So ubiquitous that they became known as South Africa's national flower, plastic bags are now on the brink of extinction in locales around the world. No, it's not because of Anya Hindmarch's "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" tote, although that's a great example of fashion going green. According to Wikipedia, plastic shopping bags are banned entirely in Taiwan, Bangladesh, and soon in France. For those who aren't ready to go cold turkey, there's a little mind trick that has reduced usage by 95 percent in Ireland: the plastic bag tax.
Customers are paying for plastic bags regardless, through operating costs for stores that are reflected in product prices, not to mention the cost to the environment of throwing the thing away. At certain American supermarkets, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, there's a 5-cent rebate for bringing your own bag -- but let's face it, hardly anyone cares enough about saving 5 cents to tote their own bags solely for that reason. On the other hand, most people can't justify _spending_ money on plastic bags -- which is why the tax works so brilliantly.
For an alternative to plastic shopping bags, check out the British site morsbags.com, which offers a tutorial to making your own tote bags -- and encourages everyone to make extras to give away.