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Reusable Grocery Bags

Updated on May 28, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Paper or plastic? The answer between the two is not always clear.

Paper Causes Air and Water Pollution

On the one hand paper bags causes huge amounts of pollution. Jim Moran, a Virginia congressman that introduced an Earth Day resolution states that the manufacture of paper bags causes close to 70% more air and 50% more water pollution than the manufacture of plastic bags. The millions of trees that are needed for the manufacture of paper bags can't easily or quickly be replaced.

Recycling Plastic Causes Particles to Be Released in the Air

On the other hand both degrading and recycling plastic bags causes minute particles of heavy metals to be released the air. Not only are they taken in to the body with each breath, they are pulled to earth with the rain and get into the water supply where they are ingested. Not a comforting thought.

Plastic bags can be found blowing across open fields, along highways, and half submerged in lakes. They decorate the upper branches of trees and are an eyesore. They can be found in the Pacific Ocean, swirling with the rest of the plastic trash. One study shows that only about 5% of plastic bags get recycled.

We need a better option. We have a better option.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Green shopping bags are available in many stores, on the internet, and through small cottage industries. They are made from several different types of materials, can be as plain or fancy as you like, and best of all, they cause very little impact on the environment.

The re-usable shopping bags are washable. Just throw them in with any load of cold water wash. Hang them outside to dry and they are just like new.

The hardest part of using reusable grocery tote bags for many people is remembering to take them to the store. The easiest way to deal with this is to keep them in your car so that they are always available to you. The bags don't take up much room and you can keep them, folded neatly, in a clear plastic bin. When you head into the store, grab them and take them in. After you unpack the groceries at home just put them back in the car and they will be there when you need them.

Types of Reusable Bags

Many grocery store chains have designed their own reusable bags with their logo on them. They are often made of plasticized canvas or canvas like material and very cheaply made. In addition, they are basic bags, utilitarian in nature but not very aesthetically pleasing. Wash tem a few times and they may fall apart. Remember the adage, "You get what you pay for." This is true with these bags. The price is generally from $1.00 to $1.50 and most stores offer a five-cent per bag discount on your groceries when you use them.

You can buy the bags online as well. These tend to be more fashionable, better made, and often you are supporting a work at home mom. Because they are hand made they are often more expensive. Some benefits of these reusable grocery bags are:

  • Custom look

  • Variety of sizes

  • Many styles

  • Better made

  • Artistic

  • Durable

You can often find specialized bags to fit your specific needs. For example:

  • Bulk items

  • Produce

  • Organic cotton

  • Variety of sizes

  • Different handle styles

  • Gussets to make the bag stand up

  • Specialty fabric designs

Free Patterns for Reusable Bags

Another way to have customized tote bags is to make them yourself at home. They aren't hard to make and there are many different patterns available. By doing this you can add special touches and be assured of the quality of your bag.

You can also make them fairly inexpensively. This is a great way to use old blue jeans, or clothing from the thrift shop. Just make sure that the fabric is sturdy so that it won't tear apart.

There are free patterns on the Internet. Some of them are:

Make Your Own Designer Grocery Bag

But I Don't Sew...

If you knit or crochet there are patterns for bags you can make as well. Knitted, felted and crocheted bags are sturdy and very avant-garde!

Consider some of the following free patterns for reusable grocery bags:

Easiest Make Your Own Bag EVER:No Sew!

But I Want to BUY a Reusable Bag!

O.k. Well buying a bags is simple. You just have to choose from about a million styles, colors, companies, and...

There are many, many places to find grocery bags and totes on the Internet. Here are a few to give you a place to start:

Buy Ethically

Always consider carefully both your purchases and the company that you purchase from. It may be important to you to support small, cottage industries or know that the company that you are buying from is eco-ethical in all their dealings. Perhaps you want to buy only Fairly Traded items. Ask questions and find out as much as you can about the company and its practices before buying.

