Let’s be real: You probably have at least one reusable bag in your home already. Whether that’s a tote, a backpack, or even a used plastic bag (tell us you don’t have a plastic bag full of other plastic bags lurking under your sink, and we’ll call BS), the cheapest way to avoid using new plastic grocery bags is to use one you already have to schlep your eggs and veggies and everything else. That’s why our $ pick for the best reusable bag is to use whatever bag you already have instead of buying a new one.
The truth is, we weren’t super impressed by most of the low-priced totes we tested. For starters, many of them were only available in bulk, and a good rule of thumb when you’re trying to do right by the environment is to buy less. Also, we found that lower price translated to lower durability. In 2015, US landfills received 10.5 million tons of textile waste, so we weren’t wild about the idea of recommending a bag that was liable to split at the seams at the first sign of a heavy load.
Textile waste wasn’t the only reason we opted not to recommend any cotton totes. In the course of our research we read some pretty interesting (and, yeah, worrying) things about the effects of cotton totes on the environment. A 2018 report published by Denmark’s environmental protection agency, which — caveat — didn’t take into account the impact of single-use plastic bags on oceans, found that you’d have to use an organic cotton tote 20,000 times for it to be a better environmental choice than a plastic one.RelatedIn Defense of Actually Going to the Grocery Store
So in general, we should all be thinking about reusing as much as we can, whether we’re talking about plastic food containers, clothing, or tote bags. Human to human: We have a tendency to create a ton of waste, which is why we recommend trying to get as much use as you can from whatever totes you already have.
We know it’s a little weird for a website whose purpose is to advise you on which things to buy to advise you not to buy something (trust us, it’s weird for us too!). But the truth is that we’re all about buying mindfully — because it means you buy less and create less waste — as well as saving that hard-earned bread.