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Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's so hard to form new habits!

I don't know if any of you guys ever deliberately form new habits. I have done it many times. The latest one that I've been working on for over a year (!) is to take my canvas shopping bags from my car into the grocery store. A cupla years ago, before I realized that the natural world was doomed, I bought a couple of canvas grocery bags. My initial motivation was to help reduce the plastic bag count on our planet's surface. After using them a cupla times I found that they are much better bags than the plastic ones. They have better handles that are easier to find and don't hurt your hands. Plus, when loaded, you can set them down and they stay upright. That even works when you are also loaded!

But after you get home and put away the stuff, you have to get the bags back to the car for the next trip. That has not been a serious problem because I hang the empty bags on the doorknob. That way, I can't leave the house without seeing them, so I take them out to the car with me. But, they tend to stay in the car! :(

One must develop the habit of taking them from the car into the grocery store. I forget to do this about half the time. Sometimes I don't realize it until I'm in the checkout line; then it's too late to do anything. But often I will realize it when I'm in the middle of shopping. Many times I have quickly left the store, gone quickly to my car, and brought the bags into the store. I do this in an effort to train myself. I'm amazed at how long it has taken, and I'm still not completely trained! Perhaps this particular habit is difficult to form because I only shop about twice a week. Also, exiting the car is something one does frequently for various reasons, not just to go grocery shopping. Besides, I have been buying groceries for fifty years, using the store bags.

Hopefully, writing this may increase my awareness of this issue, and lead me to finally have this new habit!



  1. Heh. I've known the natural world was doomed since I was 12. Comes from growing up in Florida, where the rate of destruction is so high you can turn around to pee under a tree and find the tree is gone already.

  2. I have formed the habit of ensuring that I save all plastic water bottles, glass beer bottles, and aluminum soda cans and every three months or so, take them into the recycling center. Besides helping the environment, my other motivation is to recover the "redemption value" deposit that the stores charge at the time of purchase of these items. All other plastics, paper, glass and metal go into the recycle container that is provided by the city of Anaheim, California, where I live. We as Americans need recycle a lot more than we currently do.

  3. I have that exact same issue! I also tend to forget the loyalty card for the grocery and inevitably end up leaving the line to run out and get the card if they won't give me a courtesy swipe. Now, if we could combine the card and the bag somehow, maybe it would induce me to remember.

    These little bags are pricy, but really lightweight and compact...small enough for a purse but still a little awkward for pockets. Close though.

  4. Very interesting blog with many good points. Thanks for including my pitch for electric cars.

    I am trying to reduce my EF, and instead of buying a new car this year, I bought a 1993 Honda Acccord that has been driven 216,000 miles. It gets good gas mileage, but of far more importance is the energy that has been saved by eliminating the manufacturing of one new car.

    Millions of cars, some in good condition and others that could be repaired, are scrapped each year. Imagine the EF reduction if people just kept their cars longer and repaired them as long as it was feasible.

    Of course this would be bad for the auto industry, and the ripple effects would be tremendous. This also true of a serious reduction of EF in any other sector. This is a problem that also must be addressed.

    BTW I have forwarded the web site for the Curitiba transportation system to the mayor of our city. David Stea called attention to the web site in his comments on an earlier blog.

    Jim Hasper

  5. Old dog, eh?

    New habits are definitely a struggle and I think the biggest hurdle is automatic thinking. The older we get, the less we concern ourselves with the minutae of getting through the day. Our brains conspire by filling in the details and moving us along into the future, figuring that the next few moments are going to play out as they always have.

    But it's a struggle that can be worth the effort. I think that keeping your attention on the issue is the critical part to forming new habits. When I quit smoking 4 years ago (after 25 years), I thought about it constantly for 2 months. It wasn't that I was obsessing about it. I was reworking my brain to think differently.

    That said, I still can't remember to hang that darn parking permit on the read-view mirror Monday morning to keep from being towed. (It's never happened, but I have gotten a big orange sticker twice.)

    Regarding personal energy responsibility, there are hundreds of ways to compensate. In my case, my 12-year old car doesn't get great gas mileage (23 mpg), but I only drive 4,000 miles a year (and I go home for lunch every day.) Between that and no kids, I have to think that I'm one of the cleanest capitalistic robber-barons in the country!

    So keep trying with the bags, Mitchell. I know you can do it. Have you tried stuffing all of them inside of one bag? Here's another idea. My wife insists that I always bring back the gallon of milk in an insulated bag (I do the grocery shopping.) And I put that insulated bag in the trunk just before I leave. That's the time I would take the reusable bags out and put them inside the car (if I were using reusable bags...)

    Good luck,

  6. Here's a good website for re-usable earth friendly shopping bags.

    I can also report that many of the grocery stores here in Costa Rica are now selling heavy duty re-usable canvas bags. Now if they could just get on board with proper recycling of all the aluminum, plastic and glass bottles that stretch from one end of the country to the other. I have noticed that if individuals take the time to separate and sort their recycleable household trash someone with pick them up and make a little money from them. Let's all do our part people! It's not that difficult to love our planet!

  7. I have the habit now.



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