Paper or Plastic? Canvas!

Canvas Tote Bags

Paper or Plastic? I'm asked that simple question about once a week and I now have a better answer - Canvas. I've known for a while that neither paper or plastic is a great shopping bag choice. Paper bags, as they are currently produced in the U.S., require cutting down about 14 million trees each year. The 30 billion plastic bags Americans use each year require 12 million barrels of crude oil for their manufacture. Why not short-circuit the debate between the lesser of the two evils and use a canvas bag?

Shopping with a reusable canvas, or similar sturdy material, bag is a change so small that it seems silly that more of us don't do it already. I switched to using canvas totes after my fiancé returned from a professional conference. She returned with a few of those ubiquitous tote bags that vendors foist on anyone who even breaks stride near their booth. I used to consider these logo festooned bags to be an annoyance, just more stuff to haul back to the office. Now I've reconsidered. These vendors who ply us with their wares are unwitting ecologists! By reusing these bags to haul home the groceries we are saving trees and oil, not just advertising some obscure software vendor!

Of course both paper and plastic bags are recyclable. We just need to remember that reusing a sturdy bag is much more efficient than recycling a "disposable" bag that's been used only once or twice. I keep a couple of canvas totes in my car (the bike needs a better rack before I can bring home much on it) and I bring them into the supermarket each time I go shopping. Admittedly, I've forgotten a few times, but it didn't take long to form a new habit that is much kinder to the planet.

More Reading on Paper vs. Plastic

NRDC articles:
It's Not My Bag, Baby!
Its in the Bag Plastic bags are killing us