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A TOTE-ally easy way to help the Earth

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I've got one, my friends have them, and I'm willing to bet you've got one, too.
Oh, sure, we try to hide them. We stash them under our kitchen sink or in the back of a drawer.

I'm speaking, of course, of the evil wad of plastic grocery bags (more than 500 billion of them are used every year worldwide). These ubiquitous little devils seem to multiply like crazy, and we know they're no good for the environment. To learn more about the environmental effects of disposable grocery bags, please read Step 7:Get informed.

The best solution is to carry your own re-usable sacks. You've probably thought about it before or seen them in your local grocery store. You were probably turned off by their cost and dreadful appearance, usually featuring a big corporate logo.

With this instructable I'm going to show how you can make your own durable, stylish tote bags for very cheap, even if you have little to no experience with sewing. I use a very simple design to create a fully lined bag which will be amazingly strong (no more chasing your canned good around the parking lot!) The next time that greasy little bagboy asks you if you want paper or plastic you can tell him to stop pushing those evil things on you... or you could just ask him politely to use your totes instead.

This instructable is written assuming that you have little to no experience with sewing.

The sample items made in this tutorial are also available to be purchased at my etsy page http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6135809
 
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static3 years ago
For the money the reusable grocery bags now being sold are hard to beat. I'm male, not that much of a greenie, but I'm not to proud to be seen using them. They do make carry the items that 75-100 feet from parking space to middle of living room much easier. Yea I know purchasing isn't in the spirit of instructables, so save me any grief. :)
pharoah6 years ago
The only problem I see with tote bags is that they can get disgusting if you carry things that drip in the, also you'd need to make several if you buy a lot of stuff. These can be especially useful at bulk places like Costco where they often don't give you bags.
LauPre (author)  pharoah6 years ago
I understand what you mean about the bags getting dirty, but one of the benefits of this type of bag is that you can choose a fabric that is easily machine washable. Since this design uses two layers of fabric, there is less chance of any leakage getting out of the bag. This could be lessened still by picking a waterproof or water resistant fabric. You could also reuse some old plastic bags. Even if they're not as strong as they once were, you could keep some in your tote to wrap around questionable items (I always wrap up raw meat, for example). Otherwise, you could choose to just use a tote to carry dry items, like bread, canned goods, or boxed items. I think what's really important is just to try and reduce the number of bags we use. Personally, I carry one very large tote with a long shoulder strap. sometimes I buy more than I can fit in my bag and carry the rest home in plastic. I'm not going to tell anyone that they have to give up the disposable bags completely, but consider that a sack like this will hold about twice as much as the disposable. Even if you bring in just one bag with you and have the rest of your stuff bagged regularly you could be saving 2-3 bags per trip. Depending on your shopping habits, that could really add up in just a year! Now imagine if everyone brought just one bag in with them. I hope my reply doesn't come across as a rant... I don't mean it to be. I really appreciate your comments, because that tells me that you've at least thought about it, and that makes me smile. Thanks for your thoughts!
field500 LauPre4 years ago
To help the environment further, go veg!

------begin quote------
A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." The report recommended that animal agriculture "be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."1

Many leading environmental organizations, such as the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, are now establishing the link between eating meat and eco-disasters like climate change. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads.
------end quote------

