How our cat demands we use fabric grocery bags — and the 5 tricks we use to remember to use them!

Guest post by Jen Cywinski

Bed Cat

I love reusable shopping bags. I have tons of them (store bought and handmade) stuffed into a single bag that hangs in the coat closet, ready for action at a moment’s notice! However, the pile of plastic shopping bags seems to multiply with increasing vigor. One day it’s just a couple of bags floating around the kitchen, the next I’m faced with K2. It’s a sad but true situation many people find themselves in. The intention to reuse is there, but the bags don’t make it out of the house, the car, or the bottom of your cart. My local supermarket even put a sign outside of their doors reading, “Don’t forget your reusable bags!” so I know I’m not alone! Cue collective eco-guilt.

I want to help the environment, but my brain is also swimming with reminders to take out the trash, feed the cat, pack my lunch, and do the laundry. In the big scheme of the day remembering some cloth bags rates pretty low compared to preventing stink and starvation — at least until now.

What’s changed? In the month since we’ve moved, the need to eliminate plastic and embrace cloth has become more important than ever because of our cat.

Remus is affectionate, wakes me up in the morning, and loves to play, but he also chews on plastic grocery bags. Not like a chew toy — he is actually eating little pieces of plastic. I wake up several times a night to tiny munching sounds emanating from beneath the dresser or in the hallway. Afraid that he’d get sick and damage his tiny intestines I’d jump out of bed to confiscate his prize. Why was he doing this now? He’d never done it until we moved? Maybe it’s a sign. Yes, a sign! With our new apartment comes our new healthy habits! Or something like that. Either way it was time to get creative since the issue had gone from “Help the environment” to “Help the environment and save the cat from death by plastic.”
You might not have a cat that noms on plastic bags, but these tricks should help you remember your bags or any other items.

Remember your bags!

  1. Hang your bags on the front door. Keeping them in the coat closet might be tidy, but it makes them easier to forget.
  2. Always have one or two compact grocery bags in your purse or back pack. When you make a quick trip for milk you’ll be a Champion of Preparation.
  3. Positive reinforcement. Okay, stay with me. Associate those cloth bags with something good. For example, I have one fabric bag so giant it makes me feel like Johnny Appleseed 2012. It’s silly and that is exactly why I won’t ever forget that bag.
  4. Use technology to your advantage. Going grocery shopping after work? After the kids get home? Set an alarm in your phone for 15 minutes before you’re heading out to the store.
  5. Shopping list! Leave a reminder written on your shopping list or order some custom made ones on VistaPrint. As long as you remember your list you will be ready.

Comments on How our cat demands we use fabric grocery bags — and the 5 tricks we use to remember to use them!

    • Yes! As soon as I empty my bags from shopping, I take them back out to the car. Lately I’ve been trying to do more grocery shopping by bike, so I put the bags back in my bike basket.

      Also can’t agree enough with the “keep a bag in your purse” suggestion. Mine folds up like a tiny strawberry and I use that thing a LOT.

  1. I live in Germany, where they charge you for shopping bags, which is a great incentive not to forget them! I also have a few bags that fold down really small (these are my faves: and I always keep one in my purse. They fit a ton of stuff in them, so one is usually enough.

    • Yes, they charge 30 (cents) per paper bag in Switzerland, or 1 franc for a sturdy reusable one. I use the paper ones for recycling, so I buy them occasionally. However I keep reusable bags everywhere – in the car, by the door, tiny ones in my purse….

  2. One thing I forgot to do this weekend was put our two GIANT Ikea reusable bags (those blue ones with the yellow handles) in the car so they’re always there. Every time we go to BJs (wholesale club) we forget to bring bags, which sucks because they don’t offer bags. The giant Ikea bag works perfectly because it’s large enough to accommodate the bulk packages you get at wholesale clubs.

  3. It also doesn’t hurt to have cute ones with fun designs. Makes ’em more fun to use. And once you get accustomed to the reusable kind, it is frustrating to go back to plastic because they are so small and wussy.

    • When you have to climb several floors with wussy shopping bags, it’s a bummer, and often takes several trips. Reusable bags are much sturdier, and lets me bring All The Groceries in with one trip up stairs.

      • I have several reusable bags with handles that are long enough for me to slip my arm inside and hang them over my shoulder. I hardly ever bring my shopping cart out to the car because I walk out with just the bags. When I carry two on each shoulder and have a lot of beverages it gives my legs quite a workout!

