Earlier this month, the New York Times filed a report on the consumption of plastic bags. While several legislative changes have been proposed and implemented across the country, and more grocery stores are promoting the sale of reusable bags, some consumers are resisting these bag changes.
I was particularly struck by this quote in the NY Times article:
“I would never be convinced to bring my own bags. Never,” Kathy Young of Dix Hills, N.Y., said recently as she pushed a shopping cart loaded with plastic bags of groceries and her young twins, Dylan and Sarah. “I can hardly remember what I need to get here, let alone bring my own bags.”
This response fascinates me for a number of reasons. First, I'm dismayed by this person's belief that they would be so impervious to change. Perhaps she may reconsider her stance if she had to pay for those plastic bags, or if a social stigma were associated with using plastic bags. Second, this negative attitude signals a missed opportunity for teaching her kids how to become environmentally responsible. It's an understatement to say that children are influenced by their parents (well, that is, until they become teenagers!). This parent could serve as a good role model to her kids by using reusable bags. And third, her comment reminded me of some current research in cognitive psychology, which focuses on people's remembering to perform an intended action (i.e., bringing reusable bags to the grocery store).
More details about prospective memory later, but in the meantime, here's two simple tricks to help folks remember to bring their bags to the grocery store. If you're the type of person who writes a shopping list, just write a note to yourself (like "bring bags!") on that list. And always keep a stash of bags in your car. That way, if you're forgetful like I am, at least the bags will be stored in the car for you to retrieve while you're at the grocery store.