Bring Your Own Bags and Containers to the Farmers’ Market

Why are farmers’ market goers shopping like they were at the supermarkets in the 80s when it comes to bringing their own bags and containers?

People who shop at the farmers’ markets tend be more health and environmentally conscious than the average person. They go there for the fresh food that’s better for their health. They go there for less processed food than is available at the groceries store or other places, that is also better for their health. They go there to buy local and support local farming. They go there to buy local and minimize GHG emissions from less food miles, which is a green myth but they deserve points for trying to be environmentally conscious.

So why are they still insisting on getting a bag for everything they buy instead of bringing their own, even when grocery stores are offering rewards for bringing your own bag?

I’ve only been to a handful of local farmers’ market in Nova Scotia, mostly the old Halifax Farmers’ Market and the new Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. However, I don’t think the shoppers there are unique among other farmers’ market shoppers in this sense, and this could apply to anyone shopping at any farmers’ market.

What I’ve been seeing at these farmers’ markets is that a lot of people are getting a bag for everything they buy. This is in part because people buy from many vendors at the farmers’ market, unlike at the grocery stores where one just checks out after all the items are bought and bundle a lot of things in a bag. While the items at the farmers’ markets have less packaging than their equivalent at the grocery store, that’s no reason for getting a bag for just about everything.

If you’re going to be truly environmentally conscious, then let’s not just pat yourself on the back for going to the farmers’ market. Let’s not neglect a big opportunity to be even more environmentally friendly. Bring your own bags and containers for as much as you can and save more trash from the environment. It’s something you can’t do for much at the grocery store so take advantage of something else the farmers’ market offers for the planet. You can also save yourself some time by putting some of the food you buy in the container it would ultimately end up in from the start. The difference to your local farmer is negligible for money, but it would add up if lots more people did it. Finally, if you have a variety of container sizes, you can also gauge how much you’ll be buying by those container sizes. You’ll learn to reserve those containers for such a purpose and beyond the first couple of weeks of sorting things out, it’ll be a natural habit for you.

Each week, I bring a small collection of plastic containers when I go to the farmers’ market, along with a canvas bag and backpack so as to be able to carry more. I get my mushrooms, fruits and soft vegetables like tomatoes, raw meats and deli in them. How many bags did I just save there? The rest is safe enough that I can put in my canvas bag where I can handle a little dirt or staining, like from green onions. That’s a few more bags. I even bring my egg cartons back, cycling two so I don’t have to wait until I am out of eggs to get another dozen. I don’t often get drinks like hot chocolate at the market, but I usually have my own mug in case I do, or will refrain from one. A little self-discipline isn’t a bad thing every now and then. 🙂

It might only be a handful of bags I save each week by bringing my own bags and containers, but multiply that by 50 trips a year and it’s a lot! It’d be a lot more if most people did it!

Now, I’m sure I’m not the only person who brings his own bags and containers. I certainly don’t sit and watch to see how many people do and don’t. However, when the vendors regularly complement me for it, especially those who have different staff who don’t see me on a regular basis but who do see lots of other buyers, I know it’s not a common practice. They tell me they wish others would do the same or that it’s “cool” I have my containers to save bags, and so on. When that happens regularly enough, once every 10 or 15 interactions I have with vendors from my shopping patterns (once every couple of weeks), that’s when I know it’s not common. I never expected to be complimented for bringing my own containers and bags at the farmers’ market, expecting many others would do the same. But to be complimented for it, and that often, that’s ridiculous, in my opinion!

C’mon people. You can do better than that! Step up!

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