Yes, I'm asking if you remember your tote bags when you head for the grocery store? Or the box retail store? How about the bookstore, record store or boutique consignment store?
For most of us, the answer is "sometimes" with a slightly abashed look because we *know* that we really really should remember. And we all have a friend who *never* forgets their bags - and never misses a chance to share their tips for remembering said bags.
Me? I coordinate a first of its kind tote bag project in the entire nation and yet do not remember my bags all of the time. It has improved from "sometimes" to "most of the time" and is inching toward "pretty often" thanks to the addition of two Chico bags to my everyday tote as well as my willingness to use my everyday tote to store purchases.
But ... well, its a process and its a process driven by both my sense of obligation and my incentive.
One group of neighbors with a higher than average incentive are those who rely on public transportion to grocery shop. If you assume three disposable bags = one reusable bag, the incentive to either carry more home OR reduce the load you have to carry is pretty high.
The same logic applies to our neighbors using food pantries. Pantries often distribute 40 lbs of food at a time and strive to provide bulk items - like 64 ounce jars of juice or heavy loads of produce. Being able to use reliable, sturdy bags is a bonus when you are managing that amount of food on top of the entire reason you ended up at a food pantry in the first place.
Often in the course of promoting our work, I am asked "but how do you know that they remember to reuse their bags?" I always - always - respond "how do I know that you remember your bags?" and then start to discuss some of the realities of poverty that increase the incentive to remember bags.
Bags that save a few pennies here, a few pennies there. Pennies that add up to gas or lunch money or paper products. If you use coupons. Or shop at discount stores. And save all the pennies.
Bags that free up a hand. A hand that needs to hold a smaller hand securely when crossing streets and stepping up the big bus steps. A hand that has to show a bus pass or slip the fare into the box. A hand that also carries a purse with the rest of the monthly food budget and the house keys and other essentials.
Bags that give every neighbor, no matter their income level, an opportunity to control their environment, to have an impact.
Bags that say that people matter, all people. And that we think our neighbors deserve access to adequate food in a manner that's dignified and as simple as possible.
And ... we could learn more than a few lessons from them.
For more information on The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, visit our website www.tote4pgh.com
Sue Kerr, MSW
SueCat Social Media LLC
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