From doing our regular grocery store pickup each week to browsing during the holidays for gifts, shopping is a regular activity for us. These errands are a great way to bond with family and friends and enjoy your free time. However, did you know you can make a positive environmental impact while you shop?
In most cases, when you buy something from a store, it’s placed in a shopping bag. Depending on the type of product you buy, this bag may be paper or plastic. Paper and plastic bags offer convenience at first but have a negative impact on the planet.
So, how can you support the environment through how you shop? Reusable shopping bags are an excellent place to start. This guide examines how reusable shopping bags support environmental health and how you can take a step to help the planet.
WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A SHOPPING BAG?
When choosing between different styles of shopping bags, there are a few important factors to take into account.
Let’s take a closer look at what you should consider when buying a shopping bag.
Another thing to consider when choosing the best kind of shopping bag is its lifecycle. In other words, take a look at the bulk of materials used to make bags, how these are collected and processed, how the bags are made, and their end of life.
For example, the lifecycle of paper bags looks different than that of canvas or jute bags. Paper bags require water, fuel, trees, and a lot of effort, whereas some fabric tote bags don’t rely on nonrenewable resources and save on water.
The lifecycle includes production, transport, use, and recycling. A shopping bag's lifecycle is a large influence on the economic impact of that bag. From when the assembling of the seams to placing the set of bags in your shopping cart to bringing them home, these items last longer than we often consider at the checkout counter.
ITS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
One of the most critical factors to consider when buying a shopping bag is its environmental impact.
Plastic shopping bags, commonly associated with supermarkets, are lightweight and compact but can do plenty of damage. All in all, plastic bags have the worst environmental impact. They are made with nonrenewable resources and clutter up our landfills. They also can drift into the ocean and may look like a pod of jellyfish to sea turtles looking for a meal.
ITS RECYCLING PERFORMANCE
Various shopping bag materials also have different recycling outcomes. When it comes to choosing the best shopping bag, it's important to look at how your shopping bag can be recycled.
Even if a material is sustainably sourced, it doesn’t mean it’s recyclable or efficient to recycle. Some materials cost a lot of money, resources, and effort to recycle. Even after all of this, some parts of the bag may still end up in landfills. It’s important to make sure the bags you buy are 100% recyclable.
WHAT IT'S MADE OF
There are many different types of reusable shopping bags available, so it can be difficult to choose. One of the most important factors to look for when choosing a shopping bag is what it’s made of. There are three common shopping bag materials to choose from. These include plastic, paper, and fabric.
Let’s look at the differences between plastic, paper, and fabric shopping bags.
PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS
Plastic shopping bags are the least eco-conscious choice for reusable bags. They fill up landfills, clog bodies of water, and harm animals and wildlife. In addition to the immediate harm of plastic shopping bags, they can also do long-term damage.
Plastic shopping bags take years to decades to decompose. Even when they’ve finally decomposed, they release toxins and chemical substances back into the soil. This harms the Earth and contributes to air pollution.
It’s common for animals to get tangled in plastic bags, try to eat them, or ingest plastic’s harmful chemicals. Plastic bags harm animals, humans, and the planet and can release carcinogens and toxins back into the environment.
Plastic bag build-up also contributes to stormwater management obstruction. A very low rate of plastic bags is recycled. This leads to build-up and makes it difficult for sewers and drainage systems to work in an effective way.
PAPER SHOPPING BAGS
Paper shopping bags are another popular reusable option. While they’re a large step in the right direction, they still present a few problems. First, producing paper bags requires a lot of water, trees, and fuel to create. These resources should be used carefully on essentials.
Paper bags are not durable and tear easily, especially the handle when these bags are used to transport heavy loads of food items or weighty products like glass bottles. This reduces how often they can be reused.
In order for them to be considered environmentally conscious, you must use a paper bag at least 43 times. Even in this case, some paper materials aren’t completely recyclable.
FABRIC SHOPPING BAGS
Fabric shopping bags are the most sustainable option when it comes to shopping bag materials. While paper bags are much better than single-use plastics, they wear down quickly and often can’t be reused more than a few times.
WHICH FABRICS ARE THE BEST
Fabric shopping bags are the most environmentally conscious option. However, within the realm of fabric shopping bags, there are many options to choose from. Which fabrics are best?
Here’s what you need to know:
Durable canvas is one of the best fabric options to look for in reusable shopping bags. Canvas is woven differently than regular cotton we associate with T-shirts. Canvas is designed to support more weight and has a sturdier texture, making it more durable.
You can reuse canvas shopping bags more than regular cotton bags. This allows canvas tote bags to have a smaller environmental impact than other types of fabric. Canvas is also biodegradable, compostable, and reusable for other purposes. They often have simple care instructions and can be washed by hand or by machine.
Jute is a natural crop that’s sustainable, has an incredibly small impact on the environment, and is excellent for reusable shopping bags. When it comes to choosing a material, jute is the most environmentally conscious choice.
Jute is more durable and sustainable than canvas totes and can be used for a variety of other household items too. For instance, you can use jute for clothing, furniture covers, tapestries, or rope. It is also ideal for fashion accessories like a wallet, backpack, or purse.
The advantages to using jute are abundant. To start with, jute is renewable. Because it’s a crop, we can plant more and grow as much as we need. This reduces the need to use nonrenewable sources like fuel to make paper bags. Jute is also compostable and biodegradable.
As a raw material, jute is very affordable and is durable through wear and tear. This fabric is by far the best choice for eco-conscious totes.
HOW DO I KNOW MY TOTE IS ECO-CONSCIOUS?
Not all fabric shopping bags are made the same. For this reason, it’s essential to know what qualities to look for when choosing eco-conscious shopping totes.
There are three important qualities to look for. These include shopping bags that are handmade, materials that are sustainably sourced, and organizations that give to charitable causes.
There are many benefits to choosing handmade items over mass-produced items. First, handmade items support individual artisans earning dignified, living wages.
Handmade items also pay closer attention to detail and often use reusable, renewable, and recyclable materials.
The materials used to make a shopping tote determine how environmentally conscious it is. So, finding sustainably sourced materials is key. When you source materials sustainably, you choose materials that have a low impact on the environment throughout their whole lifecycle.
It’s also important to examine the retailers you’re purchasing your shopping tote from. Organizations that support charitable causes, artisans, and sustainability are excellent places to buy from.
Here at The Little Market, our mission is to support artisans across the globe. All of our items are handcrafted, sustainably sourced, and support those in need. From helping women across the globe receive fair wages and job skills training to supporting artisans in underprivileged communities, there are many ways our organization helps others.
A REUSABLE PACK THROUGH YEARS OF USE
Now that we’ve discussed how to find the best reusable shopping bags on the market, it’s important to know where you can get them. There are tons of reusable shopping bags available. They are made with canvas and jute materials that are sustainably sourced.
Each purchase of a shopping tote supports women in Bangladesh to earn fair wages, skill training, and safety while working in rural communities. Grab a shopping tote for yourself or give one as a gift for the holidays! Our reusable shopping bags are an excellent way to support the environment and carry everything you need.