Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reusable Canvas bags - Boon or blight?

How may reusable canvas bags do you own for your shopping excursions? Me? I have a bunch. More than I need. Some in the trunk of my car, thinking that would be convenient, but generally forgotten when I hit the grocery store.  Another multi-branded selection on my coat rack that I actually use. If I look in one of my ubiquitous junk closets, I'll find more of those pesky canvas creatures. 

And, I'm not the only one. Retailers roll out the canvas bag at a frightening rate these days. One national retailer says that they sell 35 million canvas bags a year. They are available at almost every retailer (including  7-11 convenience stores). Retailers love them both for their environmentally sustainable message, as well as a new marketing message, branding the retailer's message and logo for all to see. 

I started to wonder if all these tote bags were a good thing. Soon I realized that I am not the only one. 

First is the sheer quantity of canvas bag offerings. I don't need 3 dozen reusable bags. They are reusable! they don't really wear out, and even during my greatest shopping binges I really don't need that many bags at any one time. So, like promotional T-shirts, the canvas tote bag has become clutter. I don't need or want any more. 

Then, a 2009 study is released.  Indicating that nearly two-thirds of reusable bags tested contained some bacteria, including fecal intestinal bacteria! I don't know where your bags have been, but I can assure you that MINE have not been invaded with any fecal intestinal bacteria. That because I now wash and dry my canvas totes obsessively since hearing of this study. In the washer and dryer they go. I hope I don't have to buy an autoclave for all my Target and WalMart And Safeway totes. 

As soon as I finished sterilizing my auto parts store totes ( howI ended up with some of these  puppies was a sad story of failed windshield washers in a seasonal monsoon), and feeling confident that I could put food items in my newly cleansed safeway totes, came news that they may contain lead! 

Lead! The blight of offshore product importation. National chains such asLuluLemon, Sears, Winn-Dixie and others have had to stop selling, recalling or offering refunds on their  lead infused totes. Personally I'm not worried about any lead in my totes. Food doesn't stay in them very long, and I can't image myself licking or chewing on the bags anytime soon. So I'm safe. 

Finally, no matter how free of lead and bacteria my tote bags are, my sense of environmental stewardship was recently attacked by reports that reusable bags might not be as green as we think. That's because, like everything else, they are manufactured offshore - mainly China. They are made from a mix of recycled and non recycled plastics, and then shipped thousands of miles to happy consumer junk closets. Hence,  the carbon footprint utilized to manufacture these unused totes is fairly large. 

So i've resigned myself to the canvas bag woes. Maybe I can reduce my guilt by just not using any bags of any kind. I'll carry my groceries one by one to the car. Or, shop at costco and grab an empty cardboard box. And, when I'm not doing that, ill refuse any more reusable canvas totes from everyone. 

Who knew shopping bags were such an issue? It's a minefield of choices I say. Gotta go though. My autoclave if ringing. 

1 comment:

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