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How $3 Changed My Life

June 15, 2008

Months ago, I pledged to single-handedly save the environment by using canvas bags while grocery shopping instead of plastic bags. It was an ambitious goal, one only accomplished through a combination of tenacity, consistency, and memory.

Apparently I have none of those traits, because I hardly ever use the canvas bags.

This hasn’t been a conscious choice of mine. I simply forget to use the bags time after time. And it’s not like they’re sitting at home. They’re in my car, wedged between the passenger seat and the center console. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten in the checkout line and realized that I left the bags in the car.

Two weeks ago, I decided that enough was enough. I created an disincentive/incentive system to encourage me to remember to bring my canvas bags into the grocery store with me. Caroline graciously offered to join me in this goal.

Basically, every time I forget to use the canvas bags at the grocery store or any other store where I’m given a plastic bag, I have to put a dollar on my fridge. Caroline does the same. Then every time one of us remembers to use a canvas bag, that person gets to take all of the dollars off the fridge to keep for his/her own.

You’d think that the dollars wouldn’t accumulate on the fridge. However, after only 12 days, I lost three dollar bills to that brushed metal door (Caroline owes one, but she never put it up there). Even with the new system, I kept forgetting the canvas bags.

What I didn’t realize was that the system was working. I was slowly but surely telling my subconscious that forgetting the canvas bags was bad and that remembering them was good. Other people helped too—anyone who saw the dollars on the fridge asked me what they were doing there, and I told them. Every time I explained the system it out loud, I increased the change of remembering the next time.

I finally broke through today. I remembered the bag. It was glorious. And not just because I saved the environment. The canvas bags are easier to carry, and you can fit so much more into them than the plastic bags.

$3 changed my life. It can change yours too.

(Sidenote: It might actually be a better idea for me to continually accumulate the money on the fridge, taking away the incentive side of the system, and whenever I reach a certain amount—the cost of a canvas bag—I should use the money to buy a bag for a friend so I can spread the environmental love. Pay it forward. Maybe I’ll do that. I’ll check with the cats for their approval. The bureaucracy around here is crazy.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    June 16, 2008 9:13 am

    I think Caroline needs to start proof-reading the blog again…

  2. Margot Stegmaier permalink
    June 24, 2008 11:25 am

    this is a creative way to change behavior. It is worth letting a larger audience know…

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