#TenYears of Reusable Produce Bags

About ten years ago, I sewed a bunch of really ugly produce bags:

Look at the upper right side: the photo comes with its own verdict…EEK!

I wrote a painfully long-winded post about these bags shortly after I started this blog, in which I explained that one day I didn’t see plastic produce bags, and the next day I did.

So: I searched my fabric box and chose the most lightweight material I could find—a length of hideous curtain lace that my mother-in-law had probably bought on clearance and kept for a dozen years, before de-stashing and re-homing with her too-kind-to-say-no daughter-in-law, who—probably five years later—did the merciful thing (because fabric wants to be useful) and whipped up some reusable produce bags.

My children—especially my daughter—were horrified.

Why—WHY?!—do you have to be so weird, and NO, I am NOT going to take one of these bags and put apples into it, thankyouverymuch, because we are in PUBLIC (!) and who knows WHO might see us here, and . . .

(Ah, such happy memories . . .)

Ten-ish years later—ten-ish years during which I wore my children down and they willingly participated in my madness and I saved approximately 2000 plastic produce bags and my daughter got her own set of reusable produce bags (non-hideous ones which I bought for her stocking two Christmases ago)—my daughter goes shopping in a new zero-waste bulk store in the city in which she lives, and she texts me this photo:

EEEEKKKKK!!!!

Oh my. I think I will. (And I think I have to email the woman behind allthingspreserved.ca, so I can learn the story behind her produce bags.)

This post is a positive offering for the Ten Year challenges that are swirling around on Facebook and Instagram. So many of the pictures are so disheartening, but there are also so many positive things happening, especially in the zero-waste movement.

Zero-waste stores seem to be popping up everywhere—we even now have a tiny store, in the very small and not especially forward-thinking city in which we’re currently planted, a place where I can get bulk dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, and toothpaste. And while I know (I know!) that 2000 plastic produce bags saved—or two shampoo bottles, or three dish soap containers—won’t save the world, I can’t help but see all these little things as gateways: little things that can lead to other little things that can lead to bigger things, that can lead us from simple addition all the way to multiplication. Ripples to waves, in other words.

In other ten-year news, it’s ten-ish years since my daughter pushed her pork chop away and declared herself a vegetarian.

My children—especially my daughter—were horrified. Her parents—especially her mother—were horrified.

Why—WHY?!—do you have to be so weird, and NO, I am NOT going to take one of these bags and put apples into it, thankyouverymuch, because we are in PUBLIC (!) and who knows WHO might see us here, and . . . Why—WHY?!—do you have to be so difficult, and NO, I am NOT going to be cooking separate meals for you, thankyouverymuch, because that is doubling my work in the kitchen, and . . .

Ten-ish years later—ten-ish years during which she stuck to her guns and her little brother joined her and I learned even more about cooking and I gave up processed food and we all fully joined her and Oh She Glows became my Bible and her father went down two pant sizes—Health Canada ignored industry pressure and released a new food guide, which recommends a mostly plant-based diet.

Just to be clear: There’s is no connection whatsoever between my daughter becoming vegetarian and Health Canada releasing its new food guide.

There’s only this: Ten years will pass no matter what. And when we come upon new ideas or are faced with new realities, we have two choices: We can flat-out refuse to go or be pulled along protestingly, or, we can open our hearts and minds to new ways of doing and seeing. And if we open our hearts and minds, we might just be very surprised—and grateful—to see where we end up ten years later.

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28 thoughts on “#TenYears of Reusable Produce Bags

  1. I love all of this, but especially: Ten years will pass no matter what. (And if it doesn’t, well…)

    It delights me to no end that someone is now making precious produce bags so much like yours. Just wish you were going to get the profit from it. 🙂 I can’t quite go vegetarian (yet?), but I am eating a lot more plants. Small steps will get you there, especially if you take the long (ten year) view.

