7 alternatives to plastic bags - from reusable produce bags to clever totes that fold up to fit in your pocket

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  • While a lot of plastic can be recycled, most of it never makes its way to the recycling bin - instead it ends up in landfills that pollute our waterways. The levels of plastic pollution in our oceans are so high, it's been predicted that by 2050 plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean.
  • New York is the latest entity to impose a single-use plastic bag ban. Whether you live in the state or not, this effort sheds light on the fact that we could all reduce our consumption of single-use plastics.
  • If you're looking for plastic bag alternatives, check out our list of seven great options below. They're just as convenient and affordable, and they all look much cooler than plastic bags.

In terms of materials, plastic is about as ubiquitous as they come. It's everywhere - one of the main ingredients in the majority of items we encounter every day. We get our groceries packed in plastic bags. We squeeze shampoo, conditioners, and lotion out of plastic bottles. Our takeout bags are filled with plastic containers and plastic utensils.

A lot of plastic products can be recycled, but the majority of them just end up in landfills and go on to pollute our oceans. A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that by 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish. If we keep disposing of plastic at the rate we're going, in 31 years there will be about 850-950 million tons of plastic in the ocean, and only 812-899 million tons of fish.

Looking at those harrowing numbers can be overwhelming - as an individual, it's hard to imagine that our small actions could move the needle at all. But we have to start somewhere.

Reducing your own single-use plastic bag consumption is an environmentally, not to mention fiscally, responsible move. And, these days it couldn't be easier to ditch single-use plastic - there are so many brands offering reusable alternatives that are more affordable and much better looking than plastic bags anyway.

If you're looking to find some great reusable plastic bag alternatives, keep reading for 7 cool, convenient, and affordable options:

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Baggu Reusable Bags

Baggu Reusable Bags
Baggu Reusable Bags, $10 - $12, available at Baggu and Amazon

Baggu's nylon reusable bags can hold between 30 to 50 pounds worth of stuff, but can also fold up into a little five-by-five-inch pouch for easy storage. The bags come in a wide range of cute colors and patterns, made from a non-recycled ripstop nylon ($10) or an option made with 40% recycled nylon, sourced from pre-consumer waste. Use your Baggu in place of plastic bags at the grocery store or as a tote bag to carry literally anything else. Plus, for every reusable bag sold during the month of April, Baggu will donate $0.10 to the Surfrider Foundation to help keep plastic pollution out of the ocean.

BahrEco Produce Bags

BahrEco Produce Bags
BahrEco Reusable Mesh Produce Bags, $9.97, available at Amazon

Most of us have become accustomed to putting all of our fresh produce into plastic bags when we go grocery shopping. These bags offer a solution that's just as convenient, but a lot more eco-friendly. They're made from a breathable mesh that's easy to fold, take on the go, and clean — just throw the bags in the washing machine when it's time for a wash. Drawstrings keep your food secure and the color-coded tops help you separate and organize produce. For just $10, you get five multipurpose bags that can go beyond just produce too — use them to store toys and small accessories, or even in lieu of packing cubes when you travel.

Society6 Canvas Tote Bags

Society6 Canvas Tote Bags
Society6 Canvas Tote Bags, $24.99 - $29.99, available at Society6

Swapping plastic grocery bags out for a reusable canvas option is a simple way to lessen your environmental impact, and maybe even save some money doing it — stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods will give you a discount on your purchase for bringing your own bags. If you're looking for a bag with a great aesthetic, check out Society6. All of the canvas tote bags have the same simple shape, but each is printed with a unique design from an actual artist. It won't be hard to find something that fits your style, whether that's a colorful abstract print or a group of avocados doing yoga.

Zero Waste Net Bag

Zero Waste Net Bag
Natural Teether Supply Reusable Net Bag, $12 - $16, available at Etsy

This french filet bag is totally on trend, evoking dreams of strolling through Paris with fresh produce and baguettes in tow. Sling this over your shoulder before heading to the grocery store or out on the town — the crocheted cotton can expand to fit just about anything you want to put inside. These bags are particularly eco-friendly, and are handmade with lead-free dyes. There's also an option (for an extra $4) to get yours made with organic cotton.

Canvas Market Bag

Canvas Market Bag
Italic Home Reusable Canvas Market Bag, $30, available at Etsy

This reusable canvas tote is a fun replacement for plastic, or even for boring paper. It looks just like a real paper bag, but it's much sturdier and you can use it again and again. Even if you're not heading to the grocery store, this makes for a great tote bag.

Baggain Recycled Denim Tote

Baggain Recycled Denim Tote
Baggain Recycled Denim Tote with Pockets, $25, available at Etsy

This bag isn't just a sustainable alternative to plastic, it's made with sustainable processes, too — the outer fabric is all recycled denim.

Apolis Jute Market Bags

Apolis Jute Market Bags
Apolis Jute Market Bags, $68, available at Need Supply Co. and Bloomingdale's

These bags are definitely more expensive, but they make a great gift for any socially and environmentally-conscious friends. Apolis is a certified B Corp, with a mission to create social change through business. Apolis has created jobs in its local Los Angeles, as well as countries across the world. The price reflects the brand's commitment to not only high-quality products, but environmental and ethical accountability. The bags look very nice, are very sturdy, have a waterproof interior that makes them perfect for towing to the grocery store — plus all of the bags are printed with fun sayings.

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