I have been using canvas bags for grocery shopping for about 13 years now. And though I forget my bags at home or in the car from time to time, I use just about all six of my canvas grocery bags every week – that’s keeping at least 6 plastic bags from going to the landfill every week or 312 plastic bags for the year (give or take). Keep doing the math and you will find that I am personally responsible for keeping 4,056 plastic (or paper) bags from the landfill in my short lifetime. Imagine if we all used canvas bags.

Now you may be thinking that 4,056 plastic bags are really not that much. An estimated 19 BILLION plastic bags make it into our California landfills or landscape each year. Really, what is the difference of eliminating four thousand of those from that huge figure? Let’s keep doing the math. If one person can reduce their use of plastic bags by 312 per year, what about a whole city? San Francisco (right or wrong) has banned the use of plastic bags within its city limits. Now, you may not agree with the ban and I definitely do not agree on the use of disposable alternatives, but what if all the residents and visitors of San Francisco started to use canvas bags instead of any of the other disposable alternatives? With an estimated population of 751,682 and estimating a bag usage of six per week (we know most folks use more so this is a conservative estimate), San Francisco could eliminate the usage of 234,524,784 (234.5 million) plastic bags in one year.

I can keep doing the math, but I still need to convince you to start using canvas bags. I can offer two reasons to use canvas bags.

1.) Canvas bags can be used for just about forever! I still have my first canvas bag. I purchased my very first canvas bag here in Truckee in 1994 at Lucky’s (Albertsons now, soon to be Save Mart). It’s your standard beige canvas bag with black nylon webbing for handles. One side of the bag reads ‘JOIN THE LUCKY ENVIRONMENTAL SAVINGS PLAN’ and the other side reads ‘EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY – SAVE THE PLANET.’ It’s 13 years old and is showing only a small amount of wear on the bottom. As a bonus, once they are past their prime, you can cut up the bag into squares and use them as cleaning rags. When was the last time you bought something that lasted longer than 10 years? Most cars don’t make it that long. And, when was the last time you bought something that once it was broken (or torn) you could use it for something else?

2) Here’s another reason to use canvas bags – express yourself! There are so many companies out there that are so willing to put their trademark and logo on just about anything! Canvas bags included. You can even make a statement about yourself and customize your own bags.

I know that some folks re-use their plastic bags to collect household garbage and their outgoing recyclables. I commend these good people for making an effort to reuse plastic bags. However, in order for all of us to become good stewards of our land we must REUSE, REDUCE and RECYLE. One way to stem the avalanche of plastic bags from making it into landfills is to not use plastic (or paper) at all – use canvas bags.