Last year, our local county imposed a charge on the use of plastic bags in shops. The shop owners worried that their customers would be upset by the imposition of the bag charge. Instead they found that most people valued the incentive to carry their own bags as a very tangible way of dealing with the problem of plastic in the community.
Of course, in the "olden" days before the single-use plastic shopping bag was introduced, it was standard practice to carry bags to the shops and no-one would have thought about being given a bag of any kind, even a paper bag, to carry their shopping home. But all that changed in the 70's and 80's with the introduction of plastic shopping bags. Many stores even frowned upon customers using their own bags, and soon it became standard practice for all shops to provide bags at their checkouts for everyone to use.
However, by the turn of the century the problems from this usage were becoming apparent: landfills were filling up with plastic, bags were polluting the waterways and rivers, and animals both on land and in the sea were being injured.
It was a medium-sized shopping trip of my own in 2007 that made me want to do something about this. I returned from the supermarket with just a moderate shopping load.
However, I counted the number of plastic bags that the store clerk had given me and there were 23 plastic bags! The box of eggs were in their own bag, each pot of milk was doubled-bagged etc. Twenty-three bags for just one outing....
On the next shopping trip I took 3 linen bags with me, but soon became aware of their limitations. For a start, I didn't have enough of them, so really needed to carry more. However, when I started carrying a larger number of linen bags I saw they are actually quite heavy, so add a fair bit to the weight you need to carry if you are on foot.
And lastly, while they are fabulous for transporting heavy items they are quite hopeless for the bulky and awkwardly-shaped items that make up quite a large part of a regular shopping visit.
So I went home and got out my knitting needles. Two days later I had my first knitted shopping bag and by the end of the week I had three to carry to the supermarket. Brilliant. Not a single plastic bag on this trip and everything accommodated with ease.
I made a number more to give to friends and family, and increased my stock so that I had lots of pretty-coloured bags. Well, why not!! I then submitted the pattern to Knitty and it was published 5 years ago in the Summer 2008 edition as the "BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag" pattern.
Since then I have had so many great comments and suggestions and have now published an updated pattern, the BYOB 2.0. The chief difference in this version is that it now uses 100% natural yarns. That was something that troubled me with the original design: that I had used a cotton/acrylic yarn. There were lots of good reasons at the time, as the brand I selected was easily available and came in a range of lovely colours. It was also soft yet strong - both really important qualities for a bag yarn.
However, if you're trying to knit an eco-bag then you do want it to be able to return to nature at the end of its life. That is, after all, the main point of the exercise. So the BYOB 2.0 is worked in a crisp 100% cotton yarn.
I have also added a range of sizes so that you can select the size that will work for you. I like longer bags that go over my arm so that I can carry multiple bags but still leave my hands free. However, I know that some people prefer to carry their bags in their hands so might prefer a smaller, shorter bag. So hopefully having a few different size options will work for everyone.
The free BYOB 2.0 pattern can be downloaded by clicking here.
Happy Earth Day 2013!
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