The Canvas Grocery Bag That Saves Animals (Reviewing Top 8 Reusable Shopping Bags)

If you’re looking for ways to fight climate change and save animals at the same time, look no further.

A reusable shopping bag is a statement of style, utility and eco-smarts, because it’s a great way to reduce plastic use, but did you know that some can actually help save endangered animals and rebuild habitats.

Keep reading to find out how…

An 8 Billion Trees branded graphic with the title, "7 reasons canvas bags are better than plastic bags" and listing "eco-friendly, protects wildlife, recyclable, stronger, more durable, carbon neutral, sustainable, and healthier" as the reasons.

What’s the Best Reusable Shopping Bag for Animals?

With so many options of reusable bags available, how do you choose?

We’ve made it easy by ranking them based on a number of factors, including weight, style, cost, and other considerations. But first, let’s examine the reasons for ditching the one-use plastic bags that are plaguing the planet.

First Things First: Why It’s Important to Choose an Eco Friendly Bag

By now, you must have heard the news: Plastic is bad for the environment. Here are just a few facts about plastic:

  • The earth is literally drowning in plastic. Although we don’t know exactly how much plastic is in the oceans, according to National Geographic a good estimate is 150 million metric tons.1 And the bad news is, plastic usage is on the rise. In fact, the amount of this man-made substance filtering into the world’s waterways is expected to triple by 2040, reaching over 600 million metric tons. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) has reported the entire earth’s current plastic burden is 6.3 billion metric tons.2 This is the equivalent of approximately one billion African bush elephants. And, EMF has also predicted that by 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean would weigh more than the fish.3
  • Plastic almost never goes away. Plastic sticks around… for like, almost ever. Our World in Data reported that plastic fishing lines take approximately 600 years to degrade while plastic bottles take 450 years to degrade.4
  • Humans are likely consuming plastic. Politico reported in 2019 that plastic pollution is so bad that it’s possible that most people consume plastic without knowing it. They examined an Austrian study of the fecal matter of eight people across Europe, Japan and Russia.5 The results were unnerving: “They found it in every single one. On average, 20 tiny pieces in each 10 grams of stool; given that humans poop on average 400 to 500 grams a day, that means their subjects were likely passing some 800 to 1,000 pieces of so-called microplastic daily.”
  • Plastic might be harming your health. The Center for International Environmental Law states that plastic could indeed have an impact on human health:6

“Microplastics entering the human body via direct exposures through ingestion or inhalation can lead to an array of health impacts, including inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis, which are linked to an array of negative health outcomes including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation, auto-immune conditions, neuro-degenerative diseases, and stroke.”  -Center for International Environmental Law, “Plastic and Human Health a Lifecycle Approach to Plastic Pollution”

Is All Plastic Bad?

Many people wonder, are there any uses for plastic that are still necessary and good? The answer is… Of course.

For instance, a good use of plastic is in medical applications where lives are at stake and there is no viable, eco-friendly alternative…yet.

This is not the case for plastic shopping bags.

An 8 Billion Trees branded graphic of plastic bags being tossed and flooding the ground, to illustrate how 20 minutes of usage needs over 1000 years to erase from the earth.

Plus, “the labels of ‘biodegradable’, ‘bio-based’, and ‘compostable,’ are often claimed and used in marketing contexts, with little understanding for consumers on what these definitions mean in practice,” Our World In Data explained.4

Often, decomposition only happens during prescribed conditions (like specific landfills or garbage centers), not out in nature, and the waste needs to be managed in a particular way to make sure the biodegradable plastics break down properly.

Reusable Shopping Bags or Eco Bags, What’s the Difference?

Some places around the world have banned single-use plastics because of the harm they inflict on the environment.7 However, in some cities where those bans have been implemented, corporations have opted to offer reusable plastic grocery bags instead.

While they are better than single use plastic, they’re only better if people really re-use them… over and over.

Plus, the term “reusable” can often imply something great for the planet. But, just because a bag is reusable doesn’t mean its materials are eco-conscious. Check for canvas grocery bags made from environmentally friendly and sustainable materials before you buy.

Environmental Benefits of Reusable Canvas Grocery Bags: How Do I Choose?

An eco-friendly shopping bag will help you live out the lifestyle of the 3Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Reduce: Reduces waste from disposable store packaging and cuts down fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gases required for the ongoing production of single-use disposable bags.

