Nest: MNN's green communityHello there, and welcome to another pledge in MNN's Nest, an interactive program that helps you create and accomplish easy and Earth-friendly personal goals. With each goal that you tackle, you earn points that are then turned into donations to your favorite nonprofit eco-charity.

The personal goal currently up to bat: avoid plastic shopping bags and actually use those reusable bags on a daily basis. Like recycling bottles and cans at home and swapping out incandescent bulbs for CFLs, this first goal be a no-brainer for many of you — eco-elementary, as we like to say — but like any seemingly simple step in greening your life, it's easier said than done. Here are a few thoughts on how and why you should go about ditching plastic shopping bags for reusable ones:

Train yourself to BYOB: One reason why you might not use a reusable bag while you're out shopping is because, well, you don't have one on you. Don't let that be your excuse — keep a stash in your car, by the front door at home, in your office, or wadded up in the bottom of your purse or day bag. You wouldn't go shopping without cash money (or that money-saving rewards card), would you? Before you head out the door, remind yourself to bring your own reusable bags. And remember, as we at MNN can attest, shopping isn't always a premeditated action, so in the event of a spontaneous purchase, it helps to have an emergency bag handy.

Being a bag lady or lad will save you money: You might have noticed that plastic shopping bags aren't doled out as readily as they once were. Thanks to an increasing number of eco-conscious retailers — IKEA truly spearheaded this movement — it will cost you a fee, usually 5 cents, to carry out your purchases in a plastic bag. Other retailers like Target and Whole Foods don't tack on a surcharge for using their shopping bags but will reward you for bringing your own by knocking a few cents off your purchase. Some cities such as San Francisco have even placed an outright ban on plastic shopping bags while others like Washington, D.C., have enacted or are considering ordinances that will require retailers to charge for them. So you see, you can actually save a few cents here and there by using your reusable bag.

Keep Mother Nature happy: Why exactly is it important to constantly tote around a tote? As estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, around 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed by Americans annually. Worldwide, we consume almost 1 million plastic bags per minute. Millions upon millions of these bags are not recycled properly and end up in the landfills where they sit and sit and sit ... for thousands of years. In addition to clogging landfills and littering the natural landscape from sea to shining sea, plastic bags are the product of you guessed it, oil — a polluting, nonrenewable resource if there ever was one. And here's a staggering figure: it requires 12 billion barrels of oil to produce 100 billion plastic shopping bags.

Ready to do away with plastic bags once and for all? Then repeat after me: This year, I will avoid plastic shopping bags and actually use reusable bags on a daily basis. Now go put this pledge into action!


Alternet, "The Green Plastic Bag Plague", "The Numbers ... Believe It Or Not"

National Geographic, "Are Plastic Grocery Bags Sacking the Environment?"
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Paper and plastic grocery bags could soon cost you"

SF Gate, "Starting Tuesday, plastic bags illegal at big S.F. grocery stores"

More personal pledges to consider: 

MNN Nest pledge: 'I will actually use my reusable bags'
Some cities have banned them altogether, some stores offer incentives for using them. Whether or not you're shopping in these places, bring reusable bags to cut