When plastic bags first hit the scene, we had a choice: paper or plastic. Today, finding a grocery store that offers an alternative to the plastic bag is like finding a hamburger in a vegetarian's fridge. And if you're not that hypervigilant person at the checkout, you'll find yourself walking home with a bag for each item.
In fact, in countries like the United States, it's tough to make a purchase without it promptly being thrown into plastic. No wonder plastic bags seem omnipresent. About 1 billion of them pass through the U.S. every year, less than 1 percent of which are recycled [source: Clean Air Council]. What doesn't end up as 300,000 tons (272,155 metric tons) of U.S. landfill waste litters cities and towns-- and too many end up in the ocean [source: Clean Air Council]. They kill millions of sea turtles, birds and ocean mammals each year [source: Environment California]. But you have to lug those groceries home somehow. So what do you do? Reusable grocery bags, for starters.
You can get them festooned with patterns or printed with the name or your bank/gym/frozen yogurt shop. Everyone hands them out, and they come in canvas, woven plastic fiber, hemp, cotton and even leather. You'll find nylon ones that fold up into a pouch small enough to fit in your pocket. In reality, any type of bag will do, whether it's meant to carry groceries or not.
Bonus: By avoiding plastic bags, you won't have them accumulating in your cupboards, and you don't have to worry about where they go when you throw them out.