Reusable shopping bags not so green if you don’t use ’em
These days, you can’t swing a dead cabbage without hitting a reusable bag. The darlings of the environmental movement (totes, not cabbages) are increasingly being provided free or cheap to green-minded consumers. And they serve a good purpose: four or five reusable bags, used at least once a week, can replace the use of 520 plastic bags each year. But if not used for their intended purpose, the bags are hardly an environmental boon. Cotton and canvas bags can require a lotta water and energy to manufacture and may be colored with toxic dyes. Nonwoven polypropylene totes require about 28 times as much energy to produce as standard plastic bags. Bags made from recycled material often cost more than those without. And perhaps most important, shifting ingrained shopping habits is easier said than done, as anyone knows who has forgotten to tote their totes to the store. That may take a while to change; as one marketing professor points out, it’s not yet taboo to be seen carrying a plastic bag.