Top 10 Eco-friendly Substitutes for Plastic


Reusable Shopping Bags

Eco bag on pile of plastic bags
Reusable shopping bags festooned with whatever pattern or logo you like are all over the place. Keep yours in a convenient spot so you don't forget them.
RK Studio/Kevin Lanthier/Getty Images

When plastic bags first hit the scene, we had a choice: paper or plastic. Today, it's all plastic. And if you're not that hypervigilant person at the checkout, you'll find yourself walking home with a bag for each item.

In fact, it's tough to make a purchase without it promptly being thrown into plastic. No wonder plastic bags seem omnipresent. The U.S. produced an astonishing 4.13 million tons (3.75 million metric tons) of plastic bags in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, and only 530,000 tons (481,000 metric tons) of those were recycled [source: EPA]. The rest end up as litter in cities and towns—and too many find their way to the ocean, where they kill millions of sea turtles, birds and ocean mammals each year [source: Environment California]. But you have to lug those groceries home somehow. So what do you do? Reusable grocery bags, for starters.

You can get them festooned with patterns or printed with the name or your bank/gym/frozen yogurt shop. Everyone hands them out, and they come in canvas, woven plastic fiber, hemp, cotton and even leather. You'll find nylon ones that fold up into a pouch small enough to fit in your pocket. In reality, any type of bag will do, whether it's meant to carry groceries or not.

Bonus: By avoiding plastic bags, you won't have them accumulating in your cupboards, and you don't have to worry about where they go when you throw them out.