Reusable Shopping Bags

Reusable Shopping Bags

Paris supermarkets stopped giving away plastic bags for free last year. The deal is this: you can either 1- bring your own shopping bag, 2- purchase a jumbo reusable plastic bag, or 3- purchase a flimsy plastic bag if you really insist.

Despite the corporate claim that they’re pretty (um, hello?), the jumbo reusable plastic bags they sell at my supermarket are ugly. But I admit they’re sturdy and very large, which makes them handy when you have a lot of stuff to buy, or a lot of stuff to lug around for other purposes, like take junk down to the basement.

For the rest of my food shopping, however, when I buy things from smaller shops (they still give away plastic bags), or for impromptu purchases when I’m out and about, I keep a reusable tote bag in my purse.

In fact, I have two. The first one is a brown tote bag with curly pink lettering that I bought at Monoprix a while ago: it comes with a little pouch in which to stow the folded bag when not in use. The second one is a blue flip & tumble bag, which was sent to me by its designers, recent graduates of a design program at Stanford University. This one you scrunch up into a ball and flip unto itself — not unlike a pair of socks.

Both serve me well, as they are lightweight, have a larger capacity than they appear, and are comfortable to carry. And call me smug, but it always gives me great satisfaction to stop sales attendants mid-gesture and say, “I won’t be needing a bag for this, thank you,” as my magic tote bag materializes where there formerly was none.

And just because a little green proselytization never hurts, I sometimes add, with a smile, “I’m trying to save the planet.” I like to think that it makes the other customers feel just a little bad about the five plastic bags they have entwined in their fingers, and that they privately vow to start carrying a reusable shopping bag in their purse, too.

(It is a lot more likely that no one notices, or gives a fig, but I am endlessly entertained by the imaginary thoughts I put in strangers’ heads, and I’d be grateful if you didn’t ruin it for me.)

I have another set of shopping bags for use at the greenmarket, where my purchases are too bulky for these tote bags, and where I need baskets that will wait patiently at my feet, without spilling their contents onto the sidewalk while I choose my heads of lettuce or grapple for change.

I ordinarily bring two such shopping baskets. One is tall and narrow and it fits snugly in the basket of my bike (yes! I bought a bicycle! it has a wire basket in the front! and a pretty bell that scares away pigeons and toddlers!). The other is large and flowery and I hang it precariously on the left handle of my bike, which forces me to pedal with the very tip of my left foot so my knee won’t keep banging into my organic strawberries. Perhaps I should acquire a little trailer for my bike, or possibly a sidecar.

The other tree-hugger strategy I’ve adopted I picked up from a veteran tree-hugger I once observed at the greenmarket: I save the ubiquitous brown paper bags in which produce vendors place fruits and vegetables, and bring them back week after week, until finally they tear and have to be replaced (I don’t go so far as mending them with sticky tape).

I do the same with egg boxes, and sometimes score extra points with the egg lady when I collect and return more boxes than I’ll use for my personal egg needs, so she can give them away to other, less provident customers.

In the end, the only places where I still need a plastic bag are butcher shops and fish shops, where the packages might otherwise leak blood and unsavory juices into my basket or fridge. And I confess that, every once in a while, when I buy chocolate or pastries from nice providers, I do accept the attractive paper bags that they offer with the merest purchase.

What about you? What’s the reusable bag situation where you live, and what are your green strategies when it comes to grocery shopping?

  • I have a collection of Envirosax that I use almost everywhere, and am also slowly spreading them around the community to my friends and family.

    The plastic bags I do get (and the plastic bags my daughter saved from her dorm all school year and brought home), I use for cat litter.

  • I love using reusable bags, and I’m going to have to find a cute little one to keep in my purse like you do. If only we had Monoprix here in Chicago– that brown one is so cute! The stores here still give out plastic and paper bags, and sadly I see people revolting if they changed it at all. You do see a lot more reusable bags these days, though, and all the grocery stores sell decent reusable ones for very reasonable prices.

    On a side note– I finally got a copy of Chocolate and Zucchini the book for my birthday a few days ago, and I’ve been reading it on the train for the last few days. I love it!! Great work :)

  • Charlotte

    Oh, great, maybe the C&Z community will have an answer to my dilemma: I accept plastic bags, and use them instead of buying trash bags (my Simple Human trash cans are actually designed for them)… and I’m trying to figure out if it’d be better to use reusable bags and start buying recycled trash bags?

  • In Germany where I live, the plastic bag disaster has been stopped a while ago, and everyone brings theirr own bag to the supermarket (cornerstores and markets still give away bags). In fact, back in the eighties, Germany was sort of famed for their (mostly poorly designed) fabric bags, and the slogan ‘Jute statt Plastick’ was de rigeur.
    Recycling the egg cartons made out of paper/cardboard is now prohibited, because they can carry germs transmittable through the eggs shell. You are only allowed bring your own container if you bring one made out of a washable material such as porcelain or plastic.

  • The Whole Foods near my house stopped using plastic bags several months ago, though you can still get them at the mainstream grocery stores. I usually keep a tote in my purse, and though it isn’t as cute as yours it does fold up nice and small. It’s a shopping bag from a retail shop in New Zealand where I bought a shirt (Glasson’s, anyone?) and it’s made of that weird plastic-cloth hybrid material, but again, it folds up so small! I have a large collection of totes but most are too big for me to carry comfortably.

    Also, I’m glad to know there is someone else out there who projects thoughts into other peoples’ heads. I love that game!

  • More and more stores here are offering inexpensive tote bags, which I love. Also, Whole Foods is committed to no longer using plastic bags in their stores once they use up the supply they currently have. I think that’s just awesome! (My only complaint in all of this is that there are no lovely looking tote bags. All of them so far are horribly ugly.)

  • Rachel

    I wish British supermarkets would follow France’s lead! (I also now have serious reusable bag-envy. I may have to pop into Monoprix when I go to Paris in a couple weeks’ time…)

    I’m not nearly as well accessorised as you, but my approach is fairly similar. For the supermarket, I have a reusable Sainsbury’s bag, which is a hideous shade of orange but it only cost 10p and it does the trick. For the farmer’s market, I have a cute cotton bag from the organic farm near my cousins’ house, and I religiously reuse my egg boxes. Anything else (eg the odd lemon/lime/pint of milk picked up on the way home) just goes straight into my messenger bag, unless it’s really fragile.

    Oh, and don’t worry, you’re not the only one with a weakness for patisserie bags!

  • Great proselytizing post! A couple years ago when I first showed up at Target with my ACME reusable bags, the checker gave me such a funny look I almost felt guilty. But now Target sells its own reusable bags (not as cute as those of Monoprix), along with many other Phoenix-area retailers (hooray!). Now I feel guilty when I forget to grab them on my way into the store. It’s a trend that is catching on here, interestingly enough.

  • Jen

    I agree with Erin: that brown bag is adorable. I’ll have to hunt for something similar in the US.

    I was surprised at how useful my first tote was: it’s great for groceries, laundry, day trips, short weekend excursions…and more! I always forget to take it on my bigger shopping trips, though, and I’d love to save at least one bag from getting shoved in my kitchen drawer (we’ve got a million for when we run out of “dog poop bags”).

  • When I moved from France to Lexington 2 years ago, I brought my collection of shopping bags (from Champion – I love them) and have been using them ever since. The only store in town to have stopped using plastic bags is Whole Foods, although you can now buy reusable bags in nearly every grocery. More and more people are using them, too, but this country has a long way to go!

  • Karen

    I live in Milwaukee WI and most of the grocery stores here are happy to put my items in my tote bags. However, they keep trying to put my produce into plastic bags first, then putting that into my tote. What’s the point of that?

    Using reusable bags at Wal-Mart is just a massive hassle. They look at you like you’re a crazy person. So, I take their plastic bags and use them to pick up after my dog.

