02/22/2011 10:47 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Is There Never a Bird Around When You Need One?

by guest blogger Rick Chillot, senior editor,

Well, we're into the final week of our plastic-free challenge at One thing that's become clear to me is that each of us has different challenges when it comes to cutting back on our plastic use. For me, I think the biggest issue is getting by without using plastic shopping bags. I avoid them whenever I can, but I just never seem to have a reusable shopping bag with me when I need one. Especially at the supermarket. I simply can't remember to bring them with me when I leave the house, even though I leave them hanging on the doorknob or on a hook right by the door. They always get left behind. So I spent some time yesterday pondering ways that people like me can sure to have a reusable shopping bag at hand whenever they're needed.

My first idea is the shopping bag bandolaro:

Basically an over-the-shoulder belt stuffed with folded-up shopping bags, keeping them right within reach when you need them. It's a very practical option, I think, because it keeps both your arms free. Plus, if the sombrero ever comes back in style, you can create a real bandito kind of look.

That got me thinking about another option: a super-hero-type shopping bag utility belt.

Here, as you can see in the close-up, you press a button on your belt, and the super-compressed bag is ejected by jet propulsion, and expands instantly to full size. Very dramatic! But maybe you don't want to call that much attention to yourself. In that case...


You could try this under-the-sleeve shopping bag arm dispenser. It's kind of a less-lethal version of what Robert De Niro used in Taxi Driver. You just flick your arm and a shopping bag is dropped right into your hand, ready for use.

Since yesterday was Presidents' day, it occurred to me that people don't wear stovepipe hats as much as they used to. Which is a shame because...


...those hats would be the perfect place to stash some folded-up shopping bags. You could even have a mechanism that would dispense one out of the top of the hat when you press a button. I'm fairly certain that would be simple to engineer, based on the Dr. Seuss books I've read. Or, instead of keeping the bags in your hat...


...why not wear one as your hat? Or perhaps as a pirate-like headband. Or maybe hang it over your shirt, where it can protect you from food stains when you're not using it. You'll be prepared to eat lobster at a swanky restaurant or carry your purchases without adding plastic to the landfills. Whatever the situation requires!

One last idea...have you ever noticed, like I have, that on a typical day there seem to be plenty of birds flying around that don't have anything important to do?


What if we trained them to fly around carrying shopping bags? Whenever you needed one, you would give a signal, and a bird would bring you a bag. Then when you're done, you throw it back into the air and a bird catches it and keeps it until someone else needs it.

If there are any entrepreneurs out there, it seems to me that you could really clean up by making any of these ideas work. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. How do you manage to remember your shopping bags?

Related Links:
An Open Letter to President Obama - Maria's Farm Country Kitchen
Plastic-Free Challenge, Creating Awareness if Not Consistency -'s Plastic Free February

For more from Maria Rodale, go to