More Green For Less Green

Living more eco-friendly for less money


9 Changes for 2009- #8 Reusable Bags

  1. Cut out commercial breakfast bars
  2. Cut out canned beans
  3. Ditch premade hummus (and all those containers)
  4. Use only environmentally friendly dish detergent
  5. Shop Used First
  6. Use only environmentally friendly laundry detergent
  7. Stick to green toiletries

  8. Ditch plastic grocery bags

American Beauty made the plastic bag seem ethereally beautiful, but the truth is that plastic bags are anything but beautiful.

As you probably know, reusable grocery bags are hot, hot, hot and a great alternative to disposable plastic bags. Reusable bags are everywhere! At my house, our favorite bags for the grocery store are large plasticy ones from Trader Joe's that my brother-in-law gave me for the Christmas before last (pictured). We also have a good-sized stash of those $1 ones that every grocery store has. We have gotten all of those for free at fundraisers or as gifts. In fact, we've spent a grand total of $1 out-of-pocket for our entire reusable grocery bag stash and that was on the red, white, and blue one in the picture that was Old Navy clearance that was too cute to pass up for that price (pictured).

So, barring generous family members and fundraiser freebies, how can you build your bag stash for cheap? Start with your own home. See what you have around. Our reusable bag collection started off as collection of logoed canvas totes that I'd gotten for free at various events. Haven't been to any conferences, on any sport teams, etc.? Good news, other people have. Logoed canvas bags are a dime a dozen at yard sales and thrift stores. Okay, actually they are usually a quarter to a buck a piece, but you get my point…used is cheap! True, a canvas tote or messenger bag may not be the trendy, new, typically seen reusable bag, but it is a great, cheap, uber green option. You can spend a bundle on cute, matching bags from some great sources or you can buy used, locally for almost free. Plus, buying used means you can totally avoid debates on production cost & eco-friendliness of the materials used in reusable grocery bags. Used is always the greenest option!

Though we've spent almost nothing for grocery bags, we have ponied up for reusable produce bags. I am seriously obsessed with these from AMK Designs.

We not only use them ourselves, but I have bought many sets to give as gifts. No volume discount, no "in" with the vendor, I just love the product THAT much. The carrying case for the mesh bags is brilliant. It keeps like feather-light bags together when not in use and clips to my grocery bag, so I take the produce bags with me by default. And the fabric choices are just so fun!

Yes, the reusable produce bags are smaller than the voluminous plastic ones at the store, but really—does a head of lettuce really need a bag? We use our produce bags for things that really need to be gathered like green beans, apples, and potatoes. But celery, tied herbs, bunched carrots, broccoli, an eggplant, etc. are already self-contained so there is no need to package them just for check out. It takes a little bit of a mental shift to buck overuse of the produce bag, but it can be easily done. And, you've got to wash the produce at home anyway, so it's not like a shopping cart touching the lettuce for five minutes really matters, right?

Oh, and a final warm fuzzy: reusable bags save money. I love that some grocery stores give a bag credit of $0.05 per bag when I bring my own. It is a small amount, but if I figure five bags a week for a year, that is $13 I wouldn't have otherwise had. Free money is always good in my book! Plus, at the farmer's market the vendors are often so tickled by my reusable produce bags that they cut me a discount.

A few reusable bag tips:

  • Take your bags out to your car the next time you go out. They don't do you any good at home! Go and hang them on the front door handle right now.
  • Always forget your bags in the car? Keep one bag on the front passenger seat so you see it, or if you usually drive with a passenger in the front with you, keep one in the storage area in the driver's side front door.
  • Make yourself go back to the car and get a bag if you realize you've forgotten it, even if it means leaving your full cart for two minutes. This broke me of my forgetting habit very quickly!
  • Don't just limit your reusable bag use to the grocery store. They work at the library, Target, clothes & retail shopping, yard sales, etc. My favorite for retail shopping is one that folds up into purse-size (white bag on left in top picture).


At May 20, 2009 at 9:45 AM , Blogger Meghan said...

i also have the trader joe's bag, and i love it. it is a great size and so sturdy. i love the produce bags, i may just have to get some of those!

At May 22, 2009 at 9:59 AM , Blogger Nikki said...

Thanks for this tip! We have a few bags we got from the whole foods and try to reuse them but always seem to forget to bring them to the store! keeping them in the car is a great idea:) thanks again!

At May 22, 2009 at 2:23 PM , Blogger Ms. Green said...

Fold-up bags are my favorite, too! They're perfect because I put one in my purse "just in case" I need it. Then I can walk around the mall without carrying around an empty grocery bag.

At July 30, 2009 at 11:33 AM , Anonymous AMKdesigns on etsy said...

Thanks for plugging my bags... I appreciate the advertising. As for no "in" with the never asked! I'd love to hear from you and your readers :)


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