Friday, August 28, 2009

Reusable Shopping Bags from Renewable Resources

I run a CSA type program called a Farm Share Initiative (okay it IS a CSA but I have found when you do a search on Ohio CSA you tend to get a lot of hits for Confederate States of America before Community Supported Agriculture and around here that could mean a lot of PU trucks arriving with full gun racks and confederate flags proudly displayed. Not exactly the crowd I want to attract). I started out the season back in April loading the members shares into non reusable plastic shopping bags (okay, these were all reused several times and came to me used but...). So I got to thinking about the whole carbon foot print thing and the huge and growing plastic island out in the Pacific ocean and decided I needed something other than the reused nonreusable plastic bags to pack the shares into.

I considered buying some sort of plastic tote-styrofoam coolers or storage boxes for the members. But here again this is using virgin plastic (and types that are not easily recyclable). Plus this would be an added cost to the farm which, while profitable (we keep out of debt and get the bills paid as long as we live simply and cheaply), is not raking in the bucks. I also considered buying shopping bags for the members but realized we all have too many such bags in our lives and many are not used.

So I hit on the idea of asking my members to supply their own bags. They could bring to the farm their reusable bags that they are not using. This has been a hit, over 75% of the members have supplied me with bags (I figure the other 25% are not complying as they do not read the weekly newsletters or they bring them but leave them in their vehicle as they would when they go shopping at the grocery store or farmers market, an all too common problem).

But I have noticed something about the reusable shopping bags, unless they are over 5 years old, they are made out of plastic. I think the Whole Foods bags are the worst, but Kroger and Wal-mart ain't much better. Most of the cloth bags I have received are from non food/grocery sources-libraries, universities, churches, etc.. I am assuming that these plastic bags are using recycled plastic, though I do not know this for sure. And if they are using post consumer plastic what % of this kind of plastic in the bags?

But the real question is what has happened to reusable shopping bags being made from natural sources like cotton, kenaf, bamboo etc.?

I know they are out there as the Oxford Uptown Farmers Market uses cotton bags as a premium for their Friends of the Market Program. So why don't the big corps use some truly renewable/natural material for the bags they sell to the public?


Chiot's Run said...

It's because reuseable bags have lost out to the world of greenwashing. It's not about not using plastic or reusing something, it's about making more money by selling cheap bags to customers to make a buck.

I made my own bags out of old curtains and everyone comments on how great they are. I particularly hate the cheap plasticy fabric kind of bags everyone sells for one dollar. What is the environmental cost of those bags, who's working in a sweatshop to provide that cheap bag.

Danielle said...

What is the carbon print of making the cotton/bamboo/fabric bags? It may be better, it may not. We need to see the whole process to really be able to decide which is better for the Earth overall. Something I'm sure isn't easy to find.

Emily said...

I am slightly obsessed with sewing bags based on the plan from I give them away and use them as 'wrapping paper' at Christmas and when my kids go to birthday parties.

Jill said...

I purchased some bags from Trader Joe's specifically because they are 100% post-consumer plastic.

Natecov said...

Here's the answer to at least one of the Whole Foods bags: