Tote bags are the new trend! With such a large variety of tote bags out there, who can ever go back to boring, soulless single-use plastics?
While the main reason we’ve transitioned to tote bags seems to be out of a need to save the planet, we’ve grown in love with them so much we’ve gotten used to the idea they’re here to stay.
Besides, tote bags have a lot of personality and charm to them. If coloring your tote bag doesn’t quite satisfy your need for creativity and individuality, you can go wild by emblazoning your favorite logo or design onto it!
Someone new to the tote bag world, however, might have a lot of questions. The ones that come up most frequently concern the differences between the different textile materials used in the production of tote bags.
Well, confuse yourself no longer! We’ve explained the main differences in tote bag materials below so that you know exactly what you’re getting into. After all, why buy something that’s touted as being eco-friendly if you don’t even know what makes it special?
Phase-out of Plastic Bags
The biggest reason for what seems to be a worldwide adoption of the tote bag concept is that the planet is being affected by so much pollution that our future looks very, very grim. Our society depends on the use of fossil fuels and petrol products for many critical components, which means we cannot stop using them.
On the other hand, fossil fuels are one of the biggest producers of greenhouses gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. If you need a good analogy, these gases are essentially thick black smoke that is slowly choking our planet to death and leaves it struggling for breath.
Although we still have a very long way to go until we prevent an early death for Mother Earth, governments and communities from across the globe have already started taking measures against global warming and pollution.
One such initiative is the phase-out of lightweight plastic bags. Whether you know it or not, the single-use plastic bags we use on supermarket trips consume a lot of fossil fuels for production - which are a finite resource we’ll soon run out of - and also don’t decay as expected. What’s even worse is that recycling them is very difficult.
As such, some governments have taken to banning the sale of single-use plastics or applying a tax so as to dissuade and discourage their use. The government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was the first to have done so in 2002, with various American states like California following close suit - with more on the way.
Misconceptions About Recycling
Despite popular belief, recycling is a very difficult, inconvenient, and taxing process. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this, one of which is the fact that companies from across the world have fooled us by applying a logo that looks like the recycling symbol onto their products - even though it’s not the recycling symbol!
Think, for example, of the logo representing three arrows in a rounded, triangular loop with a number in the middle and the words “PET” stamped underneath. Sounds like a very familiar image you can probably summon up without even trying, right?
Well, surprise - that logo has absolutely nothing to do with recycling. It can be helpful for recycling purposes, but it does not denote recyclability! Instead, that symbol specifies the type of plastic resin used during the production of the product. Sure, some companies state that these Resin Identification Codes are used to recycle their items, and this is theoretically the reason for their existence.
But more often than not, that is a complete and utter lie.
That level of misdirection, for example, was one of the many such attempts at maintaining a good public image sparked during several corporate crises happening after WWII. The public became exposed to how environmentally-damaging some businesses are, and when they started complaining, the corporations answered by pretending their products were fully recyclable and bio-friendly with a fake logo that looks like the recycling symbol.
Smart - very smart. Devilishly smart, in fact!
Why Is Recycling Plastics Hard?
The reason behind the difficulty of recycling plastics is that they can’t just be mashed together into one cohesive whole. If one type of plastic comes into contact with a different type, then they’re both going to be contaminated by each other, which means that you cannot recycle them any longer.
This means that plastic bags are stored separately (and indefinitely) in closed spaces until the perfect conditions for recycling are met. And, spoiler: they’re rarely met. To further accentuate how inconvenient recycling is, most plastic bags have been dyed with ink, which, again, makes recycling them almost impossible.
Switching to Reusable Tote Bags
So one thing is clear: single-use plastic bags are bad. But what alternatives do we have? Thankfully, tote bags are the perfect solution to the carrier problem. Because not only are they reusable, look better, and are more stylish, but you can also wash a tote bag!
There are many reasons to use tote bags. For example, tote bags:
- Look really cool and colorful. There are a lot of designs you can express your character and personality with!
- Save the environment by avoiding fossil fuel use. Reducing your carbon footprint is among the most conscientious and respectful choices you could make for yourself and those around you.
