How to Afford Switching to Cloth Bags

>> Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I knew that I should be using cloth bags a long time before I finally switched. Regular readers of my blog know that this was the story of my life for years: I knew that what I was doing was hurting the planet, but the alternative cost too much. So I stuck with what I'd always done.

Back then, the only cloth bags I'd ever seen cost a fortune. $5 per canvas bag meant $40 to $50 for enough bags to go grocery shopping. Or double that for a collection of those cool European style string bags. It didn't matter how much I wanted to go green...I couldn't afford it. Or could I?

Then and now, there are plenty of low-cost options for people who want to switch to cloth:

  • The ubiquitous recycled plastic cloth bag. You can find these at any grocery store, in every color imaginable, with every logo you could desire, and they only cost $1. If you shop at a grocery store that rewards you for bringing your own bag, you'll make up the investment pretty quickly. These are the bags I went with when I finally made the switch several years ago, and I've been happy with them. But they aren't the perfect bag - they're not as strong as other fabrics, and they're still made of plastic that will end up in the landfill eventually.
  • Free canvas tote bags. Long before those recycled plastic bags were the big thing, every event passed out free company-logoed canvas bags. I'm sure you've still got a few stuffed in the back of some closet somewhere. Condo Blues has a great post explaining why she likes the swag canvas bags.

What kind of cloth bags do you use?


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DramaMama January 19, 2010 at 8:52 AM  

I know it's not the same as free, but I have found a lot of really nice bags at thrift stores! Some of my favorites came from there! I have also made some of my own bags (built like a brown paper grocery bag) as gifts. They are really strong - let me know if you want the pattern =)

Robbie January 19, 2010 at 9:38 AM  

I know you said the store-bought green bags weren't that strong, but I've used them for several years and only had one handle snap at the seam. That one, I just use for pieces for patching - helped me salvage an 8-year-old lunch bag that worked but the handle was frayed.

Also, the new big giveaway thing at just about every event is green bags. I'm guilty of using those - but my services I help market were talked into doing those for giveaways early on!

Cherie January 19, 2010 at 6:53 PM  

I’ve given you an award. Claim it at: I know you've already won, but you're on my list of must-reads so I'm giving it to you again.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper January 19, 2010 at 7:19 PM  

@DramaMama - I didn't think of that, but the thrift store would be a great place to get bags. Thanks for sharing the tip. And I'd love your bag pattern - my email is consciousshopperblog at gmail if you want to send it to me.

@Robbie - I've been using my green bags for about three years and most of them are holding together great, though I have one or two that are getting a bit worn. But they definitely won't last as long as a canvas bag would.

@Cherie - Thanks! I love your blog too!

Mon January 20, 2010 at 3:21 AM  

Just found your blog. LOVING it!

Brenda Pike January 20, 2010 at 11:33 AM  

My favorite bag is from Hannaford Brothers supermarket in Maine. (I'm sure they exist elsewhere, but this is the only place I can find them.) They are big and boxy and have cardboard or something sewn into the bottom to make them sturdier. They hold so much stuff without falling over that I can usually use just two or three.

I also keep a Reisenthel minimaxi bag in my purse all the time. Really handy.

I felt like I was getting weird looks when I first switched, but I'm now very good at giving baggers weird looks if they try to give me a bag.

Meghan January 28, 2010 at 3:40 PM  

I use any bags we get for free. Some of them are canvas and some are the recycled plastic cloth. None of them match, but I don't care; I'm grocery shopping, not going to a fashion show.

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