  • Wynne

    I like to carry a tote with me, too. As a remedy for your bike-handle situation, have you considered installing a rack over the rear tire of your bicycle? Once you have a rack, you can attach all sorts of items to it, including panniers. Bungee cords are very handy for binding bags or baskets on top.

  • It is an habit to take but it is worth it. Get a system that works for you. I always carry two flip and tumble bags on my handbag. So I am ready all the time when I am shopping. It is great for magazines, clothes, pharmacy products and grocery. I am surprised how strong these bags are.

    Envirosax shorter handles come handy when you need to hang them. I use a Hook & Go shopping cart when I go to the farmers market, or when I need lots of stuff at the grocery store and I go by foot.

  • Sam

    I actually have two flip & tumble bags, and let me say that they are really great. They fold up so small and so easily that it is completely possible to put one in your pocket on your way to the store and not even notice it. And they come in great colors.

    Even better: the bags were lost by the shipping company the first time, and they sent me new replacements almost immediately. really great customer service.

    Well recommended!

  • Torie

    I’m surprised to read that Paris supermarkets have stopped giving away free plasic bags. My Monoprix here in Montparnasse still has free orange plastic bags for the taking. (and I agree, the ones you have to pay for are ugly)

    Anyway, I have two reusable bags that I use regularly: a large basket type bag for regular supermarket purchases, and a small red fold up bag like your brown one that lives in my purse for any other unexpected purchases. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I do most of my shopping at the grocery store, and I hate that I have to put all my produce in bags before they’ll weigh it. Such a waste! I’ve never understood why they refuse to stick the sticker directly on the item if it’s just one.

  • My boyf has started objecting to the number of reusable bags I own… If I forget them when going to the shop (or stop on the way home), I will very often buy a new one from the supermarket – they cost 50pence and are really capacious. I also have a Turtle Bag, a lime green one with short handles, that my aunt gave me for Christmas, which is great. Also got a plain linen shoulder bag from a conference last week: clearly reusable bags are becoming trendy if people are giving them away….

  • I do still frequently accept the plastic bags at the supermarket, but that is because I have a cat, and they get used as garbage bags for when I clean my cat’s litter box each day. But I do have a string bag I do try to use as much as I….er, remember to.

  • alexandra Nakhshon

    A group of artisanal shops here in Toronto, Canada had sturdy reusable bags made that they gave out to regular customers. I use them when going to their shops. The rest of the time I shop at Whole Foods, who now provide paper bags only, and I use them for kitchen garbage – eliminating plastic bag usage there too.

  • I wish they would start charging for the ubiquitous plastic bags that our grocery store gives away by the dozen! Right now, I have a couple of the aforementioned huge, ugly reusable bags and a couple of smaller, slightly-less-unattractive bags, but I do want to go find a couple that I can just carry with me all the time.

  • Living in Amsterdam and owning only bicycles as our mode of transportation, we rely heavily on backpacks for grocery shopping and heavy duty grocery bags that we re-use, but I tend to use cotton mesh shopping bags for more fragile fresh produce. My most favorite reusable shopping bag is my mini maxi shopper from reisenthel. It rolls up to mobile phone size and comes in it’s own little snap closure pouch with a clip fob on the end. It goes with me everywhere and I’m so fond of mine, I’m in the habit of giving the mini maxi shopper as a gift.

  • One of our local stores has just instituted a “pay-you-back” incentive to get customers to bring their own bags. They give you 10 cents for each bag you bring and use, so it’s actually catching on.

    I got into a crafty craze sometime back and knit together regular plastic bags into a more durable, reusable bag. The hours to make it were ridiculous, but it amuses me to use it!

    Many stores here (in SC) are offering their own store-branded reusable bags. Some of them are cute, some a hideous and some are purely functional.

  • I am right there with you! I have recently started a mini-campaign for my husband and me not to bring any new plastic bags home and have started keeping a jumble of reusable cloth bags right by the door (as well as one that has a permanent home in my handbag). It’s…well, sort of working – I was at the grocery store (Fairway in NYC) a few months ago and had brought both some cloth bags and some used Fairway bags, and the checkout person refused to bag my groceries after giving my pile of crumpled bags the stink eye. But a lot of stores in the NYC area are selling reusable bags, and the mayor recently signed a law requiring large stores to accept plastic bags for recycling.

    As for bags, I have one Envirosax, 2 smaller nylon bags with cute prints that I got at a fantastic Japanese dollar store in CA, and several muslin-type bags that I’ve acquired from various places. We use our plastic bags for garbage and dog walks, paper bags to collect paper recycling, and bigger paper bags with handles to take clothes to the dry cleaners.

    On a side note – recent new reader, first time poster. Keep up the great work!

  • Monica

    From Washington D.C.: The Whole Foods chain of grocery stores here in the U.S. has stopped providing plastic bags but they offer two styles of re-usables: one pretty and one less so. I have them both and carry them even when I shop at other supermarkets (not often and only for toilet paper and such). When shopping for clothes I try to stuff my purchases in my handbag which these days is a sac big enough to accommodate clothes for a three day weekend. I have developed a phobia towards the fancy paper shopping bags that stores give out but I need to get one of the foldable tote thingies for when I decide to ditch the extra-large sac in favor of something a bit less taxing on the old bones.

    • Monica, we are a group of telecom consultants in south america who out of simple interest to make the world a better place, took the initiative to start the process of reducing the amount of plastic bags in the region. In the past 5 months, we introduced a rather “cool” and unique reusable bag that comes in its own handle. (see since its launch in chile, we have had decided to take time form our “real jobs” and try to expand into other markets & thus our reason to contact you. If you would be interested in a bit more information regarding this product, please contact me directly. Together, we can make a change. We have the exclusive rights to the US market.

  • Eva

    Although I live in Portland (OR), I am from San Francisco and visit frequently. San Francisco just banned plastic bags altogether, and I’m surprised Portland hasn’t done the same.

    I have several Trader Joe’s bags (one colorful one like yours!), a wonderful green striped woven plastic bag that I bought in Guadalajara, Mexico, and a lovely basket that alternates between holding produce and knitting. Sometimes I forget the bags, and I’m more likely to try to carry everything in my arms — we have such an accumulation of paper shopping bags at home! I always feel bad for (and superior to) the people I see at the farmers market who are lugging around their produce in 800 flimsy plastic bags, each with a different fruit or vegetable inside.

    Recently, I’ve discovered a place where I can get eggs in bulk/individually-priced, and often take one or two home nestled in a bag of arugula or baby lettuce. I, too, like to feel smug at my environmentally-friendly (and stylish!) ways… though it’s difficult to feel smug in a city like Portland.

  • I use these Australian made ones.
    However I made the mistake of buying hot pink ones and my son refuses to carry them when he comes to the market with me.

  • Katie

    Keeping a cute little bag in one’s purse is a great idea! Whenever I forget to bring my reusable bags, I stubbornly insist on carrying all of my groceries in my arms. In my efforts to save the planet, I’ve even been known to cash out half-way through shopping and carry out the first load in order to avoid evil plastic bags.

  • Anne-Jet

    Dear Clotilde

    These are bicycle bags for the luggage carrier, that solve the mashed strawberry problem and pimp up your bike big time.
    They are called fietstassen in Dutch and I looked up a site for you that ships within Europe, in case you like them.
    Have fun with your new bicycle!


  • summar ann

    One of our local grocery stores has also started giving a rebate if you bring your own bag. They give you $.05 for each bag you use. it is a great incentive to remember to bring your bags with you.

    i have lots of reusable totes that stores sell. if you sell one, i will buy one. my favorite is from meijer. it has straps in alternating corners that hold up two liter bottles or similar sized objects. very handy. i love reusable bags!

