The No Plastic Shopping Bag Challenge–VIVA VERDE!

My shopping bags on the laundry line

The challenge: Can you come home from shopping without a single plastic bag?

I have gotten used to taking cloth shopping totes; a motley selection of different sizes and styles hangs out in the back of my car awaiting both planned and unexpected trips to the market, vintage mall or clothing store.  Through the laundry they go now and again, the canvas ones last many years and can hold an extra heavy batch of groceries if you like to save trips unloading.

The cloth shopping bags were a no-brainer once in the habit of remembering them, but the harder transition was away from the thin plastic produce bags that are so handy for preventing the lettuce from soaking a greeting card or segregating apples from oranges for weighing at the checkout.

Nylon mesh produce bag with drawstring

In a gardening catalog I found bags of fine, nylon mesh with drawstrings made explicitly for produce and ordered up a set.  I liked them so well that I ordered more immediately and they are still in use after 5 plus years.  While somewhat delicate, they are holding up fine and eliminate the need for plastic bags.  Some are showing their age with snags here and there.  Could artichokes be the culprit?

Just as I was thinking about replacements, I inadvertently discovered paint straining bags for 1 gallon and 5 gallon buckets in a paint store. Eureka!  They aren’t as pretty, but the nylon mesh is heavier and the sizes are bigger than the specialty ones—accommodating a bunch of carrots with foliage in the larger of the two.  And they are less expensive.  They don’t have draw strings, however, so twist ties will be necessary, or knotting the top might work.  Perhaps a search for paint strainers might reveal others with some kind of top closure.

Mesh bags from the paint store in two sizes

The nylon mesh, though fine, still allows the produce to “breathe” and unlike plastic bags, lettuce stored in the mesh will wilt with exposure to dry air.  Adjusting  the humidity on the veggie drawer might help, but so does transporting veggies home in the nylon, reusable bags and transferring into an airtight storage container that then goes in the crisper.

It’s a little game I play when shopping–can I come home without a single plastic bag?  There is a satisfaction in knowing that it can be done. The exception, of course, are all the plastic bags that food is packaged in these days but that’s a story for another Viva Verde post.

Look, Ma! No plastic shooping bags!

© Colleen Miko, 2012

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About Colleen Miko

Colleen Miko is a certified professional horticulturist with 20 years experience in landscape design who has designed award winning gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show as well as HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”. Colleen is a freelance garden writer and speaker who regularly writes "The Perennial Bookworm" where she reviews garden and natural science books, as well as a regular contributor to "WestSound Home & Garden Magazine" on a variety of horticulture topics.
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4 Responses to The No Plastic Shopping Bag Challenge–VIVA VERDE!

  1. I love the viva verde posts! I try to bring cloth bags or reuse old paper/plastic bags when grocery shopping. I do like to keep some plastic bags on hand at home – we get a CSA box & I use/reuse them to store the veggies in the fridge. Otherwise the loose veggies in the fridge make a big mess. I am wondering, what do you use to line your trash cans at home? I’ve mostly kicked by plastic/paper habit when it comes to grocery shopping, but I can’t seem to come up with a system for trash without using new plastic bags.

    • Colleen Miko says:

      Hi Traci, I still use new plastic trash bags but I’d love to have another way of doing it. Every now and again if I get a super large plastic shopping bag, I’ll re-use it to line the kitchen trash can. We compost kitchen scraps and recycle most other things, so in the end, we don’t usually even fill a full kitchen bag before it goes out. Any readers out there have a solution?

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