Skip Plastic Produce Bags

“Do you need a bag for that?” is a phrase we hear often these days in Chicago. Since the city started charging a seven-cent tax on bags taken at check-out, packing up groceries in a tote bag from home has become even more of the norm than it already was. (And we love that).

We’re great at forgoing the bag at checkout, so next up: let’s work on forgoing bags in the produce aisle, too. You know what I mean: those rolls of thin, clingy plastic bags in the fruit and vegetable aisle that are meant to hold things like asparagus, lettuce, and apples. Plastic bags like these aren’t recyclable in Chicago blue bins; they gum up the works of the recycling process since they’re so flimsy. So, if you’re already a pro at bringing our own tote bag and are up for a next step, these are a great one to tackle.

Consider Going Bagless

There are two ways to avoid bags like these. The first: never eat fruits or vegetables. Kidding! The first: when fruits or vegetables come with a rind that you don’t eat (think grapefruits or garlic), simply pop them straight into your grocery cart, no bag needed. Your cart will fill with a colorful cornucopia of package-free food: squashes don’t need to be bagged, bananas come with a rind of their own. You can give the fruit a good scrub when you get home to make sure that it’s squeaky-clean, but more often I just pop it straight in my fruit bowl and call it a day.

Try Out Reusable Bags

To take it a step further, consider picking up a few reusable cloth produce bags. These are drawstring bags that replace single-use plastic produce bags: simply bring them to the grocery and use the same way you used to use those plastic ones.

photo by Anna Zajac

Fill them with lettuce, apples, limes, anything and everything! When you get home, you can store food in the cloth bags in the fridge or crisper drawer, or remove everything from the bags and store the produce as you normally do.

Where To Find Them

We recommend looking for ones that are cotton or linen since ones made of synthetic fibers tend to wear out more quickly. A set of cotton ones should last you five years or more. EcoBags and Simple Ecology are both tried-and-true brands that hold up well over repeated use. (Both are easy to find on Amazon).

The best part? This is one habit that requires very little effort to remember. Since you already (um, usually) remember to bring your tote bags, just store these extra cloth bags inside your normal grocery totes. You’ll have a little grocery kit that includes the building blocks of a more sustainable shopping routine!

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