The Reusable Bag You’ll Never See.

Via Amy Cushing
on Jan 19, 2013
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Photo: Amy Cushing
Photo: Amy Cushing

“Oh, wow, she has one! Look!” exclaims the grocery clerk.

He lifts the bag from the counter as if it’s a delicate piece of rice paper that will crumble with his touch. He stares in amazement at the words and drawings decorating the outside.

“That one’s the best,” he chortles, pointing to one of the many phrases on the tote.

“I like that too!” spouts the female cashier who’s stretching her neck to get a view of the bag as she rings up my purchases.

Another nearby cashier joins the circle. She sighs as she comments, “It’s a shame they discontinued it.”

They all surround the reusable shopping bag as the clerk rests it on the end of the counter for all to see. They laugh and point and laugh some more.

I wait, with no hurry in mind, distracted by my four-year-old who is trying to scale the checkout counter in the next lane. My groceries, long since tallied, sit on the counter awaiting to take up residence in the infamous carryall.

The cashier looks up from the distraction as I’m attempting to corral my son. “Oh, goodness, sorry!  It’s been a while since we’ve seen this bag. Let’s get you on your way.”

This is a common occurrence whenever I toss my favorite Whole Foods Market tote on the conveyor belt. I suddenly become a grocery rock star.

Why such a fuss over a seemingly innocuous satchel? Well, it’s no longer available. Apparently, it’s been removed from service because someone complained about the clever quotes dotting the outer cover. Amusing phrases like:

Photo: Amy Cushing
Photo: Amy Cushing

“Grow a pear and support local farming”

“What a friend we have in cheeses”

“Recyclers rock my world”

“Ask me about my quinoa”

“Some like it raw”

“Braised and confused”

“Just beet it”

“Soy to the world”

And, my favorite:

“My compost brings all the flowers to the yard”

How can you not laugh at that?

I haven’t been able to find out which phrase in particular was the pot-stirrer, but I suspect it was one of the first two I mentioned, which, in their gutsy way, are hilariously awesome. It’s unfortunate that others didn’t enjoy what was clearly an attempt at fun.

Another quote says, “Well-behaved grocers rarely make history.”


And it’s sad that Whole Foods felt compelled to recall the bag and quell to pressure from those lacking a sense of humor. While Whole Foods may be more commercial these days, they were once trailblazers and do still make huge efforts to provide an alternative to conventional grocery chains.

All the more reason I’m surprised people complained, since it’s typically shoppers who think outside the box that peruse their aisles. I, for one, appreciate their efforts in attempting to change the industry. They are far from perfect, but at least they are a reliable and accessible alternative in an arena littered with grocers who put public health at the bottom of their list.

All the more reason Whole Foods should have kept the reusable bag in production.

I suppose this is a reflection of our society, where many people in our midst feel uncomfortable with what’s different or disparate from the norm—whatever that is. It’s unfortunate that some cannot see beyond their own white picket fence to realize it’s the peculiar, the atypical, the exceptional, really, that make our world vibrant and a place worth exploring.

Without innovators and free-thinkers, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s those who challenge society that help make it a better place for all of us.

Instead of fighting a battle against a reusable tote, maybe the offended should channel their energies into actually making a difference in our world rather than creating a campaign to remove an item intent to provide a laugh or two. And maybe Whole Foods shouldn’t have caved to their pressure.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Amy Cushing

Amy Cushing is a stay-at-home mom and E-RYT® 200 certified yoga teacher pursuing her passion for writing. When she’s not chasing around two small tots, she can be found lost in a good book, cherishing quality time with her husband or having a much-needed laugh with her girlfriends. She’s on a mission to find simplicity in life so she can spend less time pulling out her hair and more time appreciating those who matter most. She loves yoga and music and has been known to bust out a mean rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider in times of chaos. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. Connect with Amy on Facebook or Twitter.


4 Responses to “The Reusable Bag You’ll Never See.”

  1. MC says:

    I do not have this bag, but I am a regular user of cloth bags when purchasing my groceries (and other products).

    The author said the were not sure which phrase prompted the discontinuation, but that they "suspect it was one of the first two I mentioned". The first one mentioned says "grow a pear". This is a play on the phrase "grow a pair", which refers to a pair of testicles- an organ that produces sperm in cis-gendered male individuals.

    When used as "grow a pair", the phrase is sexist- it is often used between men to tell the other man that they are not acting "manly" enough- implicating that they were not being forceful enough in their actions. I cannot and will not, as a self-identified man, support any language that insinuates that we as men should take control. We have more control than any other sex or gender. We rarely use the control we have to benefit anyone other than ourselves.

    If the production and distribution of the bag by Whole Foods were done for a similar reason (to play on the phrase "grow a pear" and the implications that language has), I would support their discontinuation of the product they produced using that language.

    This links to does not discuss the possibility that the bag was pulled for its sexist and transphobic language. I hope all supporters of the local food movement would support a corporation, such as Whole Food's, reevaluation of sexist and transphobic language used in a product. The use of such language is unacceptable in any context, especially that of the local and organic food movement/s.

  2. Amy says:

    Thank you, MC, for your comments. I, personally, am not offended by how "grow a pear" was used on the bag, but I appreciate you offering a differing point of view.

  3. Cathy says:

    I am a woman and I use the phrase "grow a pair/pear" in conversation with women! I think it's just become a phrase that means- "be assertive"- and although it harkens back to males being the "strong" sex- I think in this day, it's an equal opportunity phrase. It can also be construed as "grow a pair of ovaries" and take care of business!

  4. The design on the bag is really amazing to me. And the lower side of this bag is really cool to me. I was in the hunt for this type of reading on bag issue. Thanks the head up and keep posting like this!!! .