Do Reusable Bags Say Something About Your Food?

It takes 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to break down. No, this isn’t a campaign to make you switch to paper or even reusable shopping bags. But, recent studies show that how you carry your grocery items impacts what you actually purchase. You are what you eat, and now you are what you carry.

Harvard Business School assistant professor Uma Karmarkar said, “For most people in the U.S., bringing your own reusable bags to the store requires you to think where you didn’t have to before.”

canvas bag

Maybe it's because bringing your own bags implies limited carrying capacity, making your purchasing power more economical. That bag of potato chips looks less appealing when your one bag is already full of delicious food. Or, perhaps, in trying to do something good for the environment while going about your daily routine, you choose more organic foods to further decrease your carbon footprint.

But, the studies conducted by Karmarkar and Bryan Bollinger showed that those consumers who brought their own reusable bags and tended towards more organic products, in the end, rewarded themselves to small indulgences like cookies or chips. It makes sense that one green choice might influence other green choices; but with that choice to bring your own bag, which in the study was considered virtuous, you may find yourself giving leeway to make more indulgent choices later on.

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Karmarkar noted that “there is a cohesiveness between the two decisions. These simple things we do in our lives do have downstream effects that we may not have expected.”

not a plastic bag
(Photo: Cafe Press)

Reusable bags are still on the upswing in supermarkets across the nation, but this upswing shows a trend toward more environmentally conscious behavior. If bringing your own bag to the grocery store becomes second nature, maybe plastic bags will be a thing of the past. Because the average person uses between 400 and 500 plastic bags a piece each year, a switch to reusable shopping bags would decrease the amount of plastic in landfills.


And maybe, by shopping with reusable bags and therefore limiting your carrying capacity, shoppers will choose more produce and healthier items from the aisles. Do reusable shopping bags therefore motivate us to be more health and environmentally conscious? The skinny is, yes!

>> Jumpstart a green lifestyle in your home with these helpful tips!