  • I have a variety of canvas bags that come out for larger shopping trips, but mostly just use my messenger bag.

  • AJ

    I love, love LOVE ChicoBags ( and they are, to date my favorite reusable bags. They have a clip so you can snap them to your key ring and they compress into their own self-contained pouch, so they’re very small. I load mine up all the time – even beyond the 25 pounds they claim they’ll hold. They held up just fine.

  • emily

    I recently got into the habit of taking a little red shopping cart with me whenever I go shopping at the supermarket or farmers market. I find that it dispenses with the need for any bags at all. At the market I simply put all of my purchases in there and at the supermarket I use it as a shopping trolley and then put all of the products on the counter for them to scan and put them back in my trolley- less heavy lifting and it saves the environment from more plastic bags. I have no idea why it took me so long to think of it!

    Oh, and in answer to Charlotte above, I recently bought a bin that didn’t require bin liners of any description (it has a little inner bucket that you remove from the bin and just tip it into your big bin that gets collected). It wasn’t hugely expensive and it saves having plastic bags hanging around the house or buying bin liners.

  • Andrew

    Chere Clotilde,

    You put me to shame.

    I have bought a number of the Eco-Bags. The problem is that I, almost invariably, leave them at home when I shop: No technique works if it isn’t used.

    To add to my crimes, now that I live in a town with no public transportation worth the name, I invariably drive to the market (I really miss Montreal). I don’t dare admit that I drive an SUV or I will, quite rightly, be pilloried by my, more ideologically sound, peers (possibly publicly flogged as well).

    My daughter, however, has discovered that an Eco-Bag makes a handy dandy carrier for a three year old who doesn’t want to walk and so they give good service in that capacity (and the shopping bags are recycled, he says hoping that might just be enough).

    When you say “I like to think that it makes the other customers feel just a little bad about the five plastic bags they have entwined in their fingers” and “It is a lot more likely that no one notices… and I’d be grateful if you didn’t ruin it for me”, is it permissible to say that I am sure some people, some of the other customers, will feel at least a twinge of guilt?

    Keep up the good work,

    I’m off to buy a 2CV and a bike,


  • Sheri

    Cities and towns that we visit in Europe on a regular basis expect you to either bring your own bags or they charge you for the plastic ones that they furnish. When you have to pay for a few bags you start to remember to bring along your own bags. It’s smart and works well. Why are we so late for the train?

  • AS

    I’m really glad the whole bring your own bag idea is catching on – really, it’s about time! I’ve had my Riesenthel tote for a few years now and it’s only been recently that I can say “I don’t need a bag” to the cashier without feeling vaguely stigmatized as some overly neurotic environmentalist nut!

    I’m in NYC, and I think that trend has largely been thanks to Whole Foods as well as Trader Joe’s as they both encourage customers to bring their own bags by offering incentives – so I say good for them!

  • I recently visited IKEA, and they have started charging for bags as well and have a .99 reusable bag that is big and ugly. Trader Joe’s down the road has a more visually friendly reusable bag. Even if I do get a bag, I always reuse it as a trash bag, or recycling bag.

  • AS

    One more thing- the large totes are easy to find, but I’d like to get a nice looking small reusable bag for times when you’re getting just a few things and not much else, and it’s awkward to have it tumbling around in a huge tote. Wondering if anyone has any ideas?

  • Angie

    A local grocery chain in New Hampshire started selling these reausable bags, and they give you $.05 off your purchase for every bag you hand them to use instead of plastic. They’re quite sturdy and nice, and not so ugly in my opinion. My local natural food store also started selling various canvas bags, of which I bought a very nice boxy-shaped one that is tall and narrowish with a flat bottom. I should really think of buying a cute little fold-up bag or two though, since none of my bags condense to a convenient “stealth mode.” I know of a mother who washes out the flimsy plastic bags from the farmers market and reuse them in a number of ways. Many companies even sell drying racks to make such a chore a little less awkward. (Hm… I feel like you’ve blogged about this already..:) I know of another mother who used to use paper bags in her kitchen garbage bin, but I don’t think that practice lasted long after the first few leaky trips to the dumpster. :)

    This winter I suddenly noticed how often I bag produce at the supermarket before putting it in the cart. Amidst all the green habits I’ve been trying to form, the habit of tossing fruits and veggies into those off-the-roll bags was so ingrained from my childhood that I completely overlooked it. Now I stop myself before I do something so ridiculous as putting an orange in a produce bag – as if it were useful in any way!

    Love your blog! You’re a fantastic writer, and I eagerly check the site WAY more often than is reasonable for updates. :) Glad to see the “Green” discussion in yet another corner of the internet that I love. :)

  • gingerpale

    Clotilde, don’t think that no one notices! Just yesterday (at a blog called “The Daily Dish”) I saw this: “One of the most significant factors determining whether people give to charity is their beliefs about what others are doing. Those who make it known that they give to charity increase the likelihood that others will do the same.”
    Surely this applies to *any* good deeds!
    Our grocery takes 10 cents off the total for each bag we supply.

  • Ruth Adams

    Here in Ottawa, Canada, we even have organic food stores that give away cloth bags if your purchase is large enough ($). I always have two in my purse. I also have and carry a number of “filoches” – the expandable string bags that manage to hold awkward shaped packages. To keep them all together I have a set of molded plastic handles that do not dig into my hands if I have a heavy load or a long way to walk. For larger amounts, when I go shopping for necessities, I have a designer bag on wheels (something like a trolley) that I pull behind me. Only in the dead of winter do I need a delivery service.

  • ni

    In Canada, there are many supermarket chains that charge for plastic bags. They have been doing it for years. One I know of have been doing it for nearly 2 decades now. I think they do it because it is so profitable but it does encourage many cheap people like my parents to help the environment. hahaha inadvertently though…

    I like to get the plastic bags at regular supermarkets because I use them as garbage bags. I see someone uses paper bags but don’t they leak? I have to double bag plastic ones just to ensure they don’t leak. Any other suggestions?

    However, I have several reusable bags that I use whenever I think I have enough plastic ones. No need for extra bags. I also use them at farmers markets and small shops etc because I am also considering that it costs the small business owner money to give one to me.

  • I’m sort of confused. I thought none of the grocery stores in France offered plastic bags for free. When I lived in Clermont-Ferrand a couple of years ago, none of the supermarkets gave out plastic bags for free. The only free plastic bags were the ones that you use to collect produce. I would just stop into an ATAC after school and use my backpack to carry my groceries. For larger purchases, I bought one of the cute Champion bags that was described by an earlier commenter.

    I really wish I had brought back the Champion bag with me to the U.S. In Oklahoma, the green movement is slowly beginning. Some stores are selling reusable bags, but most people are still using plastic bags like water.

  • Kai

    I also recycle grocery and everything else plastic bags into trash bags. At the supermarkets of the largest chain mall in the Philippines (SM) they sell green reusable bags for Php35 (roughly US$.79), but the plastic bags are still free.

    I bring a large Jansport backpack when I’m out shopping. Very convenient, holds lots of items and my hands are free for….more shopping!

  • Hilde

    In Germany you have to pay for either a sturdy plastic or a cloth bag. But most customers bring theit own bags or baskets or use a empty cardbord box from the shop. At the market, you can reuse your egg boxes and sometimes the little boxes for berries, too.

  • dana

    I’ve got the canvas bags to carry purchases, but I’ve also made some onestringbags for bulk produce. I’d advise using a finer mesh tulle (larger mesh tends to shred, and is easier on softer fruits).

  • Elise

    I am very fond of the recycled cotton totes I got from I have the ACME one that has *two sets of handles* (as I never know whether I’m going to pick up things that will let me use the long handles to sling them over my shoulder or whether I will need to use the shorter handles because what I’m carrying is heavy) and they were designed to sort of look like grocery bags in shape and color (brown). They also come in natural and blue. Very sturdy without being heavy themselves. The company donates a small percentage of their profits to environmental preservation and restoration.

