Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Reusable Shopping and Produce Bags

Oakland copies San Francisco in banning plastic bags in large grocery and retail stores. Maybe a chain reaction is coming. However, this just means people will be using more paper bags unless paper bags are banned as well. I haven't been out in about a year so I have no idea how many people you'd see these days using cloth bags.

Here are some interesting shopping bag choices at Small Slices. The netting bags are supposedly popular in Europe.

When I bought the fluorescent green Whole Foods Market bags on Earth Day last year, I had never seen anyone using a cloth bag ever, not even while shopping at Whole Foods. (And I'm not sure how environmentally friendly a dye that fluorescent can be. The bag also has a pane of plastic on the bottom.) Hopefully people carrying cloth shopping bags now will be like people talking on cell phones in 2000. I remember how weird it was to see people walking around campus talking on the phone, and even more weird to see people biking and talking on the phone. In only a few years, it became weird to not carry a cell phone.

I started telling store clerks that I didn't need a bag, and oftentimes that was met with an uncomprehending expression. Oftentimes they had already opened a plastic bag before I finished the sentence, so then they took the unused bag and threw it away. So it became a race, as soon as the previous customer was done, I'd have to jump in and say, "No bag, please," instead of something like, "I don't need a bag," because the first version gets the message communicated in two syllables while the second version takes five syllables.

One to two years ago, I was searching the Web for reusable produce bags, and didn't find anything except for opaque heavy cloth bags marketed as produce bags, and sheer plastic reusable bags like the kind used for party favors. To be practical, produce bags going through the grocery checkout have to be see-through. It would be better if they are leak-proof too, so that you can put wet lettuce in the bags and not drip all over the shopping cart and checkout counter while picking up all the germs on those surfaces. It would also be better if the bags are biodegradable and not plastic.

After shopping at Thai Silks for fabric to make my 1930s gown, since I'm weird and have no fashion sense, I ordered the artist sample instead for the purpose of looking for sheer durable fabric that could make produce bags. Most of the sheer fabrics are silk and I wasn't sure how washable those were.

Since one to two years ago, the search results for reusable produce bags seems to have grown a lot. Here are some cotton net bags with drawstrings that I didn't see back then. I still think they should be more see-through, and these are not at all leak-proof. So here's an idea to make your own produce bags out of sheer tulle. Apparently, some tulle fabrics are made from natural fibers, and some are made from synthetic fibers. They look very see-through and can be colorful. I'm sure someone will be selling them commercially soon, if not already.


Aditya said...

I started out by using the nice green Whole Foods bags. Then I found that I could never find it when I needed it! so now I have a simple white cloth bag thats non-denominational (-:

I use that a lot these days. Its actually fun. At Whole Foods they see that you have your own bag and then offer you a charity to donate to! I find that so much fun! Its only a few cents, but you see real impact of not having used a plastic bag...

Lady M said...

What a great idea! If I can get the sewing machine out someday, I might make some tulle bags.

And it might make us more careful to use up the veggies before they spoil - the tulle won't do much to keep in a gooey, over-ripe cucumber. ;)

dancing dragon said...

Hi Adit - "Non-denominational", I like that. :)

Lady M - I don't have any experience with the tulle fabric so I don't know how well it works, or how the grocery checkers would respond. This was going to be one of my projects before I got sick. Hope you find something that works. I'm sure you'd come up with some great ideas!