Back in March of 2018, I hosted my first of several reusable produce bag sewing meetups. During that initial get-together, a group of us sewed about 50 bags in one afternoon. People took some of the bags home to use, I donated a handful to the kitchen in my intentional community and the rest I tucked away to give away—someday.
Someday was this past Saturday when the Sunnyvale Environmental Services Department made room for us in their booth at the farmers’ market so we could give away the bags.
We were mobbed.
In less than two hours, we gave away all of the reusable produce bags—over 370—that we had sewn out of donated fabric and sheets. People were so happy to get these. I could see the lightbulbs going off as we explained the need to wean ourselves from plastic. Many people said they wanted to use less plastic; they just didn’t know how to go about it. (Start here with these 50 steps!)
Why Shop with Reusable Produce Bags?
- Since the 1950s, approximately 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide and only 9% of that has been recycled. Guardian UK
- Every minute, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans. Greenpeace
- If we do not drastically reduce our plastic consumption, by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight. Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- Because China will no longer accept our plastic waste (and why should it?), by 2030, the world will need to bury or recycle an estimated 111 million metric tons of the stuff. Bloomberg
- Micro-plastics are in our water, our air, our fish and even human stool. Guardian UK
The Environmental Services Department tends a booth at the Sunnyvale farmers’ market every few months and we plan to join them again in January. We’ll take back any bags that need repairs and we’ll hand out more—lots more, I hope!
The Bag Within the Bag
I noticed that everyone on Saturday carried reusable shopping bags—an important step in reducing plastic. But most shoppers then stuff their reusable shopping bags with throwaway plastic produce bags. We all adjusted quickly to bringing our own shopping bags and we can adjust to bringing our own reusable produce bags. After I empty mine, I tuck them back into my shopping bags, ready for action. Easy.
Buy or Make Your Own Reusable Produce Bags
You can find reusable produce bags in co-op health food stores, some grocery stores, from Etsy sellers or the online shop, Life Without Plastic. You can also make simple bags out of old sheets or fabric scraps following this simple pattern. Or follow this also very simple pattern for sewing a sturdy and beautiful French seam.
Start a Sewing Group of Your Own
If you’d like to start a sewing group of your own, read this post about that. It’s not difficult to put one together. You need only a couple of people initially, word will spread and you’ll attract more. And I can pretty much guarantee that you will meet lovely, kindred spirits.
As for distributing the bags, someone on Instagram told me she sewed some and went to her farmers’ market and simply handed them out to people walking by. You could also approach a store or vendor at the farmers’ market that might be interested in giving out the bags. I have a couple of leads on both of those scenarios. But I’ll need more fabric…
How You Can Help: Fabric Donations
If you live in the US and have lightweight fabric made of natural fibers that you would like to donate, please contact me using the form below. We use natural fibers rather than synthetics that shed microplastics when washed.
Tally of Reusable Produce Bags Given Away to Date
Last updated 05/24/21
Reusable produce bags given away to date: 3,074
Used just once a week, number of plastic bags these 3,074 bags can replace in a year: 159,848 (3,074 x 52)