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    1. You managed to get a comment posted!! (As per your difficulties last time…)

      I was delighted, too 🙂 . (Shocked, more like, and disbelieving of what my daughter was telling me, until she texted me the photo and I could see for myself!) I would be lying if I said I didn’t also experience a twinge of “well there’s a missed opportunity! Why didn’t I think about making more and trying to sell them?” (I suppose in theory I still could; I could approach the owners of the small shop where I’m now getting my shampoo etc refilled, and float the idea…)

      More plants is good!

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    1. I’ve just had a look at your blog, and I think it’s quite possible that we’re twins, Caitlin! Love your produce bags story — I’ve also had cashiers give me the side eye. One was so concerned about the weight of my bag she tried to put the fruit into a plastic bag to weigh it. Sigh.

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  2. Marian, What a fun discovery for your daughter and for her to share such findings with you! I love to hear of the personal growth of your family, however it grows. An excellent storytelling of a mother and daughter bonding moment from an unusual coinsidink!

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  3. While I’m not a veggie, I did surprise myself when I wrote down our dinner meal board and noticed that 3 of the 5 meals were vegetarian (that wild rice soup that I linked a bit ago is STILL high on rotation).

    And we don’t have specifically zero waste stores, we do have a local co-op that sells soaps and detergents and other bits in bulk.

    Lastly, I’ve already told you how much I appreciate your stance on produce bags. My apples and limes and green peppers go rolling on the belt because I won’t use plastic (per your example) but I’m too cheap to buy and too lazy to make produce bags. It’s fine for now – it doesn’t do any harm.

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    1. I think it’s awesome that 3 out of 5 meals on your meal plan were vegetarian! (It’s just now hit me that V is now about the age my daughter was when she turned vegetarian…this is only pertinent because IF (IF!!!) V ever took a similar stance, you’d be SO much more ahead of the game than I was 🙂 ).

      Sometimes I walk over to a smaller grocery store in our neighbourhood, and I don’t always think to bring my produce bags, in which case I do the same as you—I just put the fruits/veggies directly onto the conveyer. (And then say, No bag!!! as there’s one cashier in particular who always wants to bag my stuff.) But for my regular grocery runs, I think the cashiers would have a fit if I put 21 apples (my usual “weekly” purchase) onto the belt sans bag!!

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      1. Considering you are now vegetarian, I think you did really well. When I was V’s (and your daughter’s age) I boycotted McDonalds due to styrofoam and my stepdad proceeded to ONLY stop at McDonalds on vacation/roadtrip. I hope I would be more respectful. We all like meat, but after doing some reading when my children were little, I started sourcing meat from local farmers with ethical/sustainable practices. Meat like that is expensive (as meat should be) so having vegetarian options to round it out is always a good idea.

        And 21 APPLES?!?!? I can see why the produce bags are necessary!! (And if you did decide to make some to sell, I would be in line to purchase them)

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      2. It makes me so sad that your stepdad did that to you, Kate 😦 .
        I overheard a conversation this weekend about the planet healthy diet. Apparently, this is a *mostly* plant-based diet, but it allows for some animal protein as well. (I think they recommend one serving of red meat per week, two servings of fish and two of chicken, with the rest of the protein to come from plants such as legumes.) When we were still transitioning to fully plant-based, we, too, ate only local/ethical/sustainable, and yes, it definitely was more expensive. Sadly, I think the numbers actually show grassfed/”sustainable” beef uses more water, emits more methane, and is more carbon-intensive, due to the longer length of time the animals take to grow to the proper size before slaughter 😦 . As a friend recently said: “everything is so complicated”…

        On the apples: three people X one apple a day X seven days = 21 apples 🙂 .
        (If you ever *do* need bags, they are SO easy and quick to make!!)

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  4. Marion, I too am going mind boggling trying I compute 21 apple in one week! How many people are you feeding? Are you baking apples pies or apple pastries every week? Are they all the same type of apple? Are you obsessive compulsive apple eating (trying to be humorous with that thought flying by my ADD mind storm)? Do you host a apple dunking game Friday’s? Apple caramel parties weekly? Friend me!!
    I hope you know that I’m trying to make you laugh. But truly, 21 apples a week? Was that a typo?
    Your blog friend, TD

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    1. This made me laugh, TD 🙂 . I’m WAY too lazy to make pies or pastries except for on special occasions, so the answer is just that we are rather obsessive about our apple eating around here 😉 . My husband, 13-year-old son and I all eat an apple every day, so a week’s worth is 21! Pears too, haha!

