Masculinity-friendly environmentalism, please!

November 30, 2007

My Tesco Bag for LifeMy Tesco Bag for Life, little did I realise it would shop my masculinity.

Yes, I know the good reasons for engaging with this scheme. (Although shopping at Tesco may not be the right place to start at all.)

Plastic Fantastic, from the online Tesco Magazine, tells us that altogether we get through over 12 billion disposable carrier bags each year in the UK, using and pouring away one and a half million tonnes of oil.

So for years now I’ve been happily using my little backpack to carry my shopping, taking a couple of old plastics to reuse for big shopping trips and only occasionally needing new ones. But I thought, well if this bag lasts me longer than the others, I’ll carry it and use it more often and not just for Tesco shopping either. And I’d got a voucher for a free one.

Then there’s convincing argument in this form: The Bag for Life pays for itself in environmental terms once used five times; and lasts 10 times longer than the ordinary bag and uses less energy and materials to make than 10 disposable bags. (combined from Plastic Fantastic and a press release, Tesco Bags for Life: An end for a twentieth century icon?)

Though I did wonder briefly about describing the Tesco bag as a C20thicon. To end up littering town and country hardly seems like a positive claim to iconicity.

But hey, they’re designer bags too! There’s even a Bag for Life Gallery showing designs for all seasons.

But of all the designs, I have to get one of the really flowery ones. This is a design for suburban men who shop in 4x4s, with a deep boot and a long driveway to hide the design.

How impressed I was to discover hidden prejudices revealed by a plastic bag! So, please, if you want to get guys to take up environmentalism based on trendy designer credentials, make your designs image conscious!

At least I only have to use the bag five times, then I can hand it in for a new one.


2003 Design promoting Tesco Motor Insurance - from Gallery Meanwhile, I’m not sure even the green car in this design makes it environmentally friendly.

Incidental things I found out…The press release provides some more startling facts, though increasingly weird.

  • 1.8 billion Tesco bags are used every year.
  • The bags would cover the UK over 82 times or the continent of Europe four times or Australia two and a half times.
  • If we laid the bags out end to end they would go around the Equator over 25 times.
  • The net weight of the bags (just the bag) is over 120 times heavier than the QE2.
  • If Tesco could make one big bag from all the bags it would hold the moon at least twice.
  • These bags could hold 41,400,000,000 tins of beans (23 tins per bag)

So if we hollow out the Moon, we can hide a lot of beans there.

Sometime in 2002, an entry appeared on cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk claiming that “bag for life” is Cockney rhyming slang for “wife”. I don’t know any Cockneys to confirm that, but I do know that the rhyming slang for wife used to be “trouble and strife”. Not that this is any politer!

Obviously this bag made a serious cultural impact. Perhaps it is an icon!

Thanks to Mindedit for taking the photo.

Update 2008-07-16: Plastic Fantastic, Gallery and related image link updated, now in Tesco archive section.

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3 Responses to “Masculinity-friendly environmentalism, please!”

  1. Peter Manson Says:

    Good article, but I think you should keep the bag and do a test to see if it really lasts as long as they claim in real life conditions, and post results here. Rather too small a sample to be scientific but interesting nonetheless.

    However, I’m not sure you should be commenting on trendy designer issues if that’s really your jeans and shoes in the picture!

    Oh, and for your information, trendy men in 4x4s with long drive ways don’t really do shopping, and especially not at Tescos. I suspect the design is more aimed at 20-30 something women, much more Tesco’s core market.

  2. infomancie Says:

    Standard experimental conditions? How much weight/volume of goods? Should weather conditions be taken into account? I’ll get back to you on this 🙂

    Regarding my apparent trendinessless: I might be a millionaire in disguise.

    How impressed I am for you to discover and reveal my further hidden prejudices!


  3. […] me can look cool with our canvas bags. Apparently, it is harder for men. As one blogger lamented in “Masculinity-friendly environmentalism, please!” his reusable shopping bag compromised his macho image. To test if other men felt the same, I […]


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