About 5 years ago, my hubby and I got serious about religiously shopping with our canvas bags. We’d get home, unpack the groceries and still be left with 5-7 plastic bags. Why you ask? Two words: fresh produce.

Virtually everywhere you can shop, be it the grocery store, mega-store, CSA, or farmer’s market, provides plastic produce bags or houses their fresh fare in plastic containers, plastic baskets, or plastic mesh. The plastic bags serve several purposes: (1) provides a vestibule for you to place your lettuce in (2) prevents oranges from rolling around your shopping cart or basket (3) allows the cashier to visually identify your apples and differentiate between the Pink Lady and the Gala (4) contains your peppers in a “weightless” material so they are easily and accurately weighed or counted.

A standard trip to our farmer’s market reveals an interesting irony. Almost everyone carries reusable shopping bags, handmade African baskets, or is pushing some sort of cart, but they all contain a mass of plastic bags with their individual purchases. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Fast forward to this past Christmas and I figured I’d stuff my hubby’s stocking with a gift that would benefit the whole family (aren’t those the best kind?); reusable produce bags! Most local stores I tried did not carry such a thing, so I ended up at the kitchenware mecca, Sur La Table. For those of you wondering why I didn’t just shop online, it was December 22nd and I procrastinated big time. I wound up with the only produce bags they carried from a company called Washable Produce Bags. The mosquito-netting-esque nylon bags came in a 6-pack of varying sizes, cost around $7 (see my photo above), and are a terrific solution to the plastic produce bag dilemma.

PROS: Reusable, washable, super-quick drying, see-through, lightweight, have a drawstring top, and are relatively inexpensive.

CONS: You have to remember to actually bring them with you! Also, nylon is still made from a petroleum product and therefore take forever to breakdown. The brand I purchased seems a little thin for heavy items such as potatoes or large quantities of oranges. So far they’ve held up great, so only time will tell how durable they are. The other big downside is they are made in China.

To get handmade bags from America, check Etsy (get 6 for around $10-$20 + shipping) or if you have a sewing machine, make them yourself for a few dollars. Cotton bags are also available, but you loose a bit of the functionality without being able to see the produce. If you’re already rocking the reusable shopping bags, adding produce bags to your routine is easy. For a small investment, you can stop literally hundreds of plastic bags from ending up in our landfills annually. Make it happen today.

If any of our readers hand-sew reusable produce bags, post your link or contact info in our blog comments!

Image: Dina Clapinski

You can purchase these ‘flip and tumble’ reusable produce bags by clicking the image below:

flip and tumble 5-Pack Reusable Produce Bags