Yeah, yeah I know. You think I’ve gone all earth-mother, touchy feely. But I believe that we have a stewardship to keep our environment clean and our earth healthy. And being careful with our environment is not only more sustainable for the environment (and thus healthier for me and my family), but it also saves money.
Stop using plastic bags
That the first thing you can do to help the environment: stop using plastic grocery bags. The average family uses 400 plastic grocery bags a year. 98% of these end up in the landfill where it takes 1000 years to degrade, adding more pollutants to the soil. The second most common pollutant in the ocean is plastic bags (cigarette butts are number one.) They are an unsightly and unhealthy mess.
The easiest thing is to buy reusable bags. Most stores sell reusable bags printed with their logo for $1 each. Nowadays you can often get them for free as promotional give-aways. These bags tend to be small and you’ll need at least a dozen bags if you have a large family to grocery shop for.
OR…you can make your own
The biggest advantage of making your own is you can make them bigger than the ones that are typically sold in stores, so you’ll only need 4-5 bags, instead of a dozen of the smaller, free bags. My favorite pattern for bags is one I bought 30+ years ago, McCall’s 803. They are big enough to hold three gallons of milk (if you can carry three gallons in one hand!) or about the same as 3-4 plastic bags. The pattern is no longer in print, but you can buy it from Ebay, Amazon or vintage pattern dealers.
OR you can make this version. It’s pretty much the same thing, but a bit smaller than the McCall’s pattern. This is the striped bag featured on this page. I made them out of a sturdy duck
(or light-weight canvas) fabric and double stitched all the seams. The first set of four that I made lasted me for more than 15 years. The second set is now six or seven years old and still going strong after repeated washing and using.
Find the perfect pattern for you
There are lots of free patterns online. All of them follow pretty much the same idea: a pillowcase-type bag with handles. Sometimes the corners will be metered to make it box-like.
This one is the same style as the plastic bags in the store.
Here’s a funky idea for reusable bags: cut up used plastic bags to crochet a bag. How cool is that? I’ll try to post a picture of one that I made. Now that we don’t use so many plastic bags in our house, I’m cutting up the big plastic bags that the multi-packs of TP and paper towels come in.
You can also use the black plastic tape from VCR tapes to crochet reusable bags. Sort of meta-recycling.
Here’s a vintage pattern for a bag that was used back in the 20’s and 30’s. It’s great for storing onions, potatoes and apples. You can make several to replace all the plastic bags you would use from the produce aisle. Crochet this project in an evening while watching TV.
Making your own bags is a good project for practicing or learning to sew or crochet. If you already know both these skills, use this as a project to teach it to your children.
And here’s the money-saving part: Many grocery stores give you credit for using re-usable bags. If your store doesn’t give credit, ask them to start giving credit. You know, in honor of Earth Day.