When it's raining, or we make an impromptu visit to the shops, or buy a bit more than can be easily carried home bags are a real boon. And look at the photo (right) to see how fab the new Highbury Barn cloth bags are.
But plastic bags, the ones we sometimes unthinkingly ask for in the shops - and then typically only use for that 15 minute stroll home, are piling up environmental problems all round the world.
It's not just that plastic bag litter makes Highbury Barn look tatty.
Plastic bag litter is lethal. It kills hundreds of thousands of animals worldwide each year.
- In London 1.6 billion plastic bags are handed out by shopkeepers each year (and just 0.05 are recycled). The rest end up in landfill...
- Plastic bags are really tough. They can take up to 1,000 years to break down yet if they blow out of a landfill site they can choke many unlucky animals to death over and over again.
You can find out lots more facts about what's wrong with plastic bags at the easy-to-use website created by people in the first UK town to go plastic bag free, Modbury in Devon. Have a look here.
Do you like free movies? If so try watching the Modbury wildlife film maker, Rebecca Hosking's, powerful film Message In The Waves to work out why using a cloth bag helps stop so much plastic waste (such as the worn out toothbrushes in the photo) killing beautiful sea birds. Download the film here.
How well do you know Islington? Why not take a trip to nearby Newington Green which has been working on becoming plastic bag free for nearly a year. If you're too rushed to walk, take a look at the blog here.
Or you can read more about how to help places like Highbury Barn go plastic bag free in a book called Ban the Plastic Bag: a community action plan (Sawday, 2008). It's really cheap on Amazon.