Sometimes we don’t know why we make decisions. It’s odd, but the smallest things have the ability to impact where we direct our attention and how we perceive our consumerist surroundings. It’s up to the marketers to understand the intricacies of this kind of ebb and flow and it’s not quite as black and white as it may seem. In fact, recent experimental research shows that reusable shopping bags may have a large impact on the way consumers grocery shop. Imagine how pro-active it makes you feel to do something positive for the environment. It seems to be that that positive energy reflects in the shopper’s decision making. The basic gist: people feel positive and pro-active when they use a re-usable shopping bag and, as a result, they tend to treat themselves with sweets and shop organic.

The new research shows that shoppers are more willing to buy more virtuous organic items when they bring their own re-usable shopping bags than when they choose paper or plastic at the counter. Researchers Uma R. Karmarker and Bryan Bollinger report their findings in their working paper; BYOB: How Bringing Your Own Shopping Bags Leads to Treating Yourself, and the Environment.
Bollinger and Karmarker combined empirical and experimental methods to examine the effect of reusable bags. They tracked and analyzed nearly a million purchases. The data revealed that shoppers with their own bags bought more indulgences and chose more organic products than those who opted out of bringing their own re-usable bags. Requiring more information than this, Bollinger and Karmarker conducted experiments to determine how grocery shoppers shop. The results varied, resulting from a number of factors. The prevailing outcome, though, was that customers who brought their own bags were more likely to buy organic items and sweet stuff. In addition to that, customers were also willing to pay more for these things. Karmarker says that the results suggest that we are rewarding ourselves for being good. 

What does this mean for us? Well, it’s a good way to understand how our minds work and how we make consumer choices. Also, grocery stores may profit greatly from putting organic foods at the checkout lines.