Hidden Costs of Reusuable Bags:
From Iceland to Australia; San Francisco to Cape Town; and everywhere in between, people are carrying reusable bags. Not surprisingly, big-corporate worldwide have jumped on the bandwagon, offering cheap or free reusable shopping bags as a badge of being green.
Unfortunately, these cheap reusable shopping bags are often more of a marketing ploy than a great choice for the environment. The real heavy lifting required from retailers to put a dent in consumption - like charging for plastic bags and retraining checkout staff to ask for reusable bags - takes far more work than offering a cheap bag made of plastic. Digging a little deeper reveals that many reusable bags are nothing more than another example of green-washing.
Three key questions can prevent you from mindlessly consuming a cheap or free reusable bag:
- Are you going to use it?
- Will it last?
- Do you trust the company producing it?
4 Things to Reusable Bags
- Who's making the bag? And where is it made?
- Will the bag last long enough?
- If it's free, will it be worthwhile?
- Quality, not quantity.
Who's making the bag and where?
Perhaps the most important question to ask a retailer when considering whether to add a free or cheap reusable bag to your collection is: How are the bags being produced so inexpensively? Fair Trade and Fair Labor practices ensure that employees get a healthy work environment and living wages, and that the goods are produced in a manner that protects natural resources. Such practices usually mean a higher bottom line, which makes inexpensive reusable bags suspect at best and a harmful contradiction at worst if people or natural resources are being exploited to produce them.
Will the bag last?
Even if a cheap or free reusable bag is made according to Fair Labor practices, chances are, the materials and/or the construction of the bag are of poor quality. Cheaper construction may include using toxic or unsafe materials. Or, the bags simply may not last. A cheap reusable bag will break after a few uses - bags that are more flimsy than sturdy will start to give way as you load them up with gallons of milk, cantaloupes and other weekly essentials. Soon, they end up in the garbage can or the recycling bin, minimizing the number of uses and, paradoxically, increasing bag consumption. A high quality reusable bag eliminates hundreds of cheap reusable bags, and thousands of paper and plastic bags, over its lifetime.