An Environmental Look At Reusable Bags

David Trammel's picture

A fascinating look at the entire lifespan of plastic and reusable bags. Interestingly, single use plastic isn't as bad as we're told, and reusable cotton bags, when you factor in the impact of growing the cotton, aren't that great. Remember, any study has a host of factors and the detail is in how you compare them. Still watching the video if just for the process of evaluating environmental affects is informative.

"The Real Greenest Bag"

One note, this video doesn't take into account, making your fabric bag out of previously used fabric, like bed sheets.

Check out Green Wizard's own Teresa Peschel's book "SEW CLOTH GROCERY BAGS" to learn how to do just that.

Yeah, it really depends.
Used fabric with plenty of life left in it?
Reused commercial bags that the store gives away with purchase?

Those are great and you need some kind of bag when you've got more than one or two items.

Insisting on brand new, heavy-duty organic cotton when you could use something from the stash? Expensive and not just in terms of cost.

The real problem is buying too darn much stuff AND insisting that your solution be 100% perfect out of the box.

Insisting on perfection means you'll never get anything done.

That's a good idea to make your own shopping bags out of old clothes.

Also as a maker of cloth shopping bags I found this video a bit unsettling. A lot of the fabric I use for bags was also used to make aprons or was found in thrift stores, so while it isn't strictly "used" it isn't "brand" new. I have seen patterns for making shopping bags from T-shirts that I thought might be a good. However, one that I did see made this way was supper stretchy and that seemed a problem to me. I guess there just isn't a free lunch.

lathechuck's picture

There are bags for toting the goods home, and bags for keeping produce clean while it's being handled (from bin to basket to checkout to tote to refrigerator). The market where I buy most of our food has plant-based compostable bags for the latter purpose. I've found that they're good for 3 or 4 trips, as long as they're not allowed to start composting prematurely, by leaving damp produce in the bag during storage. Watching people fidget to open the new bags that they've just pulled of the dispenser roll, it's a treat to pull a previously used bag from my back pocket. I suppose I should try sewing produce bags out of some old shirts.

I have made produce bags out of muslin and they work great. You can wash them repeatedly, they are strong and don't weigh much when they are put on the scale. However, they haven't been a big seller when I have the chance to sell them. You could certainly make they from used sheets, shirts or any other used, light weight cotton fabric that is still sound.