and bottled water. A boutique in my neighborhood even offers a 10 percent discount when shoppers BYOB.

Next time I need a new accessory, I'll stop there first. I plan to seek out other stores for the same incentives. It never hurts to ask.

Get a cute bag:
Since the standard 99-cent reusable bag doesn't meet your sartorial standards, invest in a cute fabric tote that works with every outfit. Cost per wear means a lot in my fashion circles, so I would have no problem remembering to grab a $24.95 organic hemp shopping bag from Envirosax.

Of course, an aspiring green fashionista like yourself may prefer a $42.99 cotton version from Marc by Marc Jacobs. I'll just stick with the freebie I got at a Sweetwater festival.

Make a date with your bag:
If you own a smartphone, such as an iPhone or Blackberry, then use that device to your advantage. Make sure that "TOTE BAG" tops every shopping list, whether it's a trip to the grocery store, the drugstore or your favorite boutique. It takes a little effort, but eventually BYOB will become a way of life.

Happy shopping! Look for me, and my tote bag, at a store near you.

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