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Eco-friendly Alternatives to Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are lightweight, have handles for easy carrying, hold a lot of items, extremely durable, and don't take up much room in the trashcan. But, while plastic bags are convenient for consumers, the sad truth is, plastic bags are extremely harmful to the environment and wildlife. There are many better alternatives to plastic bags for storage.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Paper Grocery Bags

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Paper Grocery Bags

We may think plastic bags are a better choice for the environment, but they often aren't. Made from non-renewable crude oil, plastic bags aren't biodegradable and it takes millions of barrels of oil to produce them every year (though, being lighter than paper, it takes less fuel to ship them). However, once they're made, it's nearly impossible to get rid of them. It can take as long as 400 years for one plastic bag to biodegrade. That's a long time for plastic bags to hang around creating pollution problems and creating dangerous situations for wildlife that swallow plastic particles, which can cause harm, choking, or death. So, the next time you're out shopping at the grocery store and the cashier asks if you want paper or plastic, choose paper.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Mason Jars

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Mason Jars

Alternatives to plastic bags for storage come in all shapes and sizes, and that includes the ever-popular Mason jar. Storing food in glass jars has been a trend for many years (and something your grandparents probably did). And, it has several advantages over plastic bags. Jars can be recycled and they can be washed and reused indefinitely – a true money saver. Food stored in jars tastes fresher because the glass doesn't absorb odors from other foods in the fridge. They're also food safe, don't leak, and glass doesn't contain toxins.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Reusable Cloth Shopping Baghidesy/shutterstock

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Reusable Cloth Shopping Bag

Many grocery stores offer the option of paper, plastic, or the purchase of their reusable shopping bags. The bags are usually displayed at various locations throughout the store, at the customer service counter, and when you check out and pay for your groceries. They come in a variety of colors, may or may not have the company logo, and some are decorated for the holidays. The reusable shopping bag are usually made from an inexpensive material, or fabric, that is durable. Some grocery chains ask shoppers to pay for plastic bags. By purchasing an eco-friendly recyclable shopping bag, you're helping the planet and saving money, too (as long as you remember to bring them with next time).

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Canvas Shopping Bags

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Canvas Shopping Bags

Much like shopping bags available at grocery store chains, canvas shopping bags serve the same purpose. Materials used for shopping bags range from synthetic fabrics and recycled materials to cotton and canvas. With the focus on environmental health, some designers are adding reusable canvas totes, made from recycled or sustainable materials to their fashion collection. After shopping for groceries, make a personal statement about your support of a healthier environment by using a recycle shopping bag versus plastic bags.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Mesh Shopping Bags

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Mesh Shopping Bags

Shop in style whether you're at the grocery store or your local farmer's market with a mesh sling shoulder bag. These flexible and roomy bags are ideal when shopping. They're lightweight, see-through, and handles are part of entire bag versus attached handles, which means you don't have to worry about snapped straps. Bring several with you when shopping for your groceries. When you get home, you can see what's in each bag. Like other fabric-based shopping bags, they can be recycled once their useful life is over.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Denim Shopping Bags

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Denim Shopping Bags

A fun do-it-yourself project that saves money and promote recycling is a 'make your own denim shopping bag.' This is as simple as one-two-three: Clip a pair of pants to the desired bag length, sew a double hem along the seam, attach hooks and handles and voila, you're ready to go shopping. The material is sturdy, so it will hold up under weight, it's easy to carry with the shoulder strap, and best of all, it's recycled material. It's also versatile and can be used when you're out-and-about town as a creative fashion piece.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Metal Containers

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Metal Containers

Stainless steel containers with a tightly fitting lid featuring a silicone seal serves as a very secure and easy to transport place to store food. Available in a variety of sizes, containers are lightweight, durable, and practical. They're also great for storing food in the freezer. Versatility is at its best since you can use the same container to reheat the stored food. Another benefit of stainless steel is you can use a non-permanent marker to write on the container noting its contents.

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Mesh Produce Bags

Mesh Produce Bags

The next time you go shopping for fresh produce and need a bag, forego the plastic bags in the produce section and use a mesh bag, instead. If you look around, you'll see many items, such as onions, potatoes and grapes already packaged in mesh bags. This is to protect them from cold, moist, dry and humid environments. So, why put unpackaged items into a plastic bag when mesh bags seem to be the better option. Bring your own mesh bags with you or recycle one already in your pantry.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Wax Paperlittleny/shutterstock

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Wax Paper

Before plastic bags were the 'new thing' for wrapping sandwiches and other items, wax paper was the way to go. Besides being durable, flexible, and recyclable, wax paper keeps items fresh. Whether you're making your kid's lunch for school or your own for work, use wax paper to wrap it and a paper bag to hold all the goodies.

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Alternative to Plastic Bags: Cardboard Boxes

Alternative to Plastic Bags: Cardboard Boxes

Every store has them and all you need to do is ask if your store has a stash of cardboard boxes for free and where you can find one or two to carry your groceries. Some chains have them readily available at checkout so groceries can be packed as they're checked. They come in all shapes and sizes and along with being strong and durable, cardboard boxes are recyclable. Whenever you buy something shipped in a cardboard box, reuse it at the grocery store if your local market doesn't provide them, for free, to its customers.