I Have Over 103 Reusable Bags — Here’s What I’m Planning on Doing with All of Them

published Jun 8, 2024
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Groceries on the kitchen table
Credit: Joe Lingeman

On day six of the January Cure, the task was to take a mini-meditation and pick a project you wanted to tackle. I picked our spare bedroom, which has turned into a room for wayward items. A Sanrio cooler, gummy bear molds, and battery-operated lanterns we bought five years ago when we thought camping would be our family thing — they have all wound up in this space.

I intended to look around the room and ask myself how it made me feel (stressed), what I appreciate about it (it’s huge), and how I could enhance it (sell everything on Facebook Marketplace), but what I kept staring at was an enormous pile of reusable bags, spread across the floor of the closet and stacked so high it reached the jackets that were stored in there.

Many states — including California, New York, Washington, and Hawaii, where I’m from — have banned disposable bags, with reusable bags replacing the cheap plastic ones that used to be in grocery stores. Retailers jumped on this trend, creating eco-friendly cotton bags to combat the overuse of plastic in packaging — and people bought them. I have reusable bags from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Daiso, Target, and even Powell’s City of Books. I counted 103 bags in my closet before I decided to stop.

It got me thinking: What else can be done with these reusable bags? Here are six things I came up with that you can do with excess bags that are taking up space in your home. (PS: Just make sure you clean them first!)

Donate them to a food bank

Plastic bag bans are hurting food banks and soup kitchens. The Food Bank of South Jersey, for example, recently asked for clean, new or gently used reusable shopping bags to distribute food to the needy. (The organization distributes more than 80,000 bags or boxes of groceries annually.) Call your hometown food bank or pantry to see if they need them.

Give them to an animal shelter

Some animal shelters offer free dog, cat, and bird food to pet owners in need. Many have foster care programs, too — and both can use reusable bags. The Hawaiian Humane Society in Honolulu uses reusable bags to distribute free pet food and to transport pet supplies and equipment to foster caregivers. Rena Lafaille, director of administration at the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City, advises that people contact local shelters to find out what their specific needs are. (Side note: Many need towel donations, which provide animals a soft surface to snuggle up and make them comfortable in a shelter setter or during a medical procedure, Lafaille adds.)

Ask your kid’s teacher if they need them

Parents know how much junk — I mean, beautiful upcycled creations and works of art — their children bring home from school. Often teachers send these and other things like dirty clothes, and library books home in whatever bags they can find. My son’s kindergarten teacher is always asking for reusable bags, which we’re more than happy to donate. Sure, a few will come back home, but at least you know the bags will be put to good use — and probably for years to come.

Lug library books in them

Most reusable bags — especially canvas ones — are durable and strong enough to carry heavy loads. So they make perfect book bags for your next library run. Plus, you can stash them in your car, purse, or office when you don’t need them. Some libraries will take unwanted bags to give away to patrons who borrow more books than they can carry (guilty!).

Use them as gift bags

If the point of using reusable bags is to curb single-use plastics, then why not use them as gift bags, too? Many are made from high-quality materials and boast beautiful designs. (Here are a few we love.) Add a little tissue paper and ribbon and you’re done.

Recycle them

Yes, reusable bags are supposed to be more eco-friendly than plastic bags, but the truth is these bags aren’t perfect, either. According to a 2018 study, an organic cotton tote bag needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its overall impact on production. Cotton bags can’t be composted and most dyes used to print logos on them are PVC-based and not recyclable. That’s what makes ChicoBag so awesome. This California-based company not only makes long-lasting reusable bags but it will take your extra reusable bags and re-home them as part of its Pay It Forward program. Workers will hand sort them and decide whether they can be reused, recycled, or transformed into something new.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Have Over 103 Reusable Bags — Here’s What I’m Planning to Do with All of Them