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How To Use Reusable Bags At The Grocery Store During The Pandemic

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As if this whole pandemic is not stressful enough, now we can add to our already mounting anxiety on global warming by being forced to go back to using disposable bags at the grocery store.  It makes it doubly frustrating because both shoppers and grocery stores were really building momentum for the use of reusable shopping bags while grocery shopping.  

By the beginning of 2020 things were starting to swing in the direction of national awareness and changes in habits with regard to disposable bags.  Eight states and hundreds of local governments had approved plastic bag bans, and consumer habits in many places were shifting toward reusable bags.

When the pandemic hit and we all started social distancing, grocery stores went back to disposable bags and we all started seeing these bags pile up in our homes.  States, counties, and cities lifted their ban on plastic bags.   Not much was known about how the virus spread and grocery stores were not taking any chances in letting their employees handle customers’ reusable bags all day long.  

As the months have passed, there’s now a push to reinstate them. So, is there evidence that single-use bags are safer than ones that get used over and over again?  Dr. Jodi Sherman, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health., says it was prudent in the early days of the pandemic to limit reusable bags, but now coronavirus transmission routes are better understood. “Single-use or reusable bags are no better or worse for transmission or prevention of transmission of the COVID infection,” she said.

Sherman is one of more than 115 public health experts, including virologists and food packaging safety specialists, who signed a statement on this issue, which was released by Greenpeace USA. The letter assures retailers and consumers that during the COVID pandemic, reusable bags can be used safely.  (Source: NPR.org, Sep 3, 2020)

California has put their plastic bag ban back in place and New York state is on the way to doing this as well.  Surely many cities and states will follow this lead.  

What we have noticed here in Seattle, is that every grocery store handles bags and bagging groceries differently.  Some Trader Joe’s stores still don’t let you bring reusable grocery bags into the store while QFC and Safeway are fine with this.  QFC will even bag your groceries for you using your reusable bag while Thriftway insists that you do it yourself.  Just like all of us, grocery chains are trying to deal with the unknowns of the disease, keep their employees safe, and still provide good customer service.   

Grocyer Carts at Trader JoesSo what’s a person to do who wants to help save the planetWhen a grocery store does not want us to bring our meori Pocket Shopper, our Grocery Basket or Essential Tote into the store, we simply ask that they put all the groceries back in the shopping cart and then we take it out to our car and load our groceries into our reusable bags that we have handy in the back of the car.  We have discovered that grocery clerks are happy to do this and really, it saves time at the checkout line and gets you out of the store quicker.  

When the grocery store allows us to bring the reusable bags into the store, we offer to bag them ourselves in case the grocery clerk does not want to handle the bags.  Sometimes this works out just fine but sometimes the grocery clerk would rather that we stay behind the plexiglass shield.  Either way, we remain flexible knowing we can always just put the groceries directly in the shopping cart and load them into our meori grocery bags when we get out to the car.

Where do we store all these reusable grocery bags? In our meori Trunk Organizer of course.  This keeps everything nice and tidy in the back of the car and is a great place to store jumper cables, cleaning supplies, paper towels etc.  

Yes, all of this takes a little bit more time now than before the pandemic but hey, maybe we have a little more time these days and the desire to take care of our planet Earth is ever-present.  A nice reminder that we are all in this together.


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