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  • Writer's pictureLarissa Klinger

When are Reusable Bags NOT the sustainable choice

Would it shock you to discover that the carbon footprint is actually less for plastic bags than cotton reusable bags/totes? Woah. Woah. Woah. Why? How? Simple—Cotton consumes huge amounts of land and water and requires fertilizer to grow. That, plus the cost of transport with a heavier product, leaves us with this equation:

A cotton bag has to be used 131 times before it has a smaller global warming impact than a plastic bag used only once.

Therefore, a reusable bag is NOT the sustainable choice unless you actually REUSE it!

Before you conclude that this is about sticking with plastic bags, here are just a few facts to consider: *Americans throw out an estimated 100 billion plastic bags annually. *Single use plastic takes up to 1000 years to degrade *Every year it is estimated that plastic bag pollution kills 100,000 marine animals. *Plastic bags end up littering streets, oceans and flooding landfills So here’s the challenge. In order to actually make a difference, can you be committed to refusing plastic and reusing your bag over and over? I did some simple math. My grocery tote holds what 3 plastic bags could. If you account for heavier items and double bagging—round it up to 5. So in roughly 26 trips to the store I’ve broken even with just that one plastic bag.

With all these facts in mind, here are some things to consider: -Keep your reusable bags in your purse/backpack/car so you always have them on hand to reuse them. -Don’t purchase brand new reusable bags. Use what you already have!

-If you need extra bags or totes, shop for them secondhand or reach out to friends/family to see if they have extra. -If you have extra reusable bags—reach out to friends to see who needs them or donate them vs throwing them away. In the end, it’s not the bag itself—but your actions that will make the biggest difference.

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