Always have enough self respect to support companies that you are proud to support; companies that you don't mind identifying with


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    • profile image 

      6 years ago

      Reusable bags are usually made of eco friendly materials, so they are less-harming the environment. Many bags are made from environmentally friendly fabrics, such as recycled or organic cotton and are non-toxic and non-allergenic. Thanks a lot for sharing such an interesting post.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We always keep the reusable bags in our car. Occasionally we forget to take them into the stores with us, but we are getting much better at remembering. Important topic! Thanks for writing about it.

    • htodd profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks reusable bags are very important..nice

    • jcoop profile image


      6 years ago from Long Beach, California

      I live in city that just banned plastic bags and charges 10 cents per paper bag. Needless to say this article would benefit a lot of people here.

    • ninacrimaldi profile image

      Nicolina Kenna 

      6 years ago

      My boyfriend refuses to buy garabage bags! He says why buy something you are going to throw we always reuse shoprite or other store bags

    • Pdxrecycler profile image


      6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I like to think I know a lot about recycling, but I didn't know that heavy metals are released into the atmosphere when plastic is recycled. Thanks for the info!

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      thank you. taking care of it now

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    • RalphGreene profile image


      6 years ago

      Very useful hub!

    • myi4u profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great hub! If only human beings are more aware of using recycle bags. Some of the supermarkets here are giving out free recycle bags occasionally. You could see that it's a big hit and everyone was carrying recycle bags on that day. However, people seem to only remember that particular day and after that, it's back to using plastic bags provided in store. It's just a wonder what did they do to the recycle bags.

      I always make sure that most of my recycle bags are in my car's boot. Therefore, it has been a habit for me to use recycle bags everywhere I shop.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Eco-terrorists are ruling the world. Just wait until there's lawsuits because reusuable bags are unhygenic. Who washes their bags - no one. Also, it takes more energy and produces more impact to WASH the bags that plastic/paper bags. Totally idiotic.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I think the plastic bag is bad for the world I don't like it ..

    • EmmaMedu profile image


      8 years ago

      This is great article! Plastic bags give me a lot to think about and I really don't like using them.

      I have several reusable bags and I actually keep one in my car. I use it, clean it and put it back :o))

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My complaints about plastic is that 1) Baggers use about 100+ for a small order--don't need that many bags to take out to trash. 2) Handles break and/or contents spill.

      I prefer Insulated, zippered bags. These cut down on bags I have to dispose and trips I make from car to 2nd floor apt. They also keep contents in bag should they tip on way home.

    • MikeNV profile image


      8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Hard to say which is better. Every week I take the garbage to the curb to be hauled off to the landfill. I make about one plastic bag full. I'm always amazed that my neighbors trash cans are overflowing out the top each and every week. It's all containers. Food containers, plastic, paper, tin, glass, etc. It seems so wasteful to manufacture a container for a single use. There must be a better solution but I don't see it coming. The reason my garbage is always less than the neighbors is because I eat so much produce which doesn't come in a package.

      Your point about pollution being created during the recycling process is well taken. Most people don't ever consider the hidden costs of recycling. Recycling just sounds like a good idea.

    • carpesomediem profile image


      8 years ago

      I wish more people would use reusable bags for groceries and more, especially since more stores are offering them as alternatives at a low cost.

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 

      8 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      using reusable grocery bags can save lots of paper or plastic bags and it will be a great help help in our environment.

    • 2patricias profile image


      10 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Two tips: recently, a variety of women's magazines have been sold with a 'free' shopping bag - worth getting!. And secondly, try keeping a rolled up plastic shopping bag inside your handbag - then you will always have a bag with you in case of spur-of-the-morment shopping.

    • New Day profile image

      New Day 

      10 years ago from Western United States

      Kudos to you for publishing this hub on such an important topic! If only more people would use canvas bags - or make their own (very cool idea here) we could seriously cut down on the pollution and litter in the world (hardly anyone recycles the plastic bags). My friends and I simply take our bags straight back out to the car after unloading our groceries - that way they are always there the next time.