- Decay at the same rate as food waste, meaning you can throw them in the woods, come back after a month, and notice they’ve been completely eaten up by the ground.
And more! But in the end, it depends on what you need a tote bag for. Because there’s more than one type of tote bag! Respectively, tote bags can be made from canvas, cotton, or Jute, which can leave a newcomer scratching their heads in confusion.
Well, let’s clear it all up.
Canvas Tote Bags
Tote bags made from canvas are by far the most common. After all, they’re easy to produce and quite the workhorses. Canvas tote bags are made from cotton that has been spun using what is called a “plain weave technique,” which is the secret behind its strength.
It is for this reason that canvas tote bags are considered all-rounders. Regardless of your situation, a canvas bag will always be better than a single-use plastic bag in every aspect, ranging from durability to hand comfort.
While canvas tote bags aren’t explicitly difficult to produce, they are, on the other hand, resource-consuming. We can’t say they’re doing close to as much harm as plastic bags, but we’re still doing experiments and finding ways on how we can make them even more eco-friendly!
The best choice for a tote bag that is going to stand by your side and last you a long time is to probably opt for a canvas tote bag.
Jute Tote Bags
There are so many people that have never heard of Jute! And who’s to blame, really? In some parts of the world, Jute is almost completely unheard of, and for good reason: it just doesn’t grow there!
In places where it does grow, however - mostly in Asia - then Jute is a great material for any textile-based product. Jute is a tough fiber that is woven from several flowering plants, having been used in human history for thousands of years and to great effect.
There are several aspects that make Jute different from its counterparts. First is that Jute feels quite rough and rugged to the touch, making it a perfect bag for outdoorsy types or people who enjoy whiskey, woodcutting, or touching tree roots for catharsis.
Jute isn’t all harsh, though! It can also be a very extravagant material if used properly, such as with this canvas Jute pouch you can use to store your phone, money, or credit cards.
Cotton Tote Bags
If canvas is balanced, and Jute is more rugged, then obviously, cotton must be softer to the touch. Is that what you were guessing?
What - did you think I’d prove you wrong? You’re 100% right, so congratulations, you intelligent you! The main reason some people prefer cotton tote bags is that they’re lighter and softer than their counterparts, helping provide a cozier shopping or carrying experience.
Furthermore, cotton tote bags are very convenient for the environment. The production of cotton and the creation of these bags isn’t half as taxing as some alternatives, such as using plastics. Unfortunately, they are also slightly less durable than canvas or Jute tote bags.
If you’re primarily thinking of buying a comfortable tote bag to alleviate the worst of what you have to carry, then a cotton bag is probably the perfect fit for you. Take this string cotton tote bag, for example, which looks extravagantly stylish and mind-numbingly casual at the same time.
The cherry on top is that it feels nice when carried around as well. Gone are the days of cutting your palms!
Tote Bags Are The Answer
We’d like to mention tote bags aren’t magic. They’re very close to, but not quite. Just because you purchase tote bags instead of single-use plastic bags isn’t going to make all that much of a difference in the long run. Producing tote bags costs resources and also produces greenhouses gases, so they aren’t created in a vacuum.
The secret to tote bags is reusing them. Buying a tote bag only to throw it away after a single use is actually worse than buying a single-use plastic bag, if only by a minuscule amount.
Therefore, reusing your tote bags at least three times before discarding them is much better than using a plastic bag. The environment will thank you, and that’s without bringing up the fact you can use a tote bag up to a hundred times or more, depending on the material.
Among adopting the concept of reusable bags, you should also consider taking more organic alternatives to everyday items and activities. If you’ve ever thought about making compost or are in the habit of doing it, then a couple of wholesale compostable bags could make a huge difference in efficiency and convenience.
Shop Efficiently, Shop Responsibly
It’s easy to just say yes when the cashier asks if you’d like a plastic bag for what you’ve bought. But it’s also irresponsible and serves to accelerate the demise of our planet. Next time, consider bringing your own tote bag with you and reusing it as many times as possible.
It might not seem like much, but in the end, it’s going to make a difference. At one point or another, someone in the world is going to discard a toxic, non-recyclable item that will be the final nail in the coffin when it comes to our struggle against pollution.
Do you want to be that person?