    • Agreed.

      I hate using plastic bags now because they don’t hold as much as even my smallest bag, they don’t keep their shape so things get all jumbled and squashed and if I buy anything with sharp corners it ends up jabbing me in the leg as I walk home.

      It almost makes me wonder how I lived with them before.

    • Yes! My biggest incentive for remembering my canvas bags is how freaking annoying it is to have to carry in a dozen little bags instead of four, easy to lift, big bags. My own annoyance helps me remember.

  4. I made a ‘bag of bags’ for my friend, Christy. It doesn’t look like that would work in your particular situation but the bag I made is incredibly durable, washable, and can be recycled at the end of its life.

  5. remus looks like my schrödinger. and schrödinger likes to nom on plastic bags too.

    one thing i do that helps me remember to use my fabric bags is actually to keep them in the car, and NOT the trunk. this obviously won’t work for everyone (unless you also live in a 3-story townhouse and have a toddler that goes everywhere with you), but i’ll post it anyway because i’m sure it can be adapted. i live in a townhouse with the main floor actually on the second floor above the garage/ground floor, so as soon as i put away my groceries, i fold the bags up and put them on the stairs by my shoes and purse. that way i don’t forget to take them back out to the car. then i keep them on the backseat (or on the floor in front of the backseat) on the side of the car i go through to buckle my toddler son into his car seat. they’re always right there, and i grab a few when i go to retrieve my son from his car seat before going into the store.

  6. I have a spoiled, tubby boy-cat named Tiger. Unlike the other feline layabouts in my house, he chews on plastic like Violet Beauregarde chews gum. It is so annoying to hear the crunchy crackling of whatever non-food-food he has decided to munch in the middle of the night. Garbage bag with those red pull cords? No cords anymore. Hid a bag of kitty treats on the top of a cabinet? Absconded, chewed, but closed due to lack of thumbs to work zip-lock seal. Birdseed? Now spilling out over the kitchen floor due to fang sprinkler system he installed. Plastic folder filled with student papers? Try explaining to college students that the cat ate their homework. He also opens the cabinet to steal Caeser’s dog food and eats through the foil lids; one night we found 10 with varying degrees of cat-can-opener damage.

    Cloth bags? Always and forever forgetting them. Will try tips.

    • My cat had an insane addiction to plastic as well. All the same as yours! Though Ziplock bags were his favorite. That crackling noise from under the bed at 3am is THE WORST! aaargh!

    • My cat loves plastic too! He mostly just chews, but doesn’t seem to eat it a lot, fortunately.

      UNfortunately, at least in this instance, I’m a potter and have to wrap all my moist clay in plastic. This is very hard when my cat chews holes in all my plastic bags….

  7. Strangely enough it’s one ecological habit that has led to another being remembered in our household.
    We always remember to take the 5c deposit bottles back to the supermarket (it a large bed bath & beyond reusable bag). We remember these so that the kitchen won’t smell.
    We store our other reusable bags next to the recycling so we remember to take them too!

    Also we use the cool self scanny beeping hand held macine thingy when we stop (in stop & shop) so having our own bags makes that so much easier!

  8. I installed giant hooks right next to the back door where we exit the house to go to the grocery store, & hung the cloth bags there. Plus, I keep a few Chico Bags (look ’em up — they’re big bags that fold into themselves) in my purse & in the car. We’re never without a cloth bag.

    One of our cats LOVES to chew & eat plastic. Then he pukes it up around the house. So yeah, no plastic bags for us, for both environmental & feline reasons 🙂

  9. Curious for those of you with cats that don’t have plastic bags in your house: what do you use when you scoop the litter boxes? We mainly scoop into plastic bags from stores, but this summer, stores can no longer give out plastic bags. I’m trying to figure out a good way that doesn’t involve more waste or changing cat litter! (We have two 16 year old cats, among others. They are crochety and set in their ways.)

    • My non-eco-friendly side uses the arm&hammer diaper baggies (though them sell them “for pets” now too) to scoop litter into. I also scoop into a small bucket that I take out to the trash and dump.