  • Marguerite – You know, I’d never thought of the germs-in-the-egg-box problem, but that makes complete sense of course. I’ll have to try and find a plastic or otherwise washable egg box…

    Alison – Your comment made me smile, because the Champion bags you love are exactly the ones I don’t. It just goes to show — one girl’s ugly is another one’s pretty! :)

    Cecilia – There is a national regulation that states that French supermarkets will have to stop giving away non-recyclable bags in 2010, but some areas of France and some supermarkets have adopted this policy early — some of them years ago, such as Leclerc or Ed, for various reasons.

  • MaW

    Nnnnnnnnneeek. One bad swing of a bag on your handlebars and you and your bike will be sliding sideways across the road. Not fun. Please get a rear carrier! Your blog is too good for you to be splattered between the wheels of an 18-ton truck.

    British supermarkets are slowly, very slowly, waking up to the plastic bag thing. The most popular tactic seems to be using their loyalty cards to offer incentives. Tesco give you an extra Clubcard point for each bag you reuse (which means I get very few as I use very big bags). Waterstones (the book shop) are currently offering five points on their card if you don’t use a bag. Sainsbury’s were offering 1p for bag reuse years ago, but that was inconvenient. The last thing I want is another 1p coin, and they would give you the coin rather than taking 1p off your bill.

    M&S, in my experience, are currently ahead. They spent a month giving away free reusable bags for life, and now they charge 5p for carrier bags.

    ASDA, on the other hand, simply have signs up suggesting that perhaps you might want to reuse some bags maybe please.

  • Tim

    Those are some trendy grocery bags you’re sporting. Our supermarket’s canvas bags make the French bags look like Gucci, but it’s good to see more people using them rather than plastic.

    They’re also useful test for telling if someone is crazy. Whenever a patient walks into emergency with a green coles bag, you know they’re going to be a little nuts.

  • In Switzerland – (Geneva for me), the reusable shopping bag situation needs to be improved – and a look across the border to our French neighbours could serve as a good example!
    The two major Swiss food chains, Migros & COOP still give away copious amounts of plastic bags, and while they do offer the possibility to purchase a recyclable sturdy paper variety…. with these 2 options easy & available, people are less encouraged to think outside the BAG :) and bring a reusable one from home.
    While recycling is generally good in Switzerland, I live in heart of Geneva where composting is not offered, nor is recycling many plastic items.
    Thanks for the dialogue

  • Maggie

    I too was useless, never having one of my growing ‘bags for life’ collection with me when I needed it. That is, until I was given my first Onya Bag last Christmas( but think there are also Austalian and US websites). These ones also fold into a tiny pouch but they have a clip on them so I keep one attached to my handbag. I’ve also just bought their version for fruit and veg (very light and transparent so no problems when weighing things at the counter) so am feeling particuarly virtuous.

    Charlotte – my current replacement for bin bags now that I’m trying my best to be plastic-free is the plastic sleeve my loaf of bread comes in. I’m limiting our household to one a week so it’s a great way to monitor excactly how much we are throwing away rather than recylcing and composting!

  • Clio

    I have been coveting one of these for a long time.
    When they’re back in stock, I may well splurge – it would be great for the market, for example…

  • I have a Jute one with BOROUGH MARKET written in big green letters – It gets many good comments, it’s especially nice as the handle is quite long, you can dangle it from your shoulder.

  • In Florida, our stores now carry and encourage customers to use recyclable shopping bags. I have 2 large ones I take to the grocery store, but never remember to put them back in the car after unloading my groceries. I’m just glad they haven’t charged us for the plastic bags (in some areas it ranges from $0.05 – $0.25/bag).

    But I agree, some of the cotton totes available at the grocer’s aren’t very appealing (but they do do their job). I’ve been indulging in a new craft lately (sewing) and hope to make some customized totes for shopping in the future.

    As for the egg cartons, I always keep a stack in my kitchen to return to my boyfriend’s mother when I visit her. She has chickens and always need cartons to hold the abundant chicken eggs weekly (I love using fresh eggs in my cooking!).

    I’m glad there was a “green” post/discussion this week. I’ve been trying to be more green at my house (and teaching my boyfriend at the same time) too. It’s strange how much you throw away that’s recyclable (I’ve reduced my trash by 50% since recycling more actively).

  • Anonymou

    I began using recyclable bags many years ago in California when Trader Joe’s first began selling them. Many supermarkets, as well as Whole Foods and Natural food co-ops discounted a few pennies for your own bags. I also try to proseletyze at the counter, with a big grin and “Just doing my part to save an oil well!” Now that the gasoline prices are escalating every week, people are beginning to understand my comment.

    I “punish” myself when I forget my bag(s) by pushing the cart to the car and packing it there. (I live in a backward midwestern state where riding a bicycle on the street will get you verbal abuse or physical injury. They just don’t get it.) I miss California.

  • Jaclyn

    I’m outside Washington, DC and I make use of the cute reusable tote bags that Whole Foods carries. They are about a dollar, but often the store just gives them away – I have a few and I always use them. I’m also trying to shop more at the farmer’s market (both because it’s greener to buy local/organic produce and because it’s getting to be the better financial alternative, now that it’s so expensive to ship produce from California!) and at some point, I hope to figure out how to start growing my own herbs and some vegetables. I have a tiny north-facing condo, so I’m still working on that one… but it’s one step at a time, right?

  • In China where I live the government just banned all supermarkets and shops from giving away free plastic bags. Before the ban shop clerks would give me odd, almost insulted looks, when I said I didn’t need a bag.
    Now reusable shopping bags are a fashion statement here. I bought a nice one with Mao riding a bicycle and smoking a cigarette, as seen here.

  • Clotilde, I think I have one of those bags you’re not so keen on! Mine is from SuperU and has pictures of peppers on it. I was taken aback one day when a lady over here in the UK liked the look of it and asked where she could get one.

    As others have said, the supermarkets over here don’t seem to be making as much progress as in other countries. We purchased our bag two years ago in France when we had random grocery items rolling around the boot and back seat of the car!

  • most major super food stores in sother california still hand out plastic bags, though supposedly next year they are going to stop.

    I have three reusable bags one from target, one from a store, and one from fresh and easy. I also have a couple of paper bags from restaurants,(left over food) and some durable plastic ones… that my mom collected someplace.

    As for other plastic pacaging… i save and bring to the store for recycling and i recycle bottles and cans and glass.

    And also paper..
    I am a major tree hugger
    I hope that america just catches up to other countries in ‘greening’ the Earth soon!!

  • I keep several reusable bags in my car for shopping, tho I occasionally forget to put them back in after I bring in the groceries. But I am getting better. I still do get plastic bags on occasion as I have a few uses around the house they come in handy for, mostly kitty cat related.

  • Baggu has some excellent ones that are small and can hold a lot. Try them out :).

  • I have special insulator bags which keep foods cold or hot for 3 hours. They’re excellent to put all my frozen and cold items in.

  • I have a lot of the same strategies as you Clothilde. They make so much sense! I have a number of cloth bags that fold easily and are washable that I keep in the car or by the back door as well as several sturdy soft baskets that are great for the farmers’ market. Large paper bags are recycled as bags to drop all the junk mail in until they go to the recycle center. When I take plastic bags (for meat or because somehow I forgot my other bags or they are full already), they are recycled either for cat litter, as trash can liners or I bring them to a small mom-and-pop country store: they are happy to take them off my hands for the needs of other customers. Newspaper are used to line the path of my kitchen garden to help prevent weed growing – and also to wrap vegetable and fruit peels for the compost pile.

