I’m wondering what our forebears did long before plastic and paper bags were created. My educated guess is that they only bought a tenth as many things. And when they did, baskets, buckets, grain sacks, and aprons all made good totes with minimal environmental impact. Creative use of what was at hand seemed to be the order of the day. I have a feeling that determined shoppers have always found a way to get their purchases home!
So what are we moderns who care about the health of the Earth supposed to do? Here are my solutions in order of preference: 1) Take neither paper nor plastic bag if possible and put your hands and arms to good use 2) Use a durable cloth bag 3) Drop those purchases into a second-hand paper or plastic bag and 4) Ask for plastic. Let me comment on each choice.
Most people have never considered that they don’t need a bag for most purchases. Store clerks routinely chuck even the smallest or largest of items into an unnecessary plastic bag, but you can simply tell them you don’t need one. I’ve been doing this for several years and so far no one has forced a bag on me, nor has any over-zealous guard tackled me on suspicion of shop-lifting.