How Retailers Are Fooling You With Their "Eco-Friendly" Bags

At first glance it looked like a great idea. A reusable shopping bag. We all mostly agree the use of reusable shopping bags is a good idea. Add some green graphics, some cool green buzz words and voila, you have a … plastic bag.

The Devil Is in the Details

A close look at the small tag, I found deep inside of the bag told me so much more than the colorful bag or the outer tag so prominently displayed. The bag is 100% polypropylene, which of course is nothing more than plastic. This particular bag, like most that are used to help “save the earth”, is imported from China. I think most of our readers know how I feel about importing products like this from the other side of the world, especially when over 10% of our own population is unemployed.
Putting that carbon footprint and exporting jobs issues aside, here are some other things that are likely to go unnoticed by the average reusable bag buyer.
There are no instructions for the ultimate disposal of the bag. It will eventually have to be discarded, but how? The tag clearly indicates it is not for use with food but can’t we assume people shop for groceries more often than they do for sox and underwear? Shouldn’t that important information be somewhere where people are more likely to see it?
Since it is likely to be used for grocery shopping, wouldn’t it be great if it was washable? Google “reusable bag germs” and get ready to be shocked.

Here are a few things I suggest you keep in mind if you decide to buy and use reusable shopping bags.

  • Make sure the bag is made of natural fibers. Don’t replace multiple, easily recycled plastic bags with one that can only wind up in a land fill.
  • Make sure you know where and how you will eventually dispose of it.
  • If possible find something that is made in America.

Retailers are Lemmings

The rodents of that name do not follow each other into a suicidal Arctic plunge as is the popular belief. However, well meaning retailers have indeed been known to follow each other all the way to China in search of a low cost product that will appeal to their increasingly eco minded customers. Let’s face it, this is not all that technical and it is not like buying high tech electronic equipment. All it takes is a few good questions and any retailer can do green and do it right.

Manuel Martinez

Project GreenBag, 2200 Market St, San Francisco, CA, 94114, United States