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The Best Re-usable Bags

The Best Re-usable Bags

Choosing your shopping bags is a slippery slope of environmental trade offs

The game is pretty much up for single use plastic bag addicts. Like it or not, we all have to ditch plastic shopping bags, and the decision of what to replace them with can be a slippery slope of decision making in itself. 

Alternative shopping bag options are endless and depend upon your style, budget and level of planetary consciousness. No bag is perfect in terms of its footprint, unless it's invisible, so you are best to just choose the ones you like and just make sure you use them - over and over and over again. 

Don't listen to naysayers - anything is better than single use plastic

The most important thing to know, regardless of your choice, is that pretty much any reusable shopping bag is better than endless disposable bags. When you see, hear or read that a single use plastic bag has amongst the lowest environmental footprint, that argument is tied to it's production - and it's not the really production that is the problem with single use plastic. It's the effect of it's impossible and problematic disposal impact that is the issue and particularly in the case of oil based plastics, it's acquisition impact. 

Don't get too hung up on which one you go for, but steer away from anything made of new and consider anything recycled first. 

Recycled (Re-purposed) materials are generally the best option

The best decision you can make is to choose something re-purposed (with minimal re work of the fabric) - and there are plenty of excellent options around. What I mean by this is something like the bags made from sails by Sailormade or resown TShirts. These bags are simply cut and stitched. The fabric has not been rebuilt like anything made from recycled plastic. 

If directly recycled fabric choices aren't for you, then rebuilt fabrics made from recycled plastics like the Flip & Tumble bags from Upcycle are the kind of thing to look for.  

Buy something you love & will use

But do go for one, two or ten that you really like as your chances of using are far higher! 

Reusable bags are usually made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, polyester or polypropylene. Avoid the new petroleum based products (polyester or polypropylene) for their toxicity and disposal issues, but the overall emissions cost to create other bags, their life span and then post life disposability is similar.

There is increasing debate about the environmental cost of cotton production so if you buy cotton, make a commitment to use it at least 20,000 times! There are also many gorgeous hemp string bags around. 

Make your choice based on what is important to you and your lifestyle, including being able to access your bags readily, by leaving them in your hand bag, brief case or car. There are all kinds of bags in reusables on, including bags from Envirosax or Flip & Tumble from Upcycle Studio that pretty much tick every box.  

Envirosax and bags like them have style options for everyone and they are also strong, washable, fade resistant, long lasting and they roll up into a small ball that sits happily in the bottom of a bag, in your glove box or in your hand.

The stand outs for me though are makers like Sailormade at Manly in Sydney, who make Tote Bags out of recycled sails. That's what we call double virtuosity. Re-usable and recycled. (Triple really - you get a ton of style as well.) Sailormade are at the Manly markets most weekend if you happen to be visiting.

Velvety and many others sell fabulous pineapple leather bags if you prefer - and are vegan.

The thing is that if you get yourself a decent tote bag like one of these, you have a bag that can be used for much more than shopping, is recycled and beautifully designed. And you will have paid so much for it that you won't want it to sit in the back of your car or cupboard!

If you have a fav bag that we don't have, please let us know in the comments below and we'll add them to

Images: The Sailormade | The Scenic Route | Upcycle Studio (Flip & Tumble) | Envirosax

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Amanda Parker
Founder, Mayella

Mayella Organics eco cotton tote with pockets for a super strong carry everything bag and our eco cotton with jute take everywhere Tuesday, 16 April 2019