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Reusable grocery bags as an alternative to plastic

Reusable shopping bags are the greenest alternative to plastic grocery sacks.
Reusable shopping bags are the greenest alternative to plastic grocery sacks.
Photo by zyzx/Stock Xchng

Everyone has to have groceries - there's no argument there - but no one needs the plastic bags groceries are generally carried in. There are lots of reasons why not to use them and green alternatives.

Consider some of the statistics:

  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.
  • Plastic bags are consumed at the estimated rate of over 500 billion annually, which is almost 1 million per minute.
  • Single-use bags made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) will accumulate and persist on our planet for up to 1,000 years.
  • In 2001, Ireland used 1.2 billion disposable plastic bags, or 316 per person. An extremely successful plastic bag tax, or PlasTax, introduced in 2002 reduced consumption by 90%.
  • Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.
  • Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
  • Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. The bag will pay for itself if your grocery store offers a $.05 or $.10 credit per bag for bringing your own bags.

Plastic bags are certainly not the only way to get groceries home. Opting for reusable grocery bags or paper bags are better options than plastic bags.  As an added bonus, reusable grocery bags and paper bags hold more, which will result in fewer trips from the car to the kitchen.

Reusable grocery sacks present the greenest alternative to plastic bags. Start by purchasing just a few of these and keep them in the car for trips to the store. Local Hy-Vee Grocery Stores even offer the reusable grocery bags with Jayhawks and other community collegiate designs for just a few dollars each. Not only are they better for the planet, but what green mom does not want to show off her Alma mater?

If you forget the reusable grocery bags, opt for paper at the grocery store. Once you get the paper bags home, reuse them to cover textbooks, or as trash bags around the house.

Every small thing you do for the environment has an impact on your family, your future, and your world. Take advantage of the opportunities you have to make Kansas City better.

Questions or comments?  E-mail the Kansas City Green Parenting Examiner.

Thank you to Reusable for the statistics in this article.


  • Jonathan 5 years ago

    I think this is a great idea! I used to have a ton of plastic bags saved up under my kitchen sink from all the gorcery store trips. The wad of plastic bags really piled up, and to imagine all the trouble those bags would cause to the environment. This article really made me think about that, and I will def make a stronger effort to use the reuseable bags on my next trip. Thanks, keep up the great work!

  • Diana 5 years ago

    Thanks for all the great suggestions. Plastic bags are so detrimental to the environment. Keep up the great articles and thanks for being "green".

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