More and more cities are banning plastic bags at grocery and other stores. But if you’re avoiding plastic and buy bulk, loose veg, rice, coffee, nuts, potatoes, lentils you can’t just drop them in your general shopping bag. So why not make your own reusable drawstring (easiest closure!) cloth produce bags? If you tend to use 10 plastic produce bags a week to house your shopping, you’ll save 500 plastic bags this year!
This week I did it, I went to the local butcher with my glass containers and to my surprise they accepted my demand to put my shopping in them. For transporting a big chicken I used an ironed pillowcase. The butcher told me I was the second customer shopping like this, yes France is also going zero waste!
But for other shopping, use potential fabric sources you have at home like old plain cotton/flannel bed sheets, old pillowcases or any fabric that has been sitting around unused in your home for a long time. Use ribbons or rope for the strings. If you want fancy bags you can use decorated tea towels. I used some old cotton curtain fabric. All these fabrics have a tight weave so your shopping won’t fall out. Try to recycle as conventional cotton farming is responsible for huge pesticide use.
The advantage of sewing them yourself is that you’ll have the sizes you want according to your shopping behaviour (and if you can’t sew ask a friend that can).
French bread for example here, is extra long compared to other bread and although the French only tie a small paper round the bread, you don’t need paper, one of your DIY bags will do the job time and time again.
For fruit or potatoes a net bag is ideal: these are my simple net bags made out of one of my husband T-shirts and no problem in the supermarket using them at all!
I made my nets based on this you tube clip (skip the introduction and start watching at 2.29’ to see how to proceed). From all the suggestions on the net, this clip uses nearly the whole T-shirt, so less waste!
There are hundreds of tutorials online and you don’t have to be a seamstress to just stitch straight. And if you really don’t have a sewing friend, go online, search for Morsbags enthusiasts that make them for free and share:
They have a free pattern on the website too (with a handle which you actually don’t need for a produce bag.
You can also knot your nets. This video shows making a rather big bag and is in German, but the actions speak for themselves:
Many fruits don’t need packaging of any kind in the freezer, such as tomatoes, bananas, and peaches. Even better, their skins will slip off easily once thawed.
Freeze in small fruit/ fruit juice in ice cubes during the season, add a bit of water. Once frozen you stack the cubes in an aluminum container to save place. When you need a glass, just take some cubes out of your freezer once the fruit season is over.
Use glass jars instead of plastic bags for other food.
Talking about bags: welcome to the hidden dangers of bagged tea:
Knowing something can leach out but it’s not sure it will, scares me when talking about food/drinks. Some fancy/silky (often pyramidal in shape) teabags are actually only 70-80% biodegradable because some of the newer tea bags are made with a variety of plastics; some are nylon, some are made of viscose rayon, and others are made of thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene, for strength (preventing tears) and structure. And we are talking famous brands here!
The paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin (also used as a pesticide), a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins. When epichlorohydrin comes in contact with water, it hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It’s also been implicated in infertility (it has a spermatoxic effect in male rats and suppressed immune function).
According to the American Oil Chemicals Society (AOCS), 3-MCPD can be found in variable levels in refined vegetable oils, which is yet another reason to avoid such cooking oils and replace them with organic coconut oil.
So check the brands, Organic India, for example, confirms that the paper used for their tea bags does not contain epichlorohydrin.
Another hidden danger is also lurking: your teabag could be made from genetically modified (GM) ingredients…
So the only solution left, is to drink organic, fairly traded loose leaf tea using a stainless steel tea ball or a glass/ stainless steel teapot with built-in diffuser.
Cleaning up the planet one bag at a time