Paper or Plastic? Neither! Grab A Reusable Bag

You might have noticed that three words you probably used to hear a lot are starting to fall out of usage: paper or plastic? Many grocery stores have switched to one or the other – and in some cities, have done away with both. The canvas reusable grocery bag is becoming ubiquitous in markets and discount stores across the country, not only because they’re better for the environment, but they’re more convenient, too.

BlueAvocado Reusable Grocery Bag System Starter Kit

BlueAvocado Reusable Grocery Bag System Starter Kit

There are a lot of reasons paper and plastic bags are falling out of favor. Paper bags, for instance, have to be made out of thick, heavy-duty paper so your groceries won’t fall through the bottom. The problem is, this requires a lot of material – which means cutting down a lot of trees – and also require a lot of energy (oil) to create, and produce a lot of waste in the process, which pollutes both the air and the water. Worse, they’re usually only used once and then discarded, while a sturdy reusable bag like you’d find in this Grocery Bag Starter Kit can be used hundreds of times.

Goodhope Bags Recycled PET Tote

Goodhope Bags Recycled PET Tote

Plastic bags are even worse. Produced from petroleum, plastic bags are energy guzzlers and toxin producers from the ground up, and while they can theoretically be recycled, only between 1 and 3% are. The rest? Are sent to landfills, or blow away, only to break down into toxic materials that can kill animals or enter waterways where they can choke or suffocate marine animals. On the other hand, these Goodhope Recycled Totes are made from 52% PET recycled material – mostly post-consumer recycled bottles – can be used hundreds of times, and recycled if and when you wear them out.

Leather Shopping Tote

Leather Shopping Tote

Some stores have even started to charge you for bags to help offset their cost – and many stores will give you a rebate, credit, or store points every time you use a canvas bag. So the next time someone asks you “Paper or Plastic?” hand them a reusable bag instead. While your typical reusable grocery bag is made of canvas or nylon, there are lots of other materials that are a little more durable (and stylish!) for a full grocery run or a trip to the bodega. This Leather Tote – which, depending on your views, might be a little less earth-friendly – is made of probably the most durable and long lasting material you’ll find, and looks great, too.

Columbia Bayview Straw Tote

Columbia Bayview Straw Tote

Big Bad Wolves aside, this Straw Tote is no blow-over either – roomy enough for a day trip or a big load of groceries, the sturdy cotton lining reinforces the trendy straw weave walls of this tote.

Hand Bag Canvas Tote by Thomas Paul

Hand Bag Canvas Tote by Thomas Paul

Of course, canvas is the old standby – it’s heavy-duty and light-weight at the same time (not to mention relatively inexpensive), and is built to withstand a beating. If a plain-jane unbleached look doesn’t quite cut it, though, this tongue-in-cheek “Hand Bag” Canvas Tote and the larger suitcase version are a great way to dress up your grocery duds.

California Innovations Eco Blend Freezer Tote

California Innovations Eco Blend Freezer Tote

If you’re more worried about function than form, you might want to consider a Freezer Tote. These insulated bags have about the same capacity as their flimsier nylon brethren, but keep cold food cold, which is invaluable if you live in a warmer climate, far away from your grocery store, or if you walk to and from the store.

Loungefly Crowded Teeth Bunny Town Tote Bag

Loungefly Crowded Teeth Bunny Town Tote Bag

Keep in mind, though, that just about any tote or satchel will work for carrying groceries. Whether it’s a dedicated store bag or a beach bag with the sand shaken out, the most important things to look for in a reusable bag are that they’re big enough to carry a lot of groceries, but not so big that they’re too heavy to lift comfortably. I personally dislike bags that are narrower at the bottom – it’s harder to make everything fit – and like to have a second bag for squishy things like bread or bananas, but what you need is up to you. Just remember, there are tons of bags out there – so don’t be afraid to find one you like and show a little personal flair. This Loungefly Canvas Tote, for example, is sure to leave an impression!

But what made you make the swap? The environment? The convenience? The incentives? The law? The look? The ladies? Let me know in the comments!

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