    • Yeah I was gonna say the same thing: what can we scoop the cat shit into? We have two kittehs. I usually take reusable bags to carry the plastic-bagged groceries in though… 😛

    • I use Feline Pine. My old cat switched from clay to the Pine with no prob, but I realize not all cats are good with change. BUT! I keep the box in the bathroom so, I just scoop the poops straight into the toilet. The pee absorbs into the pine litter and when its time to change the box I just dump the used litter into the compost! No waste and no bags!!!

      • Just a warning about using cat litter in compost. Animal faeces has toxic microorganisms in it that breed like the dickens in the warm environment in compost. So if you’re then using compost on your plants/vegetables it can be very dangerous.

  10. Since this is about cats and reusable bags, I feel obligated to share this: either keep the cat away from the reusable bags or warn your cashier. If they are quite allergic to cats, they’ll need to call over someone else to handle the bags.

  11. If you do find yourself with a ton of plastic bags, your library may accept them, for handing out to patrons. Many libraries have cut new plastic bags from their budgets, for both financial and environmental reasons, but many patrons still expect them. Most branches will take donations of clean plastic bags.

  12. If only plastic bags were the only thing my cat, Thirteen, who looks similar to yours, chewed on. He chews on my trash can bag, the part that sticks out. He also has both sides of my shower curtain liner chewed. He tries to chew on my cell phone, iPod, and laptop. I’ve decided he is just really weird. Though I’m not sure he’s eating as much as just chewing on it.

  13. Our humane society takes plastic bags.
    I actually stash the reused plastic bags in backpacks and bags. It’s really nice to have a disposable/giveaway option and they roll up really tight and are waterproof for really gross stuff. (like car sick doggies)

  14. My cat Findus eats plastic too. We try to keep all plastic out of the house, but it’s really hard to do. We have child locks on the cupboard where the garbage bags are stored, and the garbage can is also in that cupboard. We keep a lot of plastic that you can’t get rid of behind closed doors or in cupboards with child locks. Although he likes to gnaw on the hard plastic child locks too.
    We even had to switch to a fabric shower curtain because we noticed a big half moon shaped piece of the vinyl one was eaten.
    I keep reusable bags in my purse, the trunk of the car, and in the coat closet. Most of the time I remember them, but my cupboard still fills up with plastic bags! The newspaper comes in a bag, the flyers come in a bag, if i forget my bags for one shopping trip I then have 10 more bags in the house.
    They were charging for bags here for a while, but it didn’t stick. I wish it would.
    It’s gotten to the point with my bag paranoia that if I see plastic bags in other peoples houses, I get on edge – “put the plastic away! Findus is going to eat it!! oh wait – Findus doesn’t live here” lol!

    • The same here! I always spot plastic bags in other homes and have to make an effort not to put them away! Phoenix really eats them, if I miss one, I will find it in the litter box. But he never tries the ones I use for litter box disposing!
      I usually carry a backpack, so it’s enough for any unprogrammed shopping, and take extra bags when I go purposely. But sometimes we get the groceries delivered, and they bring an abundance of plastic bags!

  15. I found what worked for me was forcing myself to go back and get the bags if I forgot them. It was annoying, but thats where the incentive came from. Pretty soon it became automatic – if I’m going to the supermarket I should have a bag in my hand as I go out the door.

    Although this probably depends on where you live and how you get to the store. I’d normally remember halfway down my road and have to turn around and walk back to get them, which was annoying but do-able.

    My friend would have to go back to her buildings garage, pull up at the gate, get out to key the number in, get back in, pull back into her parking space, get her toddler out his car seat, go back into the building and up the elevator, and back into her apartment, then reverse the entire process to go back out. If that was me I think I’d just decide to use plastic bags again.

  16. When we made the switch, my teenage boys had a hard time remembering… so I made them carry everything home from the store with no bad. They started remembering pretty quick 😉

  17. My cats don’t eat plastic, thank goodness, but one of them got herself stuck in plastic bags twice, and the other one will pee or poop on them if she finds one on the floor and doesn’t think her litter box is clean enough.

  18. My switch to reusable bags was because of my dog, to be honest. Besides the eco factor, my dog had a habit of sticking his toy ball into the grocery bags when I put them on the floor before I put everything away. We found the game of him dropping his ball in and me pulling it out to throw into the living room would be easier with the roomier bags. And the fact that we’d only do it about three or four times instead of ten times with the plastic sacks. This also meant we’d get outside quicker since I wasn’t dealing with a dozen bags. (The dog is now living with my parents, and he still does this whenever I do shopping for my mother.)

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