    Egg cartons are brought to a nearby farm – I really think the issue of germs with eggs are real only if (1) you are dealing with industrial eggs – which, let’s face it is what most people in the Western world eat, and (2) the eggs have been washed which destroy their protective coating (but again, this must be done when dealing with industrial eggs given the horrible and filthy conditions the hens are in!

    I do wish I could find a plastic egg box for when I go to the farm to buy eggs. I will have to get one next time I am in France! Have not yet seen one in Virginia – at least not where I shop.

    Sylvie R

  • … et mille excuses pour avoir mal epele votre prenom, Clotilde! C’est inexcusable…

  • Marcia

    I am packed for a trip to Washington, DC and that includes 2 fabric bags. Both are from Whole Foods and cost $1 each. They fit in my pocketbook when folded and are easy to pull out as needed.

    I bought 2 from Target for $1 each and they fold into a small packet about the size of my palm.

    I keep 2-3 bags in my car at all times, one is a big IKEA bag which is perfect for shopping at Aldi.

    C&Z book will be bought while in DC as my souvenir.

  • I have some canvas bags from my favourite bands or singers, as they are often found next to the t-shirts at concerts, and I keep one in my handbag. The occasional plastic bag gets reused until it’s too damaged, or ends its life as a trash bag.
    And yes, as other said, please, mount a rack on the back of your new bicycle: carrying a bag or basket on a handle is really dangerous, and your bicycle will be more stable when you carry most of your shopping on the back rack rather than the front.

  • I stopped using plastic bags when our local Whole Foods stopped offering them. You can still get paper ones…but instead, I now carry an odd assortment in the back seat of my car. THe only challenge is: remembering to bring them into the store with me.

  • Beth


    What do you use for household trash? I use my collection of reusable bags (including the very Trader Joe’s bag that you have!) for about 90% of my shopping, but I still use thin disposable plastic shopping bags for my kitchen trash, so every now and then I accept them from my local grocery store to replenish my supply.

  • Envirosax bags are excellent and have really pretty designs. I always get comments when I unfold them from my handbag.

  • Japan is bad when it comes to generating lots of waste from packaging and many businesses are starting to take notice and provide incentives if you bring an “eco-bag” (the Tokyo term for reusable bag). I have become an Envirosax devotee–they hold up better than the plastic or paper bags given out at the grocery store anyway since I’m normally hanging them off the handles of my stroller as I push my daughter and the groceries up the hill to our house. I think the Japanese need to get back to their old practice of using Furoshiki (wrapping clothes).

  • J’ai importé mes petits sacs Monop en Allemagne, ils font un tabac…et pourtant les allemands sont des pro dans ce domaine mais il manque parfois la French touch esthétique!

  • Chucha

    I’m trying to get my whole family on the reusable bandwagon, and it is pretty exciting to see my parents and grandparents being more conscientious about plastic bag usage. Mexican markets and supermarkets still dispense plastic bags with great ease and not many people bring their own bags yet but we can each do our bit.

    I have three types of bags that I use most.
    First, MUJI has some excellent bags that fold up into their own case. They have a clip which I use to attach to the inside of my purse as soon as I get back home and unload the bag– this keeps me from forgetting it the next time I go out. They have two sizes in a variety of solid colors; I prefer the larger one. Very comfortable to carry around and use for pretty much everything from a banana to a new coat.

    Second, I love the FEED 100 bags that you can get at Whole Foods in the US. They fold up into a small zippered portfolio, and the portfolio covers serve as a base for the bag when opened. It is not a super tiny bag so not one I carry around at all times for impulse purchases. It has several pockets inside and I’ve found it enormously comfortable– added bonus: very stylish. Not only is it ecologically sound, but the proceeds from each bag go to feed 100 schoolchildren through the UN World Food Program. Love the program, love the bag.

    The last bag I use is an Ecobag String Market Bag. It’s airy, so I put my delicate produce in here so I can always see what it’s up to and keep it aerated. It looks small but it expands (interminably it seems!), so there is always room.

  • Rykie

    Wow, in South Africa we have’nt been getting free plastic bags for a few years! Everybody just had to adapt. There are beautiful re-usable bags made by rural women. The ones at the supermarket look like Tim’s.

  • Great post! I do exactly the same even if my husband believe all that work is not compatible with a baby who breastfeed, is teething and catching every cold is available in Paris. I’m tired!

    I reuse the brown bags for vegetables and always bring my “panier” or reusable bag when shopping. I keep always one wherever I go. I also return the herbs containers to the seller when finish the herbs.

    My biggest concern now is the water. I want to stop buying bottled water but I am sure the solution is not drinking tap water the way it comes. From ayurvedic perspective neither option is healthy but at least the spring water doesn’t contain chloride. We use Brita filter but I’m still looking for a real and more sustainable solution.

    I have always been mad about bags and it has been a while that I really love my canvas bags. I’ve got maybe too many, which is far from being a real green attitude. I believe that to really change the way we live on our planet, we have to switch our minds from “more is best to less is better”.

  • In Toronto, the trend is supermarkets selling for $3, these cloth-like bags made from recycled bags and soda bottles. They are ugly as sin, but really fairly sturdy. The problem is, they require the raw materials of recycled junk we ought not to be consuming in the first place. Sure, there is plenty saved up like a backlog! But, they are also cheap enough that people will buy these bags, forget them, buy new ones, lose them, etc. It’s not really ideal. But, it’s better than nothing.

  • CarlaH

    We do most of our shopping using our bicycles and backpacks as well as a front and side basket on my bike. With the exception of produce and meat everything is packed into large fold-up bags. We do get a .05 cent rebate for each plastic bag not used and our local wine/spirit stores try to discourage the use of plastic/paper bags by selling re-usable divided bottle bags and asking you whether your remembered to bring it when checking out.

  • Emily

    In Luxembourg, plastic bags are now €.03 each, and they really frown at you if you need one (huff, dramatic sigh). The reusable bags are UGLY, but they’re coming out with more designs now that aren’t so bad. I generally keep one folded up in my purse…which is itself one of the Longchamp Pliage series…I don’t know why the idea of having a sac plié dans mon pliage makes me so amused, but it does.

    In NYC, where I used to live, the greenmarkets sold bags for $2 each, and I had a huge collection of the Whole Foods cloth totes. In fact, I still do, and I get weird looks when I use them here in Lux. We handed our egg cartons back, too, and I always felt really proud to have a giant stack of them to give to the egg seller.

    Now if only I could get the eco-mania of Luxembourg combined with the amazing food selection of NYC. The food selection here is dismal – no really fresh fish!

  • Michelle

    For those of you looking for a washable egg container, check outdoor stores. They sell tightly sealed plastic egg cartons for bringing eggs on camping trips. In the U.S., the ones I’ve seen are usually bright yellow.

  • Michelle, thanks for the tip re: egg boxes. That’s a great idea! I will check it out.

    Sylvie R.

  • Catie

    Most Australian supermarkets sell resuable Green Bags bags – they have almost become a fashion accesory, such is their popularity. They are not particularly compact but they have a square base (so they don’t fall over when you put them down) and are super strong (so you can stuff them to bursting point).

    Hilarious segment on plastic bags on this week’s episode of “The Gruen Transfer” (ABC TV) – download Episode 5 here.

  • Sue M.. Redford, Michigan

    I have been making my own reusable, washable bags by converting old t-shirts into bags. Cut the neckline down some, cut the sleeves in some, and stitch straight across the bottom. You will have a machine-washable, very usable bag that retains memories of your favorite events! No hemming necessary.

