News & Features

Rethinking Reusable Shopping Bags

December 09 2011 - 11:16 AM

Reusable grocery bagsTake stock of your pantry, make the shopping list, grab the reusable canvas tote. This is most people's pre-grocery shopping routine, but it may be time to rethink that third step. A quick piece in New York Magazine uses statistics and a few selectively chosen facts to raise questions about the eco-friendliness and safety of those reusable bags.

Since 2005, Whole Foods stores alone have sold 16.6 million reusable bags. This sudden proliferation of bags has led to concern among environmental activists that the canvas or recycled plastic bags will end up in landfills, defeating their original purpose. Several plastic manufacturers have also sued reusable bag companies for overstating the bags' environmental features. And remember that study that said unwashed reusable bags may cause bacteria?

It's all detailed in the inconclusive New York Magazine piece, which certainly raises more questions than it answers. One of the few take-aways seems to be that shoppers shouldn't stockpile more and more reusable bags. After all, the point is to reduce our waste and use only what we need. So next time you're at the check-out, will your answer be "Paper," "Plastic," or "I've brought my own bag"?