(www.goveg.com/environment.asp)
canida pharoah6 years ago
I just toss mine in the washer if they start to get gross. Meat gets a plastic inner bag, and some fabrics (especially heavy canvas) are pretty good about controlling leaks. Of course, all my cloth bags are conference freebies- I want to make some of my own! We never have enough.
An alternative to buying the fabric off the bolt, is to hit the remmant bin at the fabric store or I have found fabric at thrift stores for even cheaper! Of course I always give any fabric a wash before stitching, so it will be pre-shrunk. I even used old ties as handles instead of ribbon, top stitching the "handle" part, so it doesn't stretch as much. A fun project and makes great looking custom bags.
chriscol5 years ago
If you or a friend have a cat or dog and buy dry food in the large bags--the bags are now made of some nearly indestructible plastic/fiber combination, but when cut apart on the original seam lines, there is quite enough to recycle into a marvelous tote. Dog & Kitty pictures free!
origamiwolf5 years ago
Sewing, craft and dressmaking stores often have scrap fabrics (leftovers from dressmaking, or short pieces off the end of the cloth bolt) that they sell at very cheap prices. Old curtains are another good source of strong fabric as well.
RoseylodgE5 years ago
great site haven't made bags yet can't wait to do some. I live in Australia and from January 1 we are plastic bag free. Fran
wanwddx5 years ago
it is easy way to make
SylverX5 years ago
Great! I've made about 4 bags this way, and even though I mostly use them for carrying my stuff around, they work very well. Nice job! :D
ticadea5 years ago
It might be advantages to use oil cloth for one of your bags for things like meats that might leak.
How do I remember to take them to the store with me!!! I always end up in the check-out line and then remember I have a dozen paper bags to recycle and my reusables still in the car!!!
We were having the same issue but it's corrected itself. We would 1)have one of us run out and get them OR 2)use the COSTCO approach and put all of the loose items back into our cart, roll them out to the car and pack them in our bags there. This has seemed to cure us as we may forget our bags 1-2 times per month at every store we travel to (grocery, dry goods, clothing stores) so we aren't taking out as many loose items anymore. We now remember to take them on our way into the store. I think it took us 6 mos to go from remembering to take them into the store about 50% of the time to 98% of the time now. To remember to get them back in the car, immediately after unloading them, stuff all of them into one bag and hang it on the doorknob of the doorway to your garage or front door. If you see a bag hanging there, take it with you when you exit that door the next time. Good luck!
I have several bags that I keep on the front seat of my vehicle. It doesn't take long to get into the habit of grabbing a few bags as you're heading into the grocery store, particularly if you shop at a store that offers rebates. Lowes Foods offers greenpoints (50 per bag in my area). EarthFare gives you a few pennies off your total bill. I've even trained DBF to bring his own bags. :-)
Rayna6 years ago
This is great, everyone should have these. I'm commenting because you said supermarket ones are ugly and costly. In Australia they can be as cheap as $1.50 to $2, and tho ugly are bloody convenient and well shaped, with flat bottoms for great storage. You say to carry one, I take about 6 or 7! And when I think I have too many the spares usually end up coming in handy. Also, some added tips for convenience - sometimes ugly cloth showbags from fairs and whatnot, or strong cardboard bags that fashion boutiques use when you buy clothes, make great grocery shopping bags. And those (often) ugly bags you get sometimes with cosmetics, perfumes, magazines (I got some tote with Lancome) and whatnot - same again. Please, use anything! Avoid plastic.
kerri94946 years ago
The strips should be 4"-5" wide, but how long should they be?
LauPre (author)  kerri94946 years ago
Oh, I'm sorry if it wasn't clear. The length of the strap is the same as the original width of the fabric (if you're cutting your straps from the same fabric as the main bag, that is.) If you're using different fabric for the straps than for the main bag you'll want it to be about as long as the long side of the main bag fabric. Of course you can always make them longer, but I don't recommend going any shorter. Since fabric widths vary (generally they're 32" to 36", but can be shorter or longer) it will depend on the fabric you're using. I hope this is clear. I've uploaded another image to illustrate the cutting for the straps, assuming that you're using a single length of fabric. (it's image 4 in step two. It looks like the one below, but bigger) Let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for looking!
straps.jpg
Nice! I am totally going to make some of these. We reuse our plastic and paper bags until they are literally falling to bits. These will be cuter! They seem very easy to make. Great instructable!
It's fantastic to know that conservationist ideals run in the family! I JUST finished making my own shopping tote, and have picked out fabrics with my roommates to make theirs! Way to go!
LauPre (author)  combustinggnomes6 years ago
That's great! you should email me some photos so I can see them!
I think that this is good !!!
LauPre (author)  BlacksheepGrotto6 years ago
Thanks!
HamO6 years ago
Nice instructable, very well done. Great pix. Very relevant theme. Thanks for sharing.
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