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  5. Kate and Marion, I admit that I am an anti-styrofoam freak! I take my Pyrex glassware to dine out as I know the single portions are more than one human “should” eat. The first time a server sees me pulling out my glasses to-go-ware, I usually hear a wonderful glee of “That is so smart!” Doing what I’m able a tiny bit at a time, I say. And they giggle.
    This week I asked for my dine in lunch ice tea in a to go cup. What the server brought it to me, he nicely said and here’s a straw! And I said, “No, no, save the turtles!” And he knew exactly what I meant. Then I looked at the cup and no – styrofoam!! 😳 We try so hard… and there is very little I’m out control. But we must try!

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    1. I think it’s awesome that you take pyrex glassware when you dine out!! Oh, I *so* get that sinking feeling when you’re trying so hard to be aware and to do your best and STILL things slip under your radar. But it’s just as you say — we just have to keep trying. No one is perfect, after all, and we’re fighting against decades and decades of completely entrenched convenience 😦 .

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      1. Today is Earth Day, so I had to come to your blog. I thought for sure you would have something on your mind for me to hear!
        Your blog friend, TD

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      2. Thank you for checking in, TD 🙂 . You were mostly right — I do have quite a lot on my mind for Earth Day (which, for eco-anxiety-me, is every day), but unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get all those thoughts out in an orderly blog post–worthy way. I’m feeling rather overwhelmed, tbh, and don’t know what that means for this tiny blog. I’ve been watching (awed and heartbroken and hopeful) as children around the world strike from school, and as adults join in as best they can (or independently in the Extinction Rebellion marches) . . . and then am faced by the fact that here at home we seem to be moving in reverse. We’ve got a government in Ontario that is cutting education and libraries and public health, and is spending tax money not only on lawsuits to fight the federal government’s carbon tax, but on misinformation-laden stickers that must now be affixed to fuel pumps! Oh, and they’re also using tax dollars to sue The Beer Store so we can have easier access to beer in corner stores. It’s probably fair to say it looks like they want us inebriated and stupid. Ugh.

        Anyway — sorry for that rant — it’s probably for the best that I’m quiet! But, yes, it’s Earth Day, and my 14-year-old son and I spent a lovely hour walking in nature and picking up litter.
        I hope you’ve been well, and thank you again for checking in 🙂 .

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  6. I’m laughing so hard with you! But now I know. “One apple a day keeps the doctor away.”Is that from Dr. Suess or my mom?
    And a pear too, apparently.
    My mom had my step-dad on a banana a day. She never ate bananas. Then one day in his 70’s he said to her, “That is the last banana that I’m eating!” And he meant it. He is now 91 years old, but no bananas.

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    1. I’m now racking my brain, because I have read ALL the Dr. Seuss…but no, I don’t think he ever said that, so it must be your mom 😉 . I’m not a fan of bananas, so I can sympathize with your step-dad!

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  7. “It’s probably fair to say it looks like they want us inebriated and stupid.”
    Uggh, is right! But YOU make me laugh!!

    I thought about you today. I find you very interesting with what is happening in your area.

    I started my day, after coffee, taking my dogs for a short walk to get out for a tiny exercise in the delightful spring weather. I pay $340 in an HOA monthly fee which entails paying a front maintenance service to pick up flying trash weekly and to pay for obviously the inebriated and stupid humans who refuse to pick-up after their dogs.

    Then I spent the rest of my day catching up on awful world news to the point of a bad mood hangover news reading.

    Earth Day Plan: I’m going to be an ostrich; put my head in the sand for a few days!