  • Janka

    I also love my still quite new minimaxi ;-) Before that, I used the foldable reusable bag I got once at Yves Rocher, but it was not as sturdy and would not hold its shape and hence contents so well. When we go shopping, we use our Jansport backpacks (I sometimes don’t believe that we really got this or that in it ;-)). In the car, we have these collapsible plastic boxes and these huge Ikea bags. If I do have to buy a bag at a store, I like to take paper bags I use later for collecting my paper waste. I reuse the plastic once as well. The clean ones for clothes etc. and the not-so-clean ones for plastic waste. Recyclic (plastic, paper, clear glas, coloured glas, biodegradable) works very well here in Graz, Austria, so I don’t feel as guilty when I do take a plastic bag…
    Oh, and our bicycles have those rear baskets for all the unexpected/last minute shopping on the way home ;-)

  • hachee

    I bought my favourite shopping bag online at
    Great bags that never tear!

  • I’ve just started taking reusable bags to my grocery and I’ve vowed to start walking to my stores more frequently, even tho’ it’s more of a hike here in St. Paul than it is in Paris. But I feel it’s increasingly important to make changes.

  • Dennis

    As creative recycling goes, my father is crocheting a tote bag from cut-up plastic shopping bags. :-) He found the pattern online somewhere. It isn’t easy going (cut plastic is harder to work with than yarn for some reason…), but I think it’ll make a statement.

  • Elodie

    In Vancouver, Capers shops take 10 cents(Canadian$)off your receipt if you bring your own bag! Thumbs up!

    A Vancouver, les magasins Capers déduisent 10 centimes de $ca du ticket de caisse si on apporte notre propre sac! Bravo! Belle initiative! Merci pour ce site! J’y apprends beaucoup.

  • kylie

    the reusable bag is a new phenomenon in NYC. I am also constantly buying my daily food from the corner deli, which always gives you plastic bags. Since stopping in there is usually an ‘oh crap i don’t have — ingredient’ moment, i never bring my own shopping bag (or coat or purse). Now when I go to the supermarket, I always bring a tote bag with me….but in most cases this makes me buy more food than normal ause I can carry more…not sure if this is a good thing. I also find it hilarious that all the supermarkets now sell you canvas bags, but when you try pack your purchased food without plastic bags the cashier starts to roll their eyes and get all annoyed since this is twice the amount of work for them.
    but all in all – tote bags yay!

  • At this point, we’ll only use our own bags at the grocery store :)

  • Natalie

    I buy canvas bags at the thrift store for 25 cents, wash them and use those for shopping. I found one last week that was large and said SAVE A TREE! Check the bag section at your local thrift store!

  • b20

    I gave up plastic bags for lent this year–although I’m a Unitarian Universalist–because I’d been trying to use no bags or reusable bags for the past few years. This allowed two things to happen. First: I had to remember to take my reusable bags with me (now I’m very good and take them anytime I’ll go somewhere that I’ll be buying much. I even keep one at my office in case I have to run out for more printer toner and legal pads) And Second: I got used to refusing–the habit in almost all stores is to just throw something into a bag–even if you are just buying an item or two. This way, even if they’d already bagged it I could refuse the bag and when they asked why not I could tell them “I gave up plastic bags for lent.” Do I sound bitchy and ivory towerish when I say this? Yes. But now I’m practiced at asking for no bag earlier and refusing if they still try to give me one.

    The only problem with the lent thing was I had a very strict policy–I couldn’t buy things that are sold in bulk and that you scoop into a bag.

  • richard

    I can’t wait for this fad to end, I never have a bag when i have to go to the store. I prefer those great plastic bags that my supermarket gives out. It makes it much easier to carry groceries. I don’t see that it can really make a difference, for every person that carries their own bag, someone else is double bagging their order. Seriously, I don’t think that plastic bags are the problem with this earth.

  • Fantastic post.

    I bought 8-10 (I’m not sure of how many exactly) of the grocery store’s reusable bags; the ones made of recycled soda pop bottles. They were only $.99 each and they are exceptionally sturdy, as well as spacious.

    Your post has most definitely converted me as well; I’m planning on picking up one of those bright yellow egg cases and see what happens when I take the eggs out of the cardboard carton at the store, repack them into my fancy reusable egg case and leave for the store, the planet warming cartons ;).

    I have also had a revelation regarding the produce bags! Someone else mentioned how ingrained the habit was, ever since childhood, and I realized that this is the same reason I’ve been doing it. And because it’s so ingrained, I hadn’t even connected it with being environmentally UNfriendly! Just awful. I’m going to be bringing in my reusable bags from this point forward.

    As a positive, I have been using the reusable grocery store bags for probably nearly a year now, and love them. If I get plastic bags from somewhere (Walmart is horrendous – watching all those tills with their stacks of bags ringing through thousands of customers…shudder) I reuse them as household trash can liners. What are you using, just out of curiousity?

    I’m also really good about declining bags, especially at the convenience store.

    Are you using environmentally friendly cleaners? I made the switch to using vinegar and rubbing alcohol mixed with hot water – I haven’t looked back.

  • anna

    Good for you! I’ve been using reusable totes for the past year and it really does make me feel like I’m doing something good for the planet! I actually glare at people with plastic bags now!

  • They’re going to stop giving away bags in Seattle next year. I say bring it on–I am armed with a great variety of cute totes!

  • mim

    Yes oh yes, re-usable sacs. I have a couple from Mono-prix, which work well, and a friend sells the Envirosax. All good! I’ve been making grocery totes from fabric people give me and yes, love surprising cashiers in department stores with “I have my own bag, thanks.” Thanks for the reminder to all of us, re-usable is the way to go from now on. Thanks for all the recipes, too.

  • Liza

    I was in New York last week and found a lovely bag I bought for my mother, who keeps forgettting her shopper bag every time. This one is stylish and will fit perfectly in her own bag. it’s by baggu and they even have a web site
    I wish I had bought more than one, because I cannot get pretty ones like these here in Slovenia.

  • Nikki

    I had to grin a little as one who also carries a reusable tote in her purse and likes to put similar thoughts into strangers heads for her own enterainment…

    So, yes, I carry a tote in my purse, not nearly as nice as your set up (I admit jealousy). I also carry a few in the truck of my car and recently bought an insulated bag to save my purchases from the 90 degree weather.

    I also accept some of the cute paper sacks from shops, and use them to carry my lunch to work until they tear.

    On occassion, I do accept some of the plastic bags and use them for trash bags, kitty litter bags or packaging.

    My favorite “recycle” though has been using shredded paper bags at the bottom of my garden pots before adding soil. The tomato plants I did this with are beautiful!

  • Like all Aussies these days, I use green eco bags made from recycled materials. I also have chiller bags in that category. It is common to see people leaving the house with a clutch of them.

    Some Australian clothing and general merchandise stores also offer recycled eco bags either with purchase or at a small fee. A friend of mine has over 60 different ones in his collection.

    With the trend towards shopping locally and moving towards being carbon neutral many people here eschew their cars and walk or take public transport to the shops and markets. So we also use our own shopping jeeps/cart which I believe are considered frumpy in Europe, but we now have funky designs and colours to choose from.

    I keep a tote bag with me always too, I return egg cartons and synthetic netting bags from onions etc to the farmers I buy from and feed my paper bags to my worm farm. Most plastic bags used here now are biodegradable and made – I believe – from corn starch. I recycle them until riddled with holes but have no issue with putting them in landfill to decompose.

  • gbsh

    I’ve had an endless supply of canvas totes since childhood; they’re given at the conferences my dad would attend. I used to fill them with library books– if anyone recognized the logos, they may wonder why a little girl was toting a bag from a semi-conductor-security-chip-thing company.

    I’m surprised that no one mentioned recycling plastic bags at the grocery store. In NC, Harris Teeter stores have a bin just inside the door where you can return your bags to be recycled. This way, you can keep the ones you already have out of landfills– even more eco-friendly than using them for pet poo!

