Thursday, 21 July 2011 19:26

Guide to Small Reusable Shopping Bags For Produce & Bulk Items (video)

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By now, most people at least know that they should bring their own reusable shopping bag to the grocery store. This prevents waste from plastic and paper shopping bags, which get at best a few uses after returning from the store. However, one eco trend that hasn't quite caught on yet is reusable produce and bulk bags - every day thousands of shoppers use the provided small, thin plastic or biodegradable bags at the market without even realizing there's an alternative, and they usually end up in the landfills. Good thing there's a fantastic option: reusable produce bags made from cotton, canvas, or related plastic! Skip to the bottom for the video.

Yes, you can now bring your own small bags to your favorite food store and fill them up with fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and more! Then bring 'em home and store them in the bags (or transfer to a glass container), and do it all over again. All the bags need is a quick wash every now and then to prevent bacteria growth. I rarely leave home without at least one in my shopping bag or purse because I often find myself making sporadic trips to markets when I'm out and about, and it feels so good to skip the one-use bags.

You may have seen these bags popping up in natural markets and stores - they come in several materials, sizes, colors, and prices - so how to choose? Ultimately, I think it's important to go with the most affordable option, at least at first, that way you can stock up on a bunch - I have about 15-20! But some bags are more eco-friendly and useful than others; here are the pros and cons:

  • Organic cotton bags are very eco, especially if made in the USA or at least fair trade. The standard "sack" or mesh type are great because they can hold even the smallest food (like quinoa). Easy to clean - just toss in the wash. Only downside is that they stain easily and aren't great for wet or moist items. Check out Eco Bags.
  • Net cotton bags, which are typically conventional and occasionally organic, are nice for bigger items like produce and nuts. The have the same advantages and disadvantages as cotton, except that smaller items will fall throw the holes. Check out Steward BagsEco Bags
  • Hemp bags (100% or mixed with another material) are very similar to cotton. You can get them from ChicoBag, who claim that they are "designed to absorb excess moisture and restrict airflow" and are therefore ideal for "green beans, nuts, grains and bulk food items"
  • Recycled plastic bags, such as ChicoBag's rePETe line, aren't quite as eco or healthy as cotton or hemp options, but they're easier to clean (just wipe or rinse), they don't stain, and they hold in moisture if damp/wet items are placed in them. ChicoBag's rePETe are "designed to maintain optimal humidity and air flow keeping fruits and vegetables fresh" and "restrict airflow and lock in moisture making it perfect for squash, broccoli, carrots and celery". ChicoBag also makes a Mesh rePETe, which are "designed to allow ethylene gas, nature's ripening agent, to escape" and "are prefect for apples, oranges, onions and potatoes"
There is also a free and extra eco option - you can reuse small bags that you already have in your home, or make your own from old clothing or scrap materials! I use all sorts of things, from a TOMS shoe bag, to little cotton gift bags, to my nut milk bag.

Do you have a favorite bag or tip that I didn't mention? Share in a comment below!

PS - the ultra cool Forks Over Knives tote bag can be purchased here (photos on the website were taken by yours truly!)
Read 13473 times Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 09:22