Plastic grocery bags. Some people throw them away. Some people ball them up and keep them forever. Some people crochet them into wreaths, rugs, purses and other beautiful things. I definitely fall into the "keep them forever" camp, or at least I did until I learned that some grocery stores around the nation are getting smart about re-using these pervasive pabulum pouches, and offering you a discount on your purchase if you bring your own bags instead of using new ones. If done right, the result can be a leveling-off of the rate at which you acquire new bags, cost savings, and no extra hassle - a blessing for pack-rats everywhere.

In Richmond, there only seems to be one major grocer providing this incentive. I called Kroger, B & D Grocery Outlet, LoBills, Save-A-Lot Food Store, and Wal-Mart, and none of them offer any bag recycling incentive or have plans to. But, the Meijer grocery store will discount your purchase five cents for every bag you bring that they re-use. And it doesn't matter if it's a Meijer bag or not - I've showered them with bags from various local and remote grocers alike, and they didn't blink an eye or question my loyalty to their shopping experience. It looks like they take it even farther with the Plastic Bag Recycling Program for helping with school fundraising. You go, Meijer!

Hey, don't worry, I'm not running around trying to save the whales by recycling plastic bags (though there are plenty of nations around the world that take this stuff pretty seriously). But I do appreciate that some grocery stores are offering a (small) symbolic financial incentive toward positively improving consumer behavior, and for me it is a distinctive enough feature to at least partially influence my choice of vendor. And of course, you can reap the space- and environmental-saving benefits wherever you shop by bringing your own bags, regardless of the money.