Why Should I Use Canvas Grocery Bags?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are several reasons to choose to use canvas grocery bags or reusable grocery bags made from other materials. Some environmental organizations push the use of such bags, pointing out that reusable bags can be a small change with a big difference, but the uses of these bags go beyond the benefits to the environment. Many grocery stores carry canvas grocery bags, as do some department stores that want to provide an environmentally-friendly option to their customers.

Canvas bags are a better choice than paper grocery bags.
Canvas bags are a better choice than paper grocery bags.

From an environmental perspective, canvas grocery bags are better choices than paper or plastic bags. Canvas tends to be more environmentally friendly to produce than paper or plastic, and because these bags are designed to be re-used, consumers get a lot of mileage out of a single bag. Turning to re-usable supplies is viewed as more environmentally friendly than using disposable products, many of which wind up in landfills because a community lacks the ability to recycle them.

Canvas bags allow shoppers to reduce the amount of plastic they use when buying groceries.
Canvas bags allow shoppers to reduce the amount of plastic they use when buying groceries.

Plastic grocery bags have a number of environmental drawbacks, with the use of petroleum being only one example. When plastic grocery bags are not recycled or landfilled, they end up in the natural environment, where they can cause a wide range of problems. Animals may choke on or become entangled in such bags, and if plastic reaches the ocean, it can linger there for thousands of years. While the bags may eventually break down, they can poison a wide assortment of sea creatures along the way. Paper bags will biodegrade much more quickly, but they still require the use of timber, a resource which some people would prefer to see left in forests.

Canvas grocery bags are also much sturdier than regular grocery bags, for consumers who are not persuaded by the environmental arguments. As anyone who has had a bag break open in the parking lot knows, it can be very frustrating to lose a batch of groceries to a poorly-constructed grocery bag. Canvas bags can hold much more weight than regular grocery bags, and they can easily be washed in the event of leaks or spills.

They also have uses beyond the grocery store. Canvas grocery bags can be used to pick up books at the library or to carry other shopping, for example, and they make great beach bags because of their sturdiness and washability. For people who don't want to carry around a grocery store logo, canvas grocery bags can be turned inside out and left plain or stenciled with new designs, and some companies sell plain bags which people can dye or decorate to taste.

Canvas tote bags are reusable and better for the environment than paper or plastic.
Canvas tote bags are reusable and better for the environment than paper or plastic.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I love the new eco route that canvas bags take. I just don't want as many fake ones made in a factory with a lot of lead in them.


I personally don't want to be a walking billboard, free bag or not! And the majority of bags given out for free or sold for under $2 are still made of plastic and are destined for the landfill. I bought beautiful bags online that come with produce bags. I have been using them for three years and they still look great. My friends were so envious that I have had to buy them all the same bag for birthday gifts.

I am sure there are lots of great sites that have nice bags. I like these because the tote is really big and it comes with reusable produce bags.


Where can I get free canvas grocery bags? Surely there must be a place. I don't mind if they are plastered with a logo as long as they are free.

I have wanted to switch to using them for a while but I just can't bring myself to pay 5 bucks for something that I could get for free. They are a nice idea but also kind of a racket; just a way for you to leave more of your money in the store.


I am loving the trend of reusable canvas grocery bags. Just a few years ago they were pretty uncommon and now I feel like half the people at my store use them. Not only do they tend to be more convenient, holding more items and being sturdier than the average grocery bag. They are so much better for the earth.

I am appalled sometimes when I see people walk out of the store with 8 or 10 plastic grocery bags, all of their items individually wrapped and double bagged. What are these people thinking? Don't they know that that plastic bag will be on this earth longer than they will? In the smallest, easiest way possible, it just makes sense to use canvas bags.

Canvas grocery bags are great, but you can go one step further and do even more good for the earth by simply reusing the plastic grocery bags that many of us have stored in our house.

I remember thinking that I should buy reusable grocery bags and then realizing that I had hundreds of them already saved up in my kitchen. A plastic grocery bag is not single use. It can be used dozens of times. So I stick a few in my pocket before I go to the store and then I avoid using anything new, whether it be plastic or canvas. Remember, it goes, reduce, reuse, recycle and then think of buying something new.

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