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How Canvas Tote Bags Nudge Us Towards Better Behavior

The Tote Bag and Libertarian Paternalism

Origins Cotton Organic ToteThe tote bag is an iconic summer staple, in so much as one can raise a basic to icon status. The tote bag is already making appearances in our community despite the summer being somewhat hazy on the horizon. Bunnyshop is doing a tote bag a week feature. Shopping's My Cardio and Vie Couture have already picked out their favorites. But we wonder if the rise of the tote bag might be tied to something other than the whims of designers. In fact, it could be a downright insidious plot to help us cut down on our consumption. Consider Libertarian Paternalism.
Human beings are lazy, busy, impulsive, inert, and irrational creatures highly susceptible to predictable biases and errors. That's why they can be nudged in socially desirable directions. A nudge is thus any noncoercive alteration in the context in which people make decisions. The libertarian paternalism behind it is rooted in Thaler's [author of the study] lifelong fascination with the power of small, seemingly innocuous details — the arrangement of food in a cafeteria, the drawing of a small fly in the bowl of a urinal, a pattern of lines on the road — to influence people's behavior.
Perhaps Anya Hindemarch's I'm Not a Plastic Bag frenzy wasn't just designed to garner attention and sales. Maybe it was a subtle nudge to help us live better more sustainable lives. OK, we admit it might be a stretch. Fashion designers don't know shit about public policy nor do we wager they care except as it affects import tariffs. But designers do know a thing or two about affecting behavior. In fact, inciting desire and actions against all rational thought is something that the industry has perfected. Thus if you combine our penchant for behavior modification with a desire for change you get a text book example of New Paternalism. The tote bag just may be our summer savior. Sure you can buy an expensive canvas tote bag like the Hermes Garden Tote but there are plenty of classic affordable options like the Eddie Bauer Canvas Tote just waiting to help you make better decisions. And it is just so much easier to forgo a plastic bag when you are running errands if you have a roomy tote on your arm. So go buy a tote. It will help a fashion house and nudge you towards slightly more sustainable behavior patterns. And its entirely up to you. Except you know you REALLY want to buy one. Go buy a bag! And then ponder free will.
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