I’m not sure why it’s so hard to remember to use tote bags. Maybe it’s because we keep them in our cars, then we use them at the grocery stores but then forget to put them back in the car for the next use. They end up in a pile in our kitchen somewhere only to feed our guilt when we come home with more and more plastic bags.

eco tote

Photo Credit: New Internationalist

If you don’t own any ecofriendly tote bags, it’s simply time to make the leap and buy some; here’s why:

1) There is No Free Bag: Retailers usually pay 2 to 5 cents per bag. This adds up–day after day, year after year. The average person takes home 750 bags a year, at an estimated cost of $15 to $37.50 a year. This cost is passed on to consumers through higher prices on other items, making it a “hidden” cost. So, by taking grocery bags, we are indirectly raising the prices of our the goods we buy.

2) Plastic is made from petroleum, which means plastic bags are one way we are depleting our oil supply. About 8% to 10% of our total oil supply goes to making plastic. If you took the bags an average American throws away each year and converted it back into petroleum, you could drive about 60 miles on that fuel. But we just throw it away instead. So why is petroleum a precious resource but bags are not? Petroleum is valuable enough to protect as part of our national security. We risk American lives and planetary health for our oil supply, but once it is turned into plastic, we just throw it away. Plastic deserves better.

3) Effect on our Oceans and Climate Change. Plastic bags cause emissions from millions of barrels of oil each year. But even more devastating is the impact of bags on our oceans. An estimated 100,000 marine animals die each year from suffocating on bags. Even that number this seems small when you consider the impact of littered bags that break up into small pieces and wash into our waterways. These small pieces of plastic are accumulating at an alarming rate in our oceans. There are currently 42 pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton in the center of the Pacific, and that ratio is increasing. So please, don’t throw away bags. Reuse a bag for a few years and help stop the destruction of our eco-systems.

4) Plastic Bags “Never Go Away.” I was introduced to this concept about a decade ago from a dreadlocked hippie who asked me if I “needed a bag” for the used dvd I had just bought. When I replied no, she thanked me profusely and looked at me directly in the eye and said, “They NEVER go away!”

So that was a summary of all that is wrong with the plastic bags we get at the grocery store. Downer, I know. But thankfully, we can be a part of the solution! I believe the trick is to develop of system. Maybe hang the bags on your coatrack so you see them when you are leaving your home. Maybe be diligent in putting the bags back in your car after every use. Maybe just ponder the ill-effects of plastic bags so often that you are repulsed by the facts of what we are contributing to. Whatever it is, let’s commit to using reusable bags EVERY TIME we go to the grocery store. It really will make a difference.


Replace this …

With this …

Most of the information I used for this post I got from One Bag At a Time; a reusable bag seller that offers a plethora of tote bags for all types of people: from stylist hipsters to soccer moms. Check em’ out!

There is also an amazing documentary about this issue of concern called Bag It, if you are really interested. Or just watch this short trailer to get the gist. Powerful message.

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