Reuse: Lowers the burden on natural resources because you can use the same bag for multiple purposes, over and over again.

Recycle: Helps build a better planet through environmentally sustainable and recyclable materials.

Uses Include:

  • Eco friendly Shopping Bag at the Farmers Market and Grocery Store

Keep a few reusable cotton canvas grocery bags in the trunk of your car so they are always ready for a grocery store or farmers’ market run.

  • Environmental Shopping Bag at the Mall

Take smart-looking reusable canvas shopping bags to the mall with you, and say goodbye to all the packaging waste when you buy that new outfit.

  • Environmentally Friendly Shopping Bags for Gifts

Totes are a great gift for friends and family. Keep a few great designs in the gift closet to have on hand, because it’s something everyone can use.

  • A Large Tote Bag for Travel

Extra large canvas tote bags are great for travel. They can function as an airplane carry-on, a beach bag, or simply be used to lug that extra gear that couldn’t fit in your suitcase! In fact, if you plan on shopping at your destination, pack empty canvas grocery bags in your suitcase to bring back any souvenirs.

How Do Fabric Shopping Bags Compare with Mesh Grocery Bags?

Mesh bags are great to grocery shop with, especially for produce, because they are durable and see-through, eliminating the need for single-use plastic in the produce section for your avocados or bananas. Plus, because they are mesh, the checker can just run the bag over a scanner.

Plus, when you get home, you can put the bags right in your fridge. They provide good air circulation for your veggies and are washable. But, they’re not the best for holding smaller items (which can fall through some with larger holes), so in many cases, using both mesh and a reusable shopping bag works perfectly.

Other Purchase Considerations

Don’t forget that animal welfare is important when choosing products of any kind. Make sure that products you purchase are not tested on animals. In addition, support a company or organization that also supports animal rehabilitation. There are several organizations whose purchase proceeds go towards wildlife sanctuaries.

And, if you want to be a real eco- superhero, look for products that are also chemical free, or printed using natural dyes, as well as bags that are biodegradable and sustainable.

A man reaching to an enclosure to touch a howler monkey at Tocantins Fauna Center in Brazil, with an 8 Billion Trees watermark.

Shopping for Carbon Neutrality

Finding ways to reduce or ‘balance’ out the carbon produced by daily life is growing in popularity (that’s great for the Earth!). And, more and more items are achieving carbon neutrality, which means that they didn’t contribute to the CO2 problem, but rather traded activities to ensure that specific amounts of carbon were sequestered from the atmosphere… breaking even.

There are plenty of online options that allow you to take a quiz, like here, to learn exactly how much emissions you generate.

Purchasing carbon neutral products is ideal, and you can check various organizations that certify products as carbon neutral.8 Companies and individuals can also balance out their greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon offsets for any product, to neutralize its impact on the environment.

Some of these go a step further, becoming carbon positive. This means that not only did the company mitigate any carbon emissions from the production process, but it took actions to sequester more CO2 from the atmosphere than it produced.

So, when choosing your eco-friendly tote bag, try to find one that is working to be carbon neutral, or even carbon positive.

Comparing Top 8 Reusable Grocery Tote Bags 2021: Save the Earth & Animals

With reusable bags, there are so many options. Machine washable, convenient, stylish, practical, and environmentally conscious… What more could you want?

Check out these favorites:

Best Strength

Best Vegan Option

Best Strength for the Long Haul

Land’s End Extra Large Canvas Tote Bag

Cost (per Bag)           $44.95 ($44.95)
Maximum Weight     <500 lbs
Rating                        4.8/5

The Good: There is so much customization available with this tote!9 You can choose your preferred size, regular or long handle length, an open top or zip top, and even embroider it with monograms or designs. The bottom and handles are reinforced, and this bag features a water-resistant base and trim.

The Bad: Be sure to read the actual dimensions of what size bag you are ordering. The dimension differences between the different sizes are not uniform, so make certain of the size you need when ordering.

Best Vegan Option

Mr. Eco and Co. Reusable Bags

(Amazon.com)
Cost (per Bag)         $34.99 ($8.75)
Maximum Weight     > 25lbs
Rating                     4.7/5

The Good: Mr. Eco and Co.’s reusable bags simply look good and are great for the environment.10 With a stylish cotton body and vegan leather handles, they’re beautiful and eco-friendly. They also are structured, so they can stand alone upright.