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  8. Marion,
    I took my ostrich head out of the sand just to check that the chaos was over.
    What I found was news, lots of news, about Extinction Rebellion. When you mentioned it to me, I had no idea what that was. But I do now. I certainly doesn’t make any sense to me as it seems to be creating more angst than a good benefit. Police and more people getting hurt.

    Then more to my immediate local city news regarding Earth Day was The City (our local gov officials) were complaining about all the litter in front of The City Courthouse and were The City Council hold their meetings. The complaint about the trash was blaming “the homeless.” I thought in perfect view of order is that there would never be homeless. And instead of blaming people who have nothing, much less trash, perhaps The City would spend time on solving shelters and spending money to shelter and feed the homeless rather than blaming them for having nothing (including not having trash). The City here has large visions of spending multimillion dollars to spend on projects to create visual greed of how wonderful this area is for the sake of tourism. The City Parks and Recreation is now contracted to pick up trash in front of that building (blaming homeless). Most likely it tourist along bay front attractions and the nature winds that we have here in a coastal climate.

    Egads! It is ridiculous here too. My rant… and really I am in zero control of any of it.

    As far as your blog. I enjoy learning about other people, their thoughts, concerns and coping with just being simple humans. But I get the overwhelming and the anxiety. If the blog becomes something that you enjoy doing and it brings you joy, I hope you keep at it. If it becomes less than joy, then spending your life doing things, no matter how simple, small, or slow it may seem, it is the far better choice. Possibly you may find it a place to write about the simple, small, slow things that you see around your area would be enjoyed. I would read it! 😃

    PS I only needed the evening and sleep with my head in the sand. I’m recovered! 🐥

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    1. Thanks for all this, TD — I appreciate your thoughts about the blog. I, too, enjoy learning about other people, for the exact reasons you list: “their thoughts, concerns and coping with just being simple humans.” I’m pretty sure you’re subscribed, so if I do manage to gather my thoughts and post something, you’ll get notified 🙂 .

      Regarding Extinction Rebellion, I know they’re causing chaos, but the disruption is the point. We can’t keep going on business-as-usual, and the people who are protesting are trying to wake everyone up to that. Many people see what’s coming, but there are still too many who don’t.

      I’m glad you’ve recovered! I feel as though I shut down every single evening from overwhelm — there are so many things I’d like to do (read more, write more, knit more) — but most evenings I find I just can’t, so I’ve been re-watching Star Trek Voyager. It’s comforting/numbing to escape for an hour into a future world where all the problems on Earth have been solved…

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      1. I love Star Trek! All of them. I watched them on tv with my childhood family. Then at the theater as soon as they came out. But I never knew that all the problems had been solved on Earth!! I’ll trust you one that delightful note. 👽

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      2. Sorry, TD, I meant to respond to this sooner. I love all the Star Treks, too. I think that of the TV shows Voyager has weathered the passage of time the best. I tried to watch Next Gen with my son (13 at the time) and cringed at some of the female costuming. As for solving all the problems on Earth, there’s a line or two about that in a couple of the shows, although I can’t tell you which ones; I just remember that they’re there *somewhere*. Then there’s this great exchange that happens in one of the first shows of Voyager: Tom is telling Harry about the real-life bar/pool hall on Earth that inspired his holo-deck program, and says he came across the bar in Paris after being pick-pocketed. And Harry says, “Wait, you were pick-pocketed on Earth?” And Tom laughs and says, “Yeah, they do it for the tourists. They give it back. Usually.”

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  9. That is so funny! I remember going to bed thinking about that concept.

    And I also thought that I don’t recall anyone needing money or exchanging of money. So you must be correct that all of the problems must have been solved on Earth.

    But, now you got me going again in my head! Pick-pocketed?!? So they did have money issues!

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    1. Dammit! I hate illogical and ill-fitting plot points 🙂 . OK, well, maybe that particular show was written by a rookie who failed to appreciate the consequences of a joke like that on diehard fans who would say, Hey wait a minute, that can’t be right! and it then also just happened to slip past whoever is supposed to check such things against Star Trek canon? Or — maybe their wallets contained nothing but identification!

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