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Compare the best reusable grocery bags

Get a handle on your carbon footprint — eliminate plastic waste one shopping trip at a time.

Updated

white bag with peaches

Plastic shopping bags are among the largest contributors to our worldwide plastic pollution problem — filling up oceans and landfills across the globe at a rate of over one million bags per minute. Even when repurposed as small trash bags or for other uses, they’re often only used once or twice before being tossed out.

Enter the reusable tote bag. Interestingly, research has shown that popular cotton or canvas — which is made of cotton — bags can pack an even larger carbon footprint than plastic. So what’s the most eco-friendly bag to haul your groceries and other goodies in? We compare top picks below.

Compare some of the best reusable grocery bags

NameAverage priceMaterialSize (inches)Machine-washable?What’s included?Purchase
Green Bulldog Bags$23Non-woven fabric10 x 14.5 x 10.5No3 bagsBuy now
Lotus Trolley Bags$35Non-woven fabric10 x 27 x 3Yes4 bagsBuy now
Hemp Go Green$45100% hemp17 x 12 x 6Yes1 bagBuy now
KAF Home 45865 Jute Market Tote$13100% jute12.5 x 17 x 7No1 bagBuy now
BAGGU Standard Reusable Shopping Bag$11100% ripstop nylon25.5 x 15.5 x 6Yes1 bagBuy now
Data obtained October 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

Reusable shopping bag materials

Some materials are naturally more eco-friendly than others. Consider the environmental impact of each material to determine just how green your reusable shopping bag might be.

  • Cotton or canvas. Cotton and canvas tote bags are popular and widely-available. But cotton requires many resources — including a large water supply — to produce and is often treated with harmful pesticides. If you are going to choose a cotton bag, try to find options that are grown using more sustainable methods.
  • Bamboo. Although not as widely available as cotton, bamboo is touted as a highly sustainable natural fiber, thanks to its clean cultivation process and speedy growth.
  • Jute. Another eco-friendly plant fiber, jute is derived from the jute mallow and white jute plants native to India. These plants require very little irrigation and little to no pesticides in order to grow.
  • Hemp. A natural fiber derived from the cannabis plant, hemp is known as one of the most environmentally-friendly materials available. It requires little water, is naturally resistant to pesticides and absorbs more carbon dioxide from the air than many other types of plants. Since it became legal to grow hemp in the US in late 2018, products made from this fiber have become readily available.
  • Polypropylene. Woven and non-woven polypropylene are made from recycled plastic and can be continually reused, making them a more Earth-friendly alternative to traditional plastic shopping bags.
  • Polyester. Traditionally made from petroleum, polyester is less eco-friendly. But some companies now make polyester products out of recycled materials, which can make it a greener choice.
  • Nylon. This material also isn’t the most eco-friendly, as it requires large amounts of water and emits nitrous oxide during manufacturing. Nylon is also not biodegradable. But it is a highly durable material — so if you’ve already got a nylon bag, you should be able to get plenty of use out of it for years to come.
  • Insulated. Some reusable grocery bags are insulated to help you keep food items cool. But the downside is that this material is usually made of polyurethane, polyethylene plastic or polyester fibers — all of which are unsustainable.

How to compare reusable grocery bags

Consider these features to help you compare reusable bags:

  • Price. Reusable grocery bags vary widely in price, starting as low as $1 and ranging upwards of $30 per bag. The material, construction and durability of a bag often corresponds with its pricing, so decide which features are most important to you and how much you’d like to spend to find the best fit.
  • Material. If sustainability is your main goal, choose a material like bamboo, jute or recycled plastic that doesn’t impose a heavy carbon footprint. Still, less-sustainable materials like polyester and nylon are known for their durability, which can save hundreds of plastic bags from littering the planet.
  • Size. Reusable bags come in almost every shape and size. If you’ll be using them for groceries, make sure the products you choose can withstand the weight of milk jugs, cans and other heavy items.
  • Easy to clean. Some bag materials and designs will be easier to clean than others. Consider what you’ll be using your bags for and the likelihood of hard-to-clean messes when selecting a specific style or material.

How to clean reusable grocery bags

The proper way to clean your reusable bag will depend on its material. Some bags made of natural plant fibers like hemp and cotton are machine-washable — simply toss them in the wash according to the care instructions and you’re all set.

Read the tag before tossing them in the dryer, though. Many bags need to be air-dried or put in the dryer on low heat.

Other bags require you to hand-wash with soap and warm water before air drying. Insulated bags can be wiped with a disinfecting cloth in between uses as well.

A few general tips to help eliminate contamination and bacteria are:

  • Label different bags for meat, seafood, dairy, produce and non-food items to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Always allow bags to dry completely before putting them away.
  • Don’t leave dirty bags in your car — heat can cause bacterial growth.

Bottom line

Investing in reusable shopping bags is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of plastic waste that ends up in oceans and landfills around the world. No matter the material, style or design you choose, reuse your bag as many times as possible to maximize the benefit to Mother Nature.

Ready to buy? Compare top reusable grocery bags

Looking for something smaller to pack your lunch in? Take a look at our top picks for reusable sandwich bags.

How did we choose these products?

To create our list of the best reusable grocery bags, we compared the material, sustainability, price and size of each product, factoring in third-party online reviews and our own personal experiences.

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