The Bad: These bags claim to be washable, but if you read the fine print, they mean washable by hand. This is likely because the vegan leather handles wouldn’t do well in a washing machine.

Best Style

Best for Saving Animals

Best Style

L. F. Markey Super Shopper Red

(L.F. Markey)
Cost (per Bag)          $44.95 ($44.95)
Maximum Weight     N/A
Rating                      N/A

The Good: This bag features two front pockets with utilitarian closures and silver ring zips,11 making it very handy to use as both a shopping bag and a large purse. With plenty of space to put things, you can put your groceries in the main body, and keep your personal belongings in the pockets.

The Bad: This bag is only washable if you use cold water and do it by hand, so you will have to be careful not to stain it when carrying groceries. It also does not have any information about how much weight it can hold, so be careful.

Best for Saving Animals

8 Billion Trees Reusable Canvas Tote

(8 Billion Trees)
Cost (per Bag)         $20.00 ($20.00)
Maximum Weight     –
Amazon Rating        –
The Good: 8 Billion Trees’ canvas tote bags go a step further than simply reducing the need for plastic. In addition to being completely sustainable, machine washable, and strong, proceeds from these bags are used to erase CO2 emissions through tree-planting and forest establishment projects. Plus, part of their mission involves operations to rehabilitate endangered animals at their wildlife sanctuary, including lemurs, sloths, jaguars and other cute rainforest animals who were harmed because of deforestation. The animals get saved, and their habitats are restored!

The Bad: The bag is available in only one color (although it is a nice, natural look!), and although the size makes it not the best solution for small produce pick ups, it still works just fine.

Best Room, Waterproof

WiseLife Reusable Grocery Bag 3-Pack

(Amazon.com)
Cost (per Bag)          $18.99 ($6.33)
Maximum Weight     33lbs
Amazon                    4.9/5

The Good: Very few products are able to maintain long term popularity, but WiseLife has managed to pull it off.12 These water-resistant bags are large (14” x 11” x 12”), collapsible, and easy to clean, with expandable, durable cardboard sides for stability, and have side handles to help out with heavier loads.

The Bad: You can’t carry it on your shoulder when it’s fully expanded… but you can fit in a lot of stuff!

Best Handmade

Huckberry Steele Tall Natural Canvas Tote

(Huckberry)
Cost (per Bag)          $59.00 ($59.00)
Maximum Weight     N/A
Rating                      N/A

The Good: The reinforced and boxed bottom allows this bag to stand upright for easy packing and unpacking.13 Its tall sides make it perfect for transporting taller items that may fall out of shorter bags. They also are handmade in the U.S., so that means less CO2 emissions.

The Bad: They don’t provide an actual number for how much weight this bag can hold, only that its “Strong canvas and burly construction will hold heavy loads without tearing.”

Best Eco-Favorite

Best Recycled

Best All Around Look-Eco Favorite

Hoibo Wet Wax Box Market Mini

(Hoibo)
Cost (per Bag)          $148.00 ($148.00)
Maximum Weight     N/A
Rating                      4.8/5

The Good: This is a stylish bag, made with vegan leather handles that are dyed with bark instead of synthetic dyes.14 The body is made of oiled cotton twill, which means it will be harder to stain, and it will hold up with groceries. It is handcrafted in the USA, so it has less of a carbon footprint than a bag made in China.

The Bad: This bag is one of the pricier of the best reusable bags, at more than 7x than some of the others listed.

Best Recycled Construction

Freitag Julien Backpackable Tote

(Freitag)
Cost (per Bag)          $180.00 ($180.00)
Maximum Weight     N/A
Rating                      N/A

The Good: These bags are made from reused truck tarps,15 meaning they are helping to reuse, reduce, and recycle. Available in a wide variety of colors and designs, they each feature a backpack strap, a snap hook for your keys, and small inner pockets.

The Bad: Despite the good these bags do in reusing truck tarps, the material is still polyester fabric with PVC coating. This means that if/when you ever decide to get rid of it, you won’t be able to recycle it and it will end up in a landfill. It’s also pricey.

Finding a great reusable shopping bag isn’t too difficult, but finding one that also supports endangered animals really narrows down the choices. The bottom line, with any eco-friendly purchase, is to choose something that you’ll love… because you know if you love it… you’ll use it!

