Among other things 2014 is and has been, it is decidedly the Year of the Tote Bag. The tote bag is the humblest of accessories—washable, unisex, shapeless, and compact. It defies pretension, even when emblazoned with the name of an über-trendy literary magazine, or whatever. It’s a rare tote bag that costs more than $25, and for this and its versatility, it is decidedly the People’s Bag. And what a week in this Year of the Tote Bag: It’s BYOBag Week, a project of BagItNYC, a community non-profit collective that seeks to reduce New Yorkers’ reliance on plastic bags.
This is why Councilman Brad Lander, the would-be hero of the credit check ban, has put forward a bill to significantly reduce the number of single-use plastic bags in New York City, which the New York Times reported last year as costing $10 million in disposal alone. Lander’s bill, Int 0209, would not impose an all-out ban (I mean, what is this, Portland?), only a $0.10 fee per bag. Add to that the fact that most larger grocery stores in the city double-bag everything by default, an afternoon’s errands could run you the price of a coffee or two.
Or, you could carry a a few extra totes in the bottom of your primary tote and save yourself the money, and the waste. Mother Jones offered a caveat to the rejoicing over California’s recent statewide plastic bag ban, noting that a paper bag must be used three times in order to outrun the environmental impact of its plastic cousin, a polypropylene bag (those ugly, sort of papery, flat-bottom totes) must be used at least 11 times, and a cotton tote must be used 131 times. The author notes, “Freebie branded totes gathering dust in closets are not worth the energy they took to produce.” A sobering lesson in cycling through your totes.
Used or unused, I’d rather have a few dusty totes in my closet than countless windswept black plastic bodega bags on the sidewalk and in the street. For aspiring toters, Brooklyn Based has an awesome tote bag roundup. Think of BYOBag Week as a chance to envision a future New York City, where every man, woman, child, and artificially intelligent nannybot-drone has a tote of his/her/its own. The local drunks will swig from flask-sized totelets, and every corner will be littered not with plastic but with off-cast tote dust. Totes are the future. Plan accordingly.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.