Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use: Rethinking Produce Bags

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

Studies predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. I’m sure you’ve already seen that viral video of a sea turtle getting a plastic straw painfully removed from its nostril, but in case you haven’t, single-use plastic like grocery bags, straws, disposable cutlery/cups/plates, balloons, etc. are dramatically changing our oceans and causing immense suffering to our coastal and ocean friends.

Not only are they polluting our oceans and making their way into marine life, but also our own bodies. Yes, plastic in human poop is a real thing. Because of society’s addiction to plastic, 94% of U.S. tap water has plastic particles (micro-plastics) in it, as do most brands of commercial salt collected from 8 different countries. And guess what? The most common plastic polymer found in our salt was polypropylene... the infamous polymer used in the making of most single-use plastics.

So with each new year, my goal is to reduce more plastic than the year before. I've actually heard many others talk about having similar waste-reducing resolutions, but they're unsure of where to even start.

In this new "Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use" series, I will be posting 1-2 plastic-reducing tips per month for the entire year. Even if you don't necessarily have a goal to use less plastic, hopefully this series can inspire you to implement some (easy) changes.


Ditch the Produce Bags!

Let's start with bags.

Plastic grocery bags were the 5th most commonly picked-up item during the Ocean Conservancy’s 2017 International Coastal Cleanup. A total of 520,000 were collected.

Even more frightening, that number doesn’t account for the many bags that have broken up into tiny plastic particles known as “micro-plastics.” Today, there are at least 5.25 trillion micro-plastics floating on the surface of the oceans. They’re even scattered across shorelines and imbedded within seabed sediment. These mostly come from single-use plastics like grocery bags, breaking up over time due to photo-degradation (when the sun breaks the plastic bonds and cause fragments to flake off).

Lately, I see a lot of people bringing their own reusable grocery bags to the store which makes me so happy. Now that most grocery stores are charging extra for grocery bags, a lot more people have become incentivized to change their habits.

But the one thing I still see a lot of people using are disposable plastic produce bags. You know, the bags where you put your veggies and loose fruit in. Unfortunately, because so far there is no incentive (at least not in the US) to ditch these bags, most people are still using them. If grocery stores implemented a fee like they did for regular grocery bags, I'm sure we would see a lot less of them.

I understand that it could be difficult to ditch the idea of using bags for your produce, especially if you're buying loose fruits and veggies and you want to keep them contained. Some people also like to use the bags for sanitary reasons. But in my opinion, they have to get washed anyway!

So for those who need a bag, you can just use a reusable one like you do on the checkout line.

In my opinion, a cotton bag is ideal for packing your veggies. It's extremely lightweight, naturally-derived, and the cotton can absorb some of the moisture instead of keeping it in the bag. And, unlike the standard reusable bags, they can be thrown in the washing machine (which is helpful if you have dirty veggies!). Not to mention, most reusable grocery bags are made out of some sort of mixed plastic material. Yes, it's good that they're reusable, but it actually takes 200 plastic bags worth of plastic to make one standard reusable bag!

I prefer using tote bags because they're nice and roomy and the straps can be easily tied into a knot to close the bag up. My favorite bags to use are from Safe & Wild Clothing. What's great about their bags is that they're made from 100% cotton, and you're supporting a great cause with every purchase.

At Safe & Wild, their products are vegan, sustainable, and ethically sourced and produced. Every item is hand-printed and made using water-based inks and organic materials. On top of that, a minimum of 20% of their profits go to animal protection and conservation charities.

Besides bags, they make clothing items like t-shirts, tanks, hoodies, and kids clothes. All of their products have original designs, and everything is done by the two owners, Emma and Dan. From designing and making the products to emails and shipments, the company is intimately run, extremely transparent, and the products are made with intent and quality.

Buy using Safe & Wild bags, you're not only reducing plastic waste by using them for your produce and groceries, but you're also supporting a small business with strong environmental and animal welfare values. Not to mention, their original designs are stunning.

Help keep our earth "safe and wild" by ditching the plastic bags. Change begins by looking at our habits and voting with our dollars!

To a more sustainable tomorrow,