Fashion And Function
In case saving the planet isn't incentive enough for you to go green, it's also in style.
Last year Anya Hindmarch's "I'm Not A Plastic Bag" bags skyrocketed onto the fashion scene and set off a buying frenzy rivaling Uggs in their initial stateside popularity days with offerings on eBay and a plethora of knock offs. While Anya Hindmarch's iconic creations are more likely to be seen on trips to the mall than the supermarket, they did bring a lot of attention to the concept of the reusable shopping bag.
The territory is nebulous and circular: a reusable shopping bag is truly defined by using a bag in such a way. And despite Anya Hindmarch's bag slogan, a plastic bag can certainly be one. Still, as even a simple Google search will show you, there are many more fashionable (and sturdy) options available to you than rehashing plastic store freebies. As it's become trendier and trendier (not to mention responsible) to go green, countless manufacturers have come to the forefront with their chic offerings. ECOBAGS' string market bag comes in a range of colors and styles and is the ultimate in light and compact portability. Its shape, however, is more suited to produce than a bunch of boxed goods and the complete transparency of its stash could be a bit awkward. Baggu offers simple rip-stop nylon bags and each comes with its own convenient storage pouch. The ever-industrious designers at Etsy are constantly creating one-of-a-kind options in every imaginable shape, size and style.
A number of bags also donate proceeds to very worthwhile charities. For example, every purchase of the World Food Programme's FEED bags provides meals to one child in need for an entire school year. Sales of Hayden-Harnett's Friends of AL totes go towards anti-global warming initiatives.
Many exciting offerings have come from mainstream designers. Kenneth Cole designed a simple canvas tote playfully emblazoned, "USE ME AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN... I'M USED TO IT." Fossil has a number of cute organic cotton totes, including one that says, "Earth friendly is the new black." In addition to designers you're already familiar with, many grocery stores (such as Whole Foods, which did away with free plastic bags altogether) offer their own reusable bags for purchase.
Of course, it's pretty obvious that to some extent the eco-bag designation is a marketing ploy. Any bag can be an eco-bag if you use it that way. I wouldn't recommend lugging your fruits and veggies home in your favorite schmantzy bag but to each his own.
Any canvas tote is a great option. Old Navy, Target, J. Crew and Ann Taylor Loft all have a good selection of affordable options. Synthetic beach totes aren't quite as portable (the more durable material makes it more difficult to cram them into a small space when they're not in use) but are way easier to clean in the event of a nasty spill.