How Your Reusable Bags Help the Environment
More than just playful prints and colorful quotes.
The year is 2021. Recycling is officially cool, and single-use plastics are out.
Stores, cities, states and entire countries have banned single-use plastics. This often includes plastic forks, food truck styrofoam clamshells and grocery bags you will use once, maybe twice, and then throw away. Sure, these items are super convenient for 30 minutes, but they can last for hundreds of years and pollute our environment.
Yes, you can recycle them (here’s how), but most recycling facilities don’t, and what gets recycled is often recycled incorrectly. In fact, according to the EPA, the United States generated 4.2 million tons of plastic in 2018, and more than 3 million tons were sent to the landfill. The rest was either burned for energy or recycled.1
Clearly, things have got to change — and they are! One way is to change our mindset about recycling. Another way we can lower our environmental impact is to cut the need for single-use plastics entirely. Enter the reusable tote bag, a tiny but mighty game-changer in the journey to greener pastures and cleaner skies. 😎
Let’s talk about what makes these durable shopping bags totes fetch. We also need to discuss how you can prevent the dreaded “collecting dust” syndrome that plagues even the most religious of reusable bag owners.
|Single-Use Grocery Bags||Paper Bags||Reusable Bags|
You collect single-use plastic bags at the grocery store to carry your food home. And they’re not as bad as people make them out to be, but they’re far from perfect.
Let’s explain. Plastic grocery bags actually have the lowest environmental impact compared to many other types of sacks or bags. People typically use them about twice: once when they bring their groceries home and another for other things around the house, such as a trash can liner. Additionally, they are on the lower end of the plastic timeline, taking about 20 years to break down.
The problem? They’re hardly ever used more than twice, they cannot be recycled easily (do not add them to your recycling bin), and if they are recycled incorrectly, they can actually damage recycling machines. Here’s how to recycle them properly.
Paper bags can be more eco-friendly AND more harmful than single-use plastic bags at the same time. It all depends on how you use them:
Reusable bags come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. These bags can be used literally thousands of times before needing to be replaced. However, it’s both the number of times you use the bag and what material it’s made of that truly matters, whether that’s cotton, canvas, jute, recycled plastic, or some other material.
So, in theory, they’re all great — but their environmental impact depends on how much you use them.
Each type of reusable bag has a different carbon footprint. In fact, some experts “throw shade” at cotton bags for their strain on resources. But at the end of the day, if you are committed to putting your shopping bag to good use, then their environmental impact will be largely diminished. Don’t worry.
Here’s a helpful guide for each bag material and the number of uses you need to get out of it before its footprint is neutralized.
Approx. Number of Uses
|Hemp||N/A (less than cotton)|
|Jute||N/A (less than cotton)|
Reusable bags are only as eco-friendly as you make them. Therefore, actually using them is key. But digging them out of your dusty closet is easier said than done. Here’s what we recommend:
And if you forget them (like we all do at times), paper or plastic is OK. Just make sure you save them both.
We know you’ve got some reusable bags stored up somewhere. If not, they’re very affordable and offer a great way to show off your personality. We personally love the Whataburger bags here in Texas!
For even more tips on greening your life and making cleaner choices, check out our blog and Chariot University page.
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