reusable shopping bags

know your options

Plastic bags may be cheap and convenient, but their widespread use is taking over the planet. You can’t get far without seeing them stuck in trees, lakes, beaches – or worse, ingested by wildlife. Then comes the dilemma between choosing paper or reusable bags as a solution. Paper may seem like a eco-friendly alternative, however it can still have a negative impact on the planet. Paper requires trees to be cut down, and while paper is recyclable, more often than not it is thrown in the trash and sent to landfill. The best option it to invest in your own reusable bags for when you go shopping. They are more durable, less wasteful, and save you money in the end. They are sold in just about every supermarket for an affordable price and some can even fold up to fit in your pocket. If you make the switch but still have old plastic bags laying around, take them to participating locations like Walmart, Target, and Publix in there specialized recycling program. Never put plastic bags into your recycling bin at home, as they clog the recycling machines and can ruin an entire batch. Learn how to get started and don’t forget to bring your bags with you shopping!

Paper Bag graphic


The least wasteful option by far. They can be found at any grocery store, supermarket, or even online for an affordable price.


A biodegradable and recyclable middle-ground option. However, the production can be resource intensive and still pollutes the environment.


Cheap and readily available but taxing on the environment and wildlife. Responsible for high rates of pollution around the world.

one reusable bag

Reusable Bags graphic

= 22,000 plastic bags

over a persons lifetime

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reusable bags

A few small lifestyle changes can make even the biggest difference. A simple and easy way to make a difference is taking your own shopping bag. Many stores offer plastic bags or paper bags, however this isn’t as environmentally friendly as bringing your own.

why are plastic bags bad?

Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year…that’s 1 trillion plastic bags in our landfills.   

Plastic bags are not made from renewable resources. The petrochemicals are the main base raw material in plastic bags which is derived from either natural gas or refined oil, which in itself is a very disruptive process to the Earth. After the process of making the physical bag from the polyethylene molecules they generally need to have some form of branding printed on them. These dyes can sometimes be toxic.

what happens when you throw out a plastic bag?

If not recycled, at best the plastic will end up in a landfill. In the landfill it wont degrade for millions of years. Its breakdown is not the same as biodegrading. At worst, it will end up contributing to our pollution, littering public spaces, polluting waterways, and endangering wildlife. Plastic bags are a huge part of water pollution and are commonly mistaken as food for our marine animals. Plastic ingestion has been an increasing concern. Plastic bags account for about 12 percent of the plastic waste in the US.

why not use paper instead of plastic?

Paper bags are arguable just as environmentally taxing as plastics bags depending on your opinion. Paper bags require significantly more energy to make, emitting more greenhouse gases than plastic bags. According to an article, you have to reuse a paper bag three times in order for its environmental impact equals that of a plastic bag. 1  

why reusable bags?

If not convinced from the information above, you might be thinking well it is environmentally costly to produce reusable bags as well. However, the key is the word “reusable”. If you continue to reuse your reusable bags it will be better alternative, environmentally speaking, than using plastic or paper bags. Many times reusable bags are offered for purchase at stores for a relatively cheap cost, some stores give them out for free as well as many tabling events. An even better alternative to buying reusable bags is using bags you already have or purchasing them second-hand. Both are two eco-friendly options. If you need to buy new bags, pick out ones you really like and are most likely to reuse on a regular basis. Also look for those made with local and/or fair-trade materials or bags that use recycled plastic materials. In addition, many stores offer incentives to bring in your own shopping bags, some of which are listed below. Bringing your own bags to stores are a great and cheap start to becoming a part of the Green Actioneer Family!

locations with reusable bag rewards

  1. Target: Earn a $0.05 discount for every reusable bag you bring in to use.
  2. Whole Foods: $0.10 discount for every reusable bag you bring in to bag groceries
  3. Trader Joe’s: Check your local Trader Joe’s for their program as it varies per store. Some offer a $0.05 discount per reusable bag you bring in to use while others stores offer an entry in a weekly raffle for a gift card. 
  4. Kroger (and some parent companies, like Ralph’s): Reward varies per store. Some examples of rewards offered a different locations are: 5 fuel points per reusable bag, $0.04 discount per bag, some hand out free reusable bags on certain days of the year, etc. 
  5. Lowe’s Foods: Earn a $0.04 credit for every reusable bag you bring (20 bag limit)
  6. Brookshire’s: Earn a $0.05 discount per bag
  7. Foodland: Earn a $0.05 discount per bag.
  8. Reasor’s Foods: Earn $0.06 discount per bag. 
  9. Sprouts Farmers Market: Most locations you’ll receive a $0.05 “bag credit” per bag towards your purchase.
Emanuela Torres-Marquiz

Emanuela Torres-Marquiz

UCF Student Intern

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