    • Adelaida Kate profile image

      Adelaida Kate 

      10 years ago from Small Town, America

      Soemtimes I shop at Aldi where you either provide your own bags or have to purchase them. This hub inspires me to just sew a few ... completely re usable and practical and such an easy project. Plus, people do notice that kind of thing when you are shopping so hopefully it will inspire a few more people. A few people at a time will go a long way... Thanks for making me think about it again!!!!

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      AlwaysEllen- while plastic bags are reusable to some extent the fact is that the manufacture of them as well as the recycling of them pollutes the atmosphere in a big way..and the window of reusablility is rather small.

      An organic canvas tote might be good for a couple of years while a plastic bag is good for 4 trips at most.

    • Eric Graudins profile image

      Eric Graudins 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Down here in Sunny Tasmania, the little holiday town of Coles Bay actually banned plastic bags in all shops.

      People use paper bags, cardboard boxes, or cloth bags to carry their purcchases around.

      They were the first place in Australia (maybe the the world?) to do this, and received a lot of publicity for this action.

    • Andy Xie profile image

      Andy Xie 

      10 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      The reusable tote bags are great! I got some for free during a promotion at the store and I use them not only for groceries, but for carrying other things as well.

      I also agree with Always Ellen, plastic grocery bags are reusable. We save them up and use them for the garbage, storing things... etc. However, I've noticed that the grocery stores have started making the plastic bargs thinner than usual and they get holes easily. I'm not liking this trend too much, it gives the bags less reusability (is that a word?).

      When my wife buys groceries at this one store (where you have to pay for the bags), she has these two green bins that she bought for three or four dollars each. She just puts her items in the grocery cart when she's finished paying for them, and then puts them individually into the two bins in the car when she's outside. It seems to work for her.

      Great hub Marye!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      solarstories, the way to remind yourself to put the reusable bag back in the car is HANG IT ON THE DOORKNOB of whatever door you normally go out.

      My apartment complex's residents gift for May was reusable bags (with the complex's logo of course) which gets us a discount at several grocery stores in the area.

      Always ellen, thanks for the reminder that plastic bags ARE reusable! What a concept!

    • Always ellen profile image

      Always ellen 

      10 years ago from Toronto Canada

      Good Hub ... one thing that seems to not be getting addressed on this topic is that plastic grocery bags ARE reusable grocery bags -one of the few that can be put in your pocket, in fact - a large part of this problem is people's irresponsible disposal and lack of 'recycling' of this product. This became a problem due to lack of individual's taking responsibility.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I really appreciate the crochet patterns you've linked and fabric bags are great. Thanks!

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Great useful hub. The material bags are far better thats for sure. The only problem is getting rid of the rubbish. I used to love the plastic for my rubbish bin liners.

      I do try to recycle the food scraps into the garden. and lawn clippings also. But at times I slip back to the plastic bags. I will have to lift my game again.

      I remember years ago mum and dad used to just wrap in newspaper and bury the rubbish. I have often wondered if all of that broke down. As it was buried in big hole so not sure. Although there wasnt the plastic like today. It is about time the manufacturers took responsibility in the way they package goods too. How many times have you bought something and the item is pretty small yet the packaged cardboard box is huge.

      Thanks for sharing this

    • cgull8m profile image


      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Great Hub, I also bought recycleable bags and have been refusing plastic bags every time now. It is easy to do, I hope the government bans plastic bags like they do in China and other countries.

    • Whitney05 profile image


      10 years ago from Georgia

      I saw someone at WalMart earlier this week using reuseable bags. They are definitely a great idea. They just need to be a little larger. I know the ones Publix sells are teeny for the price they're charging. A person who buys groceries twice a month or even once a week for the average family of 4 would need a ton of them.

    • solarstories profile image


      10 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      What a great hub! It's a great reminder as well. I have the "bag forgetting" problem as well. And where I live, you pay for your grocery bags at the store, so it gets expensive. It's amazing to me that some people get so creative as to sew their own grocery bags. But it's also good to remember that one can buy them online.


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