I've stopped using or accepting bags when I go shopping. I bring my own canvas bags (I have about a dozen from conferences and other sources) which I store in my trunk. At first, I started out just using them at the grocery store, then I realized I needed to use them EVERYWHERE - the drug store, office supply store, clothing store and even restaurants.
The other night, I went to one of my favorite fast food places - Chipotle. I was getting a burrito for take out. All I need is the burrito - no condiments, no plastic ware (heaven forbid!) so lately I've been telling the cashier, "Don't worry about a bag." I usually get a funny look.
My fellow event producer friend Dave just told me that when he brings his canvas bag to the office supply store, the cashier thinks he is BUYING the bag. He has to explain that the bag is his. When I was at the drugstore the other day, I told the cashier before the purchase was over, "Don't worry about a bag. I'll just put it in here." as I pointed to my large, durable bag made of recycled plastic bags (go to www.jadeplanet.net). She heard me. She understood. But when the transaction was complete, her automatic reaction was to put the merchandise in a plastic bag. I understood. But I didn't use her bag.
I hope that soon, it will be automatic to ask a customer for THEIR bag and that those who DON'T have their own bag get a funny look.
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Bags can be customized for retailers or conferences, trade shows and retreats.