And reducing single-use plastic is something we can all agree on.

Volunteers in 8 Billion Trees vests and colorful clothing working to plant trees at a Kenya reforestation site, with an 8 Billion Trees watermark.
A view of 8 Billion Trees tree-planting volunteers in vests with the Kenya landscape behind them, and an 8 Billion Trees watermark.
Person with a hoe and team members in 8 Billion Trees vests planting trees at a Kenya planting site, with a hill behind them and an 8 Billion Trees watermark.
A man in an 8 Billion Trees vest stooping to plant trees at a Kenya planting site, with an 8 Billion Trees watermark.
A tilted view of 8 Billion Trees volunteers planting tree saplings at a Kenya reforestation site, with an 8 Billion Trees watermark.

References

1National Geographic Society. (2021). Plastic trash flowing into the seas will nearly triple by 2040 without drastic action. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Nationalgeographic.com: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/plastic-trash-in-seas-will-nearly-triple-by-2040-if-nothing-done#close

2Usmani, A. (2018, Arpil 22). World’s Plastic Burden: Weight Of A Billion African Elephants. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Bloombergquint.com: https://www.bloombergquint.com/charts/worlds-plastic-burden-weight-of-a-billion-african-elephants

3Harrington , R. (2017, January 27). By 2050, the oceans could have more plastic than fish. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Businessinsider.com: https://www.businessinsider.com/plastic-in-ocean-outweighs-fish-evidence-report-2017-1

4Ritchie, H. (2018, September 2). FAQs on Plastics. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Ourworldindata.org: https://ourworldindata.org/faq-on-plastics#how-much-plastic-and-waste-do-we-produce

5Hervey, G. (2019, May 5). The plastic in our bodies. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Politico.eu: https://www.politico.eu/article/the-plastic-in-our-bodies-health/

6The Center for International Environmental Law. (2015). Plastic and Human Health: A Lifecycle Approach to Plastic Pollution. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from ciel.org: https://www.ciel.org/project-update/plastic-and-human-health-a-lifecycle-approach-to-plastic-pollution

7Natural Resources Defense Council. (2021). Single-Use Plastics 101. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from nrdc.org: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/single-use-plastics-101

8Horvath, H., & Pardilla, A. (2020, April 28). 17Climate Neutral: How to shop for the best eco-friendly products. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from nbcnews.com: https://www.nbcnews.com/shopping/eco-friendly/climate-neutral-how-shop-certified-eco-friendly-products-n1190891

9Land’s End. (n.d.) Medium Natural Open Top Canvas Tote Bag. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from landsend.com: https://www.landsend.com/products/open-or-zip-top-natural-canvas-tote-bag/id_299717?a%5B%E2%80%A6%5DLq0-i_qWcI-ZgEiwP_9DmhFYw0_PvPsfYLG63atHGyuynixoCP4YQAvD_BwE

10Amazon.com, Inc. (n.d.). Mr Eco&Co Reusable Grocery Bags Heavy Duty – 4 Pack of Washable, Reusable Shopping Bags Made From Strong, Sturdy Leather Handles and 100% Cotton Canvas, Perfect for Shops, Markets or Storage. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Mr-Eco-Co-Reusable-Grocery-Bags-Heavy-Duty-Grocery-Bags-Reusable-Washable-Canvas-Grocery-Bags/dp/B082NSTDFZ

11Markey, L.F. (n.d.) Super Shopper Red. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from lfmarkey.com: https://usa.lfmarkey.com/products/super-shopper-red?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=Google%20Shopping

12Amazon.com, Inc. (n.d.). WiseLife Reusable Grocery Bags 3-Pack Foldable Washable Large Storage Bins Basket Water Resistant Shopping Tote Bag Black, Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/WiseLife-Reusable-Foldable-Washable-Resistant/dp/B08JPZ81JV

13Huckberry. (n.d.) Tall Natural Canvas Tote. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from huckberry.com: https://huckberry.com/store/steele/category/p/63763-tall-natural-canvas-tote

14Hoibo. (n.d.) Hoibo Wet Wax Box Market Mini. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from hoibo.com: https://hoibo.com/products/wet-wax-box-market-mini-grey-natural

15Freitag. (n.d.) F262 JULIEN BACKPACKABLE TOTE M. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from freitag.ch: https://www.freitag.ch/en/f262?productID=863055