According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the United States every year. The bags are not biodegradable, which causes the landfills to grow ever larger each year. Plus, it uses oil to produce the bags, which could be used for gas or heating.
Although I'm probably not considered very “green” (I do recycle, but I use paper towels, etc), I do use cloth grocery bags when I go to the store. My community recently added plastic shopping bags to their list of recyclables, but before they did, I wasn't comfortable with the number of plastic bags that were ultimately thrown away at our house. I do like to keep some plastic bags for things such as holding dirty diapers, etc, but I didn't need the multiple bags that I was collecting each shopping trip.
Over time, I purchased reusable shopping bags from my normal grocery store for $0.99 (obviously, Meijer, from the picture). I was able to pick one of them up for free from a deal at the store (Buy x, get a free bag). However, there are more frugal ways to get these bags. For example, Cost Plus World Market was giving away reusable tote bags at their store on 1/25. Or, you could make your own bags. Also, some divisions of Kroger offer incentives if you use your own bags (around $0.04 to $.05), so these incentives add up over time to reimburse you for the cost of purchasing the bag.
I originally was resistant to the idea of using these bags, because I didn't think I'd remember to use them. However, I have a system in place to help me remember: as soon as I unload groceries, I stack up the bags and immediately put them back in my trunk. Then, when I get to the store, I just need to remember to pull them out of the trunk and bring them in.
Do you use cloth shopping bags? Do you have any frugal tips on acquiring them? How do you remember to use them? For more tips that work for others, visit Rocks in My Dryer.