Maya Colbert, 2020
This image of my kitchen is an example of one of the many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has altered daily life for myself and my roommates. It shows a collection of reusable cloth bags surrounded by a sea of paper grocery bags, often used by consumers only once before being discarded.
Known for its high concentration of environmentally conscious people (who some may call “hippies”), the San Francisco Bay Area, where we live, was an early adopter of regulations meant to limit the production and use of single-use grocery bags. Reusable bags made from cloth quickly became ubiquitous. Many carried the bags as a badge of pride, marking themselves as “eco-warriors” fighting to save the environment.
COVID-19 precautions have altered this Bay Area staple, with most stores no longer allowing customers to bring in their own bags for fear of contamination. Stores like myself and my roommates’ favorite, Trader Joes, have opted to send customers home with free paper bags. Although the bags are paper and can go into the recycling bin, we have always been in the habit of saving them for potential reuse. After a few shopping trips, we realized that the bags were piling up. What, if anything, are we ever going to use them for?