Included in the list of possible activities while visiting family in California was a tote-making workshop with my sister-in-law, Lucy.
"There's a new bag ordinance" she explained.
But I didn't really get it until I arrived in San Jose.
Alabama may have the strictest immigration law, but cities in California have a Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance, which went into effect on January 1, 2012.
The ordinance prohibits single-use carryout plastic bags at check out by all retail businesses.
Stores can sell you a PAPER bag made of at least 40% post-consumer recycled content for a minimum of 10 cents per bag, but the cheap carryout plastic bags are a thing of the past. And the minimum price for a paper bag goes up to 25 cents after 2013.
Many people (like my parents) scoff at paying 10 cents per bag, and opt to bring their own. For them it's simple economics.
For others, it's an environmental action. According to the City of San Jose, a high quality reusable bag has the potential to repace more than 600 single-use plastic bags over its lifetime.
In many parts of the world, bringing your own bag is second nature. But in America, we're use to free bags being provided for our purchases.
We already had the mesh (which is the green bit) that actually makes up the entire tote. We got to pick pocket and border fabric plus straps at the quilt shop and it was fun finding something to go with the teal color.
And while I can follow a recipe pretty well in the kitchen, I made every possible mistake with the sewing instructions and had to borrow a seam ripper more than once.
But there you go, it turned out pretty well and I might just make another, now that I know how. Maybe this time with cake and cookie fabric.
More tips from the city of San Jose:
- Keep reusable bags by the door, in your car, or near your car keys.
- Keep foldable bags in pockets, backpacks, or in your purse.
- Keep bags clean by washing cloth bags, or wiping bags with a sponge and mild soap.
- Give your friends and family a reusable bag, and encourage them to start shoppping with them today.