    Also, Aldi and Costco stores don’t give bags away—I don’t know if they ever did. You can buy one, bring your own, or reuse the large boxes that products are unpacked from. Interestingly, I’ve never heard any grumbling over it. Perhaps discount-type stores have shoppers motivated by price who accept that it saves the store money and therefore lowers costs…

  • Annie

    We moved to Paris 7 months ago, and we have 4-5 Monoprix nylon bags in every color. My spouse even keeps one in his office and brief case for lunches and quick pickups on the way home. I am disturbed by how many readers re-use free plastic bags that are still going into the dumps, for cat litter and such. They, and many types of cat litter for that matter, are NOT biodegradable. It would be much better to recycle them with your plastics and buy biodegadable bags for trash and cat litter. All the paper bags and egg cartons can be put into a compost bin or recycled with paper. Paris and most large cities have alot of “green” options; but it is ironic that “green’ minded Parisians ride beaucoup, beaucoup scooters that emit more toxins than most cars, and drop cigarette butts anywhere/everywhere. If your city doesn’t recycle glass and many don’t, then always buy cans or plastic. It’s easier than you think, if you just think first.

  • Isabelle

    Here in Port Saint Lucie, FL, the local grocers have recycling bins at the entrance, plus they sell the reusable ones. What gets me, invariably the people bagging the groceries still put gallons of milk, or plastic-bottled laundry degerents that have HANDLES on them, IN A BAG. Also, I always preface my purchase by saying “Put as much as you can in as few bags as possible”. But do they listen? NOOOOOO! ARGH, so frustrating!

  • I use a plain canvas tote most of the time…

    What I wonder though (since it is a problem I face myself) is what people use for trash/garbage bags now. I always used my paper grocery bags and I am not about to start buying plastic trash liners…(happily I compost a lot, but still, I am curious)

    I also sometimes wonder if this whole movement wasn’t started by the makers of ($5 a box)Glad Hefty Trash Bags. LOL.

  • In the Netherlands the reusable Reisenthel bags ( are easy to find and they come in a lot of colours. Reisenthel also produces a lot of other reusable shopping products (colourful foldaway baskets, sturdy bottle bags). I usually carry two or four of these bags along with a large reusable bag from Decathlon which holds over 25 litres of stuff and folds away easily into a plastic ball that clicks onto the outside of a handbag or backpack (it also doubles as a laundry bag ;)).

    I love the Monoprix bag for the way it looks but I do find that it is rather flimsy compared to the Reisenthel bags (especially the stitching seems to fall apart quite easily). Perhaps it was meant to carry lighter things like clothing??

    Thanks for focussing on the reusable bag issue! I do hope that more and more people will start to use them (and yes, I am also a bit smug when I take out the reusable bag in a store ;)).

  • Jay Vos

    Nine, I got two Resenthal bags, one to carry bottles and another that clamps to your shopping cart. Got ’em when I was in Utrecht in April. I should have brought more back with me.

    I always carry a small cloth bag I got from the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam with me when I am out and about.

    Those plastic supermarket bags that some of you use to scoop the poop for your dog, really are not that environmentally friendly – that plastic takes forever to break down. Much better to use biodegradable bags for your pets.

    Our local co-op in Burlington VT gives 5 cents off if you bring your own bag. Would be much better if they started charging for the plastic bags they have, like they do in Holland.

    This was an interesting post, thanks!

  • Olerica

    I use slightly pricy Skeeda bags. ( They cary the same quantity of ‘stuff’ as TWO plastic grocery bags or 1.5 paper bags, are REALLY cute and have perfect long handles so I can cary them over my shoulder if I need to. I give these as birthday gifts to people I like too.

    I love that they are machine washable.

  • linda

    I think it is great that most people use less plastic bags these days but I still use them for my garbage. I don’t want to use water to wash out my bin all the time. I think we should be working towards using less of all things. Do you turn off your appliances at the wall all the time? Do you walk instead of using the car? Do you have shorter showers and reuse that water for the garden? In the bigger picture surely it is about using less not banning something. If bags are reused a couple of times then lets not frown upon these people with green values. Using maybe only 10% of the bags we once did is a great goal but don’t loose sight of the bigger picture.

  • When I can, I use a bright yellow tote bag emblazoned with my alma mater’s logo that their bookstore gave me last year. I also purchased a zip-up red Target tote bag that I keep in my faithful messenger bag, and as of a few hours ago have ordered three flip and tumble bags in the most garish colours they have. I’m excited.

  • martha

    I’ve finally reached the stage where I remember to tell the cashier that I don’t need a plastic bag. It was a long process learning the new habit. At first I left the reusable bags at home. Then I would carry them with me, but accept the plastic bags without thinking. The next step was that I would belatedly discover the cashier had put the goods in a plastic bag, which meant the goods had to come out of the plastic bag and go into the reusable bag. I’m happy to say that, once acquired, the habit of using reusable bags is simple and satisfying.
    When I travel, I pack very lightly and have no room for much in the way of souvenirs. Now I buy reusable bags from shops or galleries/museums I visit and I have my souvenir which brings me much pleasure each time I use it at home. I am in danger of having too many reusable bags, but I assume they will wear out sooner or later, a smaller problem than thousands of plastic bags.

  • Meg

    We bought bags at Carrefour and Cora on our trip to France last year. And my brother-in-law brought a couple more to us on a visit to NY in May. They are big and beautifully decorated in greens, turquoises and purple flowers. I fold one of the Cora bags and carry it always in my purse.

  • wislon

    I suppose it’s quite reasonable for the US to begin using reusable bags. Unfortunately the main benefit will be a boost in supermarket profits. (And simultaneously products are shrinking, using about the same packaging for less product)

  • I’ve got the same Flip and Tumble bag and I adore it too! Especially how handy/compact it is, while still being so subtly stylish with its two tone design. I get a little thrill out of feeling like I’ve pull a bag out of nowhere too. Kind of like a magician with flowers up his sleeve!

  • Isabelle

    Hello everybody,
    I am fortunate enough to live in beautiful Morocco (North Africa). But no matter how beautiful the country is, it is plagued with the plastic disease. There is plastic everywhere, especially in the fields, sometimes one wonders if plastic really doesn’t grow out of the ground… Here, a plastic bag is called “mika” (mee-kah), if you refuse to use the the mika the salesperson offers, you get a look saying “lady, you must be out of your wits”. I have noticed that more and more Europeans are refusing mika the same way I am, so maybe Moroccans will get a hang of it. Anyway, there are no reusable bags here, so I bought mine in France (Carrefour, they’re quite nice) and brought them home with me and keep them in the trunk of my car. The funny thing is that the first time I went to Acima (a local supermarket equivalent to a small Champion in France) the security person insisted that I leave my reusable bag at the main entrance before I entered the store. I had to get into an argument with him, but I finally managed to enter the store with my own bag. Of course, he insisted on explaining to me that there were as many mika as I needed at check-out. I guess my point didn’t get through to him!!
    Of course, when I go to the Marché Central (open-air market) I have no trouble with my huge bag, there is a nice old man who carries it around for me – I don’t want to be accused of stealing anybody’s job – and we have a good chat while I’m buying my vegetables eventhough his French isn’t very elaborate and my Arabic is far from being fluent…
    Ah! I love Morocco!
    Anyway, to get back to our plastic bags, I do get some no matter what so I use them to clean the cats’ litter box (three cats, that’s a lot of litter)
    Clotilde keep up the good work!

  • Sheila

    Here in Ireland we have the plastic bag ‘tax’ of €0.22 per bag, which is not only a great deterrent to taking the crappy little bags but also the money earned from those who still take them is pumped directly back into environmental improvements. I always have some sort of reusable tote in my handbag for emergency groceries (currently one from the store in Chicago!) But I fell in love with the flip and tumble when I saw them on your blog, ordered them on July 3rd and received them in Dublin today (July 7th), all the way from California! My little purchase really brightened up my Monday morning. Thank you for inspiring me not just to broaden my cooking horizons but also for great posts like this that seem to be so relevant no matter where in the world we are. P.S. Your Dime bar cake got me baking for the first time in 11 years.

