By Ashley Lodato

A friend of mine recently reported that her husband had given her some reusable fabric grocery bags for her birthday. “These lumberjack types,” she said wryly, “they sure know how to make a girl’s heart go pitter-patter.”

But almost in the same breath she admitted that she had long been in need of a new set of shopping bags and had even gone so far as to tell her husband to remind her to acquire some. And lo, he listened closely to her request, and sensed her unfulfilled need, and with swift and manly decisiveness, satisfied her desire. If that’s not love, coupled with the complex understanding that comes with 20 years of marriage, I’m not sure what is.

As the recipient of a sophisticated mop-and-bucket unit lovingly gifted to me by my husband for a recent anniversary, I can fully appreciate the conflicting emotions elicited by a gift that highlights both the undeniable thrill of domesticity and the message such offerings carry: “I know you this well,” mops and tote bags seem to say. And if items like a fancy mop prove so seductive that other family members are tempted to use them, well, all the better. (I’m still waiting for this to happen. Don’t laugh — it could!)

So reusable grocery bags were already on my mind when, seemingly out of the blue, two other friends shared their own experiences with them.

A Seattle friend recently traveled to Houston for work and, as is her custom, she brought with her a supply of reusable grocery bags. After checking in to her AirBNB, she went grocery shopping, and at the checkout counter laid her three bags on the belt in front of her groceries. When the belt advanced to the cashier, he picked up the bags and turned them over looking for a bar code. Upon finding none, he shrugged, then carefully folded the bags and set them in the bottom of a plastic grocery bag, missing the point of the bags in a way that would have been ironic had it not been so completely guileless.

Another friend was in Nashville and found herself buying two small items in a local supermarket. As the cashier was loading the items into a plastic bag, the friend said “Oh no thanks, I don’t need a bag.” The cashier carefully removed the items from the bag, handed my friend her purchases, and then crumpled up the plastic bag and threw it in the trash — just one of the millions of unthinking daily actions that are slowly but surely accelerating the demise of our planet.


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