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Reduce & Reuse: Cloth Bags

January 6, 2011

First of all, I apologise for the lack of new posts.  My original intention was to blog at least once a week, and it is a New Year’s resolution to do so this year.

Speaking of resolutions, resolving to be more eco-friendly is always a good one!  And one way you can make a difference is through reducing your use of plastic bags.  I don’t think I need to go into an in-depth discussion of the negative impacts of plastic bags on the environment.  And no, asking for paper bags isn’t the answer.   It takes more energy to both produce and recycle a paper bag than a plastic one.  Yes, it definitely does take more energy to produce a reusable shopping bag, but they can replace thousands of single-use bags.

I have been using reusable shopping bags since I got my first one while travelling in New Zealand in 2006.  And now it has become second nature to me to take them while shopping.   If you have cloth bags but have a hard time remembering ot use them, don’t give up!  Eventually you will get in the habit.  A big help for me has been the two easily-compacted Randy Bags that I always have in my purse.  A similar bag is available from Flip & Tumble (which has better shipping rates when ordering online– but you should also be able to find that type of bag at a local store.)  The many colours available lead me to think one could colour-code what each bag is used for– green for produce, red for meat, etc– in order to reduce the chances of cross-contamination.

Speaking of contamination, you may recall hearing about a  study that came out in June 2010 about bacterial contamination in reusable shopping bags.    However, 97% of people interviewed for the study didn’t wash their bags! Think of all the surfaces those bags (and your groceries before they are put inside them) touch– your shopping cart or bin, the check-out area, your hands that have just handled money (which, in an unrelated but interesting aside, likely has cocaine residue on it), the trunk or seat of your car, the floor or table in your kitchen… of course they are filthy!  Personally, I’m curious about how clean a plastic grocery bag is by the time you get it home.  The study concluded that washing your reusable bags is the effective solution to significantly reduce bacterial contamination.   I do wash my bags, although definitely not in between each use.  However, as NPR’s health blog, Shots, pointed out, it is still unlikely that I will become sick from them.  For more food safety tips when using reusable bags, you can visit Health Canada.

Another place where plastic bag use is rampant is in the produce section.  Sure, if you are buying two tomatoes and a zucchini you can just eschew the bags, but things get trickier when you want seven oranges or a head of broccoli.  That is where reusable produce bags come in.  At a fair-trade sale I recently bought some Carebags which are made right here in Canada.  Another Canadian-based company is Credobags (they also make reusable shopping bags.)  The above-mentioned American Flip & Tumble also sells produce bags ( according their FAQs all their bags are “ethically made in China.”)  Of course, if you are crafty, you can make your own bags like my friend Katie did.  Or you can support someone else’s craftiness, by buying them on Etsy—  I think the organic cotton ones by Oh, Little Rabbit are especially cute.)  I admit I have a harder time remember to take my produce bags with me, and I don’t have enough to use them all the time, but it’s a start.

Do you use reusable shopping bags?  If you don’t– why not?  What about produce bags?  Do you have any eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2011 7:14 am

    I use them every single time I go shopping. I’ve even started bringing them to Target with me. I try to remember to wash them, but I only do laundry 1-2 times a month, so I am sure they are dirty. But I have a bunch of them, so I just make sure I don’t use the same one the whole month.

    Great post!

  2. Jennie Frances permalink
    January 7, 2011 7:45 am

    I should rember to wash our bags! Since you are still young it is easy for you to remember to take your bags with you 🙂

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