  • Jan Brockway

    Mais Clotilde! It was you clever Europeans who invented the lightweight, reuseable market bag. When I was a teenager (nevermind the year; it was a long time ago!), my family lived for a year in Europe (the whole VW van, no-star pensione trip), and we coveted those stretchy, sort of knitty white string bags that you couldn’t buy in the US. Everybody used them. My mother still has a few from that ancient time, and uses them at the farmer’s market. One of my favorites right now can be found at Very cute, funky graphics and a nice strong bag.

  • Deirdre

    I love the look of those Champion bags. Funny. Sure, the fact that they are French helps their look, here in upstate New York.

    I have a few Reisenthal reusable bags, all of which I love, especially the mini maxi shoppers — they fold up small to stick in my purse, a pocket, or on my keychain. I carry them around with me. I also have a mini-shopping cart with big enough wheels to make it practical for when I have a lot of things to walk into or out of the village.

    I also keep larger reusable bags from my supermarkets (Hannaford & Pricechopper)stashed in my car trunk for when I do big shops. Hannaford was giving them away for a while if one bought a product from their own organic brand — ugly though, they’ve got shrimp all over them. I also keep a freezer bag in my car.

    Even though I’ve been good about remembering my reusable bags for about two years now, I still have years worth of old plastic bags stashed away that we use for small wastebaskets, cat litter, etc. I can’t imagine we’ll run out of them for a while.

  • Meghan

    Have you considered panniers for your bike? They’re the things you attach to the back of your bike and then two bags hang off either side of the rear wheel. They might be extravagant for a farmer’s market trip, but they’ll hold everything without making you fall!

  • I love that supermarkets here in the US have started selling reusable bags. Pretty much every store I go into sells them, though you don’t always see customers using them. For large shopping trips, I admit that I feel awkward still at some places, because using my bags “holds up the line” since it takes a bit longer to arrange and pack…I’m trying to get over that!

    It’s already been mentioned before, but ChicoBags are GREAT! They’re really affordable (I think $5 USD) and super compact; it folds up into a little pouch that’s attached to itself!

  • I am new here. I live in Oklahoma, and we are notorious for being the last one’s to catch on to anything, but I find this whole “bag” issue interesting. I wonder when we Okie’s will ever catch on. Stores here are beginning to sell reusable bags and I do see a few people carrying their own reusuable bags into the grocery store now and then, something that we didn’t see at all as little as a year ago. All stores here still use plastic. Sad really.

  • *

    I live in Bangkok, Thailand but I have a few reusable bags I bought from Singapore and some I received from stores which are trying to save the planet. Here, people at fresh markets do not really use reusable bags but they can be found in high-end supermarkets with people who are better informed about global warming. Deparment stores are trying to encourage users to reduce plastic consumption by selling cloth totes, etc. and offering discounts when a customer refuses a plastic bag. Your article is really good and it’s nice to see how people are treating reusable plastic bags on the opposite side of the world!

  • Tammy

    Reusable bags are really starting to catch on in the US (finally). When I first started taking mine I would get such looks from the baggers! Now it’s all okay, all the stores sell their reusable bags at the checkout. While they are better for the environment, they are CHEAP and most require special recycling when you are through with them.

    I got my super cute bags at made from 100% cotton and hand made in the USA. I take mine everywhere! I use them as a tote bag packing all my kids stuff in them, department stores, farmers market as well as the grocery stores.

  • kara

    I got tipped off to RuMe Bags a couple months ago from and I’m now up to 8 bags (incl their new minis) and I can’t get enough. The best thing I like about these is that they go beyond just groceries – I’ve been using them for everything lately – I even popped my laptop in a mini RuMe and headed off to a meeting.
    I feel like its easier to be “green” when items become a natural part of your day.

  • Sue

    My college roommate and I started an online business about a year ago. We wanted to offer a reusable shopping bag that was convenient and more than just one bag. The design is a canvas bag with a shoulder strap, that contains 4 washable mesh bags. The mesh bags are light weight, fold flat and larger than a standard plastic bag. And they are made in Georgia. We also offer vegetable bags and are in the process of offering cute market bags. The earth will love you for it. Check us out at

  • Alice

    Hi Clotine!I love the idea of reusing.I am a firm believer in helping to save the earth.My mother and father use the plastic bags from the grocery for trash bags.

  • scc

    We use TuckerBags – great designs and I just love the extra pockets. As far as i have found Bangalla offers the best deals of reusable grocery bags. They also have a cute range of eco-friendly toddler and infant shoes.

  • The challenge here is to impose a limit on the number of cute reusable bags I accumulate ! Still, I end up using my 2 favorites, so why buy more? (One of my faves is the same one from Monoprix that you use).

  • Cindell

    I must say I’m jealous. I love my country but I’m ashamed to say in America the CEO’s of our supermarkets are still throwing free plastic bags at our customers, afraid that requiring them to pay for reusable totes would lose business and therefore the money they love so much.

    On a happier note, they are offering cloth totes for sale at the register for those wishing to buy if they chose. I do chose and have bought a small stash. Unfortunately I often forget to bring them as this Going Green thing is new to me.

    I am a stubborn woman though and those times I forget I will proudly ask the cashier if I may simply place the items back in the cart so I don’t waste plastic. Or if it’s only 1 or 2 things, I’ll even carry them in one hand and my reciept in the other. It feels a bit odd and I wonder if anyone suspects me of stealing, But as I walk toward the door I find myself walking taller… more proud, and I go over in my head exactly why I’m doing this and why everyone should, just in case I get stopped by security. Although I think more and more people understand and would assume when they see me that I’m saving plastic not stealing.

    Recently I decided to leave the bags in the back seat of my car. Now when I forget I have only to go as far as the parking lot to get them and that has only happend once.

  • Tess

    I’ve bought so many reuseable bags – probably 6 or 7, all for a dollar from the store. However, now I consistently have bags in my car for when I have to stop to do some shopping, and I’ve more or less been able to quit using regular plastic bags. After visiting a stretch of Croatia last year that had been pristine in midwinter of 2004 and by fall of 2007 was littered with white plastic bags everywhere, I decided that I really had to work a little harder at conserving. They’re about to start charging $.20 a bag in Seattle, and I think it’s fine – it’ll be expensive, but those flimsy little bags can’t carry anything anyway. Plus, there is some sort of great satisfaction in not adding to the world’s garbage heap.

  • Betsy

    I love plastic bags! They are free and can be crocheted into very durable tote bags and other things!
    I just wish I could get more colors. Mine are all white. Have any pretty ones? Send them my way!!

  • What a wonderful project to take part in. Please plant a tree for me, too!

    I have purchased several reusable bags from the grocery store, but they are not the most attractive items to carry around. If I am going to the farmer’s market or produce store I will often take a bag I have crocheted myself. Much prettier. :)

  • little_bounce

    What you need (and yes, I know I’m a year late, I’m reading the archive at work!) are these bags for your fruit and vegetables in the supermarket (or the greenmarket, si le vendeur veut bien!):

    I use them, and I keep on having caissiers comment on how great they are and asking me where I got them. One note- when you weigh things in the supermarket, you need to put the sticker on the cloth tag.

  • Karyn

    I bought some of the bags from Champion last summer while in France, but I want to order more..does anyone know how? I do not speak French, so getting on their website was no help to me! Please help! I need to order more!

Get the newsletter

Receive FREE email updates with all the latest recipes, plus exclusive inspiration and Paris tips. You can also choose to be notified when a new post is published.

View the latest edition of the newsletter.