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Reusable Bags

Reusable bags are becoming increasingly popular, displayed at checkout lines across the globe.

Although we shouldn’t buy into an item’s ‘greeness’ simply because it’s branded with an earth friendly logo and a “you can make the difference” message, reusable bags do have good intentions and have resulted in a great reduction in the use of plastic bags (of which 500 billion to a trillion are still used annually throughout the world).

However, the process of manufacturing reusable bags remains a bit foggy. This leaves the question of how manufacturing reusable bags affects the environment.

Bags made from cotton, whether or not organic, require large amounts of water. While the reusable shopping bags frequent at checkout lines are made of polypropylene, a material that creates 138 grams of greenhouse gas emissions per 103 grams of material. This implies that for every bag’s worth of polypropylene manufactured, the greenhouse gas emissions created are equivalent to those created during the manufacturing of 11 plastic bags.

Despite this, it is still better to use reusable bags as they are more durable and decrease waste significantly after only a few uses. It isn’t clear why greener practices are not implemented when manufacturing products meant to sustain the environment, but  in the mean time you might make the initial creation more Eco-friendly by making your own.

Bags can be made by common materials, most of which are more durable than either paper or plastic. An old tee-shirt even works, as you only need to sew the bottom closed for it to function as a bag. Of course, you may want to cut the sleeves and make proper handles for aesthetic reasons. Other options shown to hold up include canvas or cotton flour bags and towels.

Whether you make your own bags or buy them, be sure to wash them – preferrably after each use – to prevent your exposure to harmful bacteria. You wouldn’t want to reuse a plastic bag that wrapped up your meat to carry fresh produce in later. The same should go for cloth bags.  Yet many people claim to wash their reusable bags only on occasion, if ever, and use their bags to carry non food items as well.

To avoid contamination it is crucial to keep bags clean. A regular cycle in the wash machine should rid bags of virtually all bacteria. Habitual washing is also good practice for pet owners as you wouldn’t want a checker with allergies exposed to pet hair that has gone astray.

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