Friday, January 16, 2009

Reusable Bags

A couple of years ago, in an attempt to make a dent in the sea of plastic grocery bags accumulating in my house, I purchased some reusable cotton string bags from Ecobags. These worked well - when I remembered to use them. More often than not, I'd get to the checkout counter and realize that, yet again, I had left them in the car. My second attempt at getting reusable bags has been much more successful. This time I bought a pack of purple Baggu bags (pictured here), which, unlike the Ecobags, are small enough to fit in my purse, so I never forget to bring them in the store. The bags are made of machine washable, easy-to-wipe-down, rip-stop nylon and each comes with a storage pouch. When stuffed, my pouches measure 4" x 4" x 1". Each bag holds an amazing amount of groceries (2 to 3 times more than a plastic grocery bag) and they are very strong -- I can stuff them with milk cartons and other heavy items and I never feel that the seams are being strained. One downside to the Baggu bags is the need for separate storage pouches. Some other brands, like SamBags, Acme and Flip & Tumble, have addressed this problem by having the storage pouch built in to the bag. Envirosax and RuMe bags roll up like a sleeping bag and snap closed, but mastering the bag roll can take a bit of practice .

There are lots of reusable bags on the market made of more eco-friendly, biodegradable materials like cotton, but they can be heavier, bulkier, less stain resistant and harder to clean than rip-stop nylon and polyester, which wipe down easily.

Baggu - Made of machine washable rip-stop nylon. Bags are available in dozens of solid colors or a few patterns. The bag measures 23"h x 14"w x 5"d (5" x 5" in pouch) and holds 25 lbs. Also makes a Big Baggu (18"w x 32" x 7" bag and 7" x 7" pouch) and reusable netted produce bags.
Available at: Baggu Bag ($8 each or $39 for 6)
and$32.30-$38 for 6. Free overnight shipping & free returns)

Workhorse 1500 by Acme - The Wall Street Journal voted this the "Best Overall" reusable bag in a 2007 product comparison. The carrying pouch is attached to the bag, so you don't have to worry about losing it. The machine washable rip-stop nylon bag measures 19"h (including handle) x 16w x 6"d (3" x 3" x 2" in pouch) and holds 25 lbs. Only comes in 4 solid colors: black, cranberry, orange and blue. They also make a mesh version (Workhorse 1501) which allows you to easily see what's in each bag.
Available at ($7.95)

Envirosax - Made of machine washable polyester. Bag measures 19.5" x 16.5" (4" x 1.5" rolled up) and holds 44 lbs. Handle (18" long loop) can be worn over the shoulder. These bags come in patterned prints only -- no solid colors. The Botanica and Mikado prints have the pattern on both sides of the bag, but the Retro Graphic, Monochromatic, Retro Kitchen, Amazonia and Flora prints have the pattern on one side. The other side is solid-colored.
Available at: Nubius Organics ($37.95 for 5, $7.95 each), ($38 for 5; free overnight shipping and free return shipping), ($37.95 for 5, $7.95 each) and Envirosax ($37.95 for 5, $8.50 each).

RuMe Bags - Most reusable bags are designed to resemble plastic bags. This one looks more like a brown paper bag -- it has a flat bottom and paneled sides and, when full, it can stand upright. Like Envirosax bags, these bags don't have a storage pouch -- you roll them up and snap them closed. Made of machine washable polyester, each bag measures 11" x 11" x 4" with 8" long handles. Holds 30 lbs. They also make a larger 17" tall bag.
Available at: ($8.95 each)

Flip & Tumble - This bag self-stuffs into an attached elasticized pouch to form a peach-sized ball. Made of rip-stop nylon, it holds 20 lbs. The bags are all two toned (one color for the bag and another color for the handle), and have a single, long thick handle, which is good for people who want to carry their bag over their shoulder, but isn't so good for those who want a hand-held carrier. Also, a single handle can make it more difficult to distribute the weight of a heavy load. Unlike the Baggu and Envirosax bags, the handle is sewn from a separate piece of fabric creating an additional seam (in sewing, seams are often a potential point of weakness).
Available at: Flip & Tumble ($12 each).

Recycled PET Ultra-Compact Tote by Acme - This is a paper-bag style tote with extra long 12" handles which can be worn over the shoulder (shorter handles are also available). Measures 14"h (not including handles) x 16"w x 6"d (in pouch 2" x 3" x 2"). Made of a heavier nylon than rip-stop and 50% recycled plastic (PET). It is machine washable and can carry 25 lbs.
Available at ($9.95 each)

SamBags - This bag is less expensive than comparable brands like Envirosax and Acme. It comes with a storage pouch attached to the inside of the bag and is available in 11 solid colors. Made of 100% polyester ripstop, it measures 18"h x 20"w x 4"d (in pouch 4.5" x 4"), holds 25 lbs and is machine washable.
Available at: Use It Again Sam ($6.95 each or 5 for $30)

Hidden Tote by Timbuk2 - Like RuMe, this is a flat-bottom, side-gusseted bag that resembles a paper bag, but at $19.95, these are definitely pricier. The bag folds in on itself and zips into a self-contained half-circle pouch. Made of recycled plastic material (PET) and rip-stop nylon, it measures 16.8"h x 12"w x 7"d (in pouch 6.75" x 5" x 1.5") and is machine washable.
Available at: ($19.95 each)

More Options: carries dozens of reusable bag brands. Ripstop nylon/polyester options include Envirosax, Acme, ChicoBag (I'm not fond of the big ChicoBag logo on these and Riesenthel (pouch is as big as a soda can). They also carry tons of cotton totes including Ecobags and b. happybags.


Mike said...

These are lovely reusable bags. One of my favorite recyclable bag is a calico bag which is quite common here in Australia. Some the biggest department stores here have banned plastic bags altogether and are encouraging all of us to use eco friendly bags. This is a good step in trying to save our environment. The rest of the world should do the same. Thanks for posting this and sharing it with everyone.

anthony said...

Those bags you posted look great! I've been looking for those kinds of designs except I wanted the eco-friendly version. I use green bags for shopping, groceries and for putting my things in when I go out and about.

eco-friendly bags