In early 2018, I started hosting sewing bees for people interested in making produce bags out of upcycled cloth in order to replace single-use plastic produce bags. Since then, this little project has snowballed and our group has given out thousands of reusable cloth produce bags at the farmers’ market.
Our tally of reusable produce bags given away to date
Last updated 05/15/23
Reusable produce bags given away to date: 3,397
Used just once a week, number of plastic bags these can replace in a year: 176,644 (3,397 x 52). And we are just one group!
Worldwide Reusa-bags groups
On social media, many people have told me that they’ve been inspired to start their own produce bag making groups—from Seattle, to Scotland, to Rio de Janeiro, to Israel, to Barcelona and beyond. Many others have also asked me if I know of any groups in their city. I’ve connected some of these people on social media but the following map should make that process much more efficient.
Join a group or donate fabric to a group
If you want to join a local group or donate fabric scraps or sheets to it, please search the map. If you find a pin near you, click on it for the email address of the group’s organizer. I have one pin so far—mine! We have to start somewhere.
Add a group to the map
If you have started a produce bag making group or want to start one and would like me to add your group to the map, please fill out the form below. I’ll add your email address to the map so people can contact you directly about joining. If you send me the number of bags you’ve sewn, I’ll add that to your pin on the map too.
Get Your Group Started in Three Steps
These tips will help you get your produce bag sewing bee up and running faster.
1. Find your people
If you have trouble finding people, remember that you really need only one other person to form a group. As people learn more about what you’re doing, you’ll no doubt attract more members.
Many people have joined our group who have had zero sewing experience. Inexperienced sewers can work on the ironing or cutting—very important jobs! Or they can learn how to sew. These bags are the perfect beginner project.
2. Start making
Save your group a lot of time and cut piles of bags out before you sew. This really helps speed up the line.
We make very simple produce bags without drawstrings. This also allows us to speed up the line. But you can easily add drawstrings to the simple bags below:
- Go here for a basic pattern and video
- Go here for a post with details on using a serger
- Go here for upcycling pillowcases
3. Give the bags away
It’s your group. Distribute the bags however you like. Your first bags might go to members of your group who made them, or to friends and family who would like and use them. Once everyone is fully supplied with produce bags, put the remaining bags in your giveaway stash.
We hand out our upcycled produce bags at the Sunnyvale Farmers’ Market. Thank you to the city’s Environmental Services Department for allowing us to squat in your booth 🙂
5 Replies to “Reusa-Bags Upcycled Produce Bag Project”
How do fabric bags hold up at keeping produce crisp in the refrigerator? I have found things get dry and wilted if not in plastic but I’ve only tried storing items in Biobags, corn-based, compostable bags. To be clear I love this idea and am thinking of organizing this project for my farmers market, but I want to hear success with using fabric for storage. I have never found that I can simply put produce in the crisper without wrappings, it always goes limp.
To keep my greens from going limp, I do a little prep when I come back from the farmers’ market. I’ll cut them into big pieces, wash them, then twirl them around outside in a clean produce bag and put that in the refrigerator. They stay crisp for MUCH longer. I usually put larger things like cauliflower or celery directly in the crisper without a bag. If we don’t eat the celery within a week or so and it goes limp, I’ll move it into a jar of water on the counter. Things like loose carrots and mushrooms stay fresh in the bags. I hope that helps 🙂
~ Anne Marie
I am so glad I found your website. I need to know more about how to keep greens fresh without plastic bags. I understand the part about cutting into big pieces and washing them, but the part you said about twirling them around outside in a clean product bag is throwing me off. I’m not able to visualize what you are saying. What do you mean by twirl them around? Do you hold the bag at the top in one hand and spin the bag around almost like you would with a loaf of bread in a bag before putting a tie on it? Or do you mean you are using your entire arm and making large circles while the bag is in your hand? I have searched and searched for how to keep greens without plastic bags, and I feel I am so close with your comment and site. I just need to understand your method. Can you please elaborate on your methods? Thanks!
Hello there! I use my whole arm and make big circles while I hold the bag in my hand, like a human centrifuge. It works really well and when I want greens, I just grab them out of the bag in my crisper drawer. I hope that makes sense. It’s hard to picture.
~ Anne Marie
Hi Jenny. I stumbled on this wonderful rescource from myplasticfreelife.com (thank you). The information is from Berkeley Farmers’ Markets about how to store fruits and vegetables. I have plastic containers from former uninlightened purchases which I reuse, like tall thin cereal containers (saves space in the fridge) for carrots and celery, mason jars etc. that fit in the crispers) or large damped dish clothes per their instructions. My experience is everything lasts MUCH longer! This is a win-win.