Vail: Bring your own bag in style |

Vail: Bring your own bag in style

Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” When I forget to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, I do all that I can to avoid taking the plastic. I stuff celery in my pocket, tuck lemons underneath my chin, sandwich cereal boxes in my armpits and balance a tower of edibles against by midriff all the way out to the car. I’ve even brought home one of those City Market handle baskets, which is, I realize, technically stealing.

I go through this ridiculous juggling act because using plastic bags is the equivalent of wearing a neon sign that blinks the word “lazy.” Bringing your own bag is probably the easiest, cheapest thing you can do for the environment. Unfortunately, the simple act of remembering a canvas bag is the biggest hurdle we face in defeating our plastic bag habit. That and actually caring enough to own reusable bags.

Because my memory has been complicated over the years, I stash reusable bags everywhere. I hang them in my foyer, in my car, near my shoes, in my husband’s car. And when I’m done unpacking the groceries, that bag goes right back from where I grabbed it. I realize this takes a lot of discipline from most of you. Even our little mountain towns are motivating us to kick the bag habit. Vail, Avon and Gypsum have joined the Plastic Bag Reduction Challenge. Of the 26 towns competing, mostly ski resort areas, the winner will receive a $5,000 grant from Alpine Bank to be used to install a solar panel system at a public school.

But instead of blah, blah, blahing over the benefits of using a reusable bag (that’s in the info box) I thought I might tickle your more flippant side and talk about what a cute accessory a canvas bag can be. It can be fashionable, it can be witty, it can cheer for your favorite sports team (Go, Giants!) and it can be art with a handle. Maybe the fact that you look good wearing it will be reason enough to remember it.

Here are some of my favorite reusable bags and where you can buy them.

The bags at Envirosax ( are made of polyester, which is a plastic, but it’s a reusable plastic, lightweight and waterproof, making it a very practical grocery bag. It fits well over your shoulder, holds 44 pounds and it folds down to the size of a coin purse, making it incredibly easy to stick in your coat pocket for whenever you may need it. And they come in a pack of five, affording you the luxury of stashing them in places you actually might find them and then use them.

But besides its practicality, Envirosax are pretty, featuring cool graphic designs, like its new “candy line” reminscient of the 1960s Mod style.

Those who can’t get over the polyester, can opt for Envirosax organic series, tote bags made from bamboo, linen and hemp. These come in natural colors and cool nature-inspired graphics.

The gift Web site sells a bunch of fun canvas totes with sassy sayings that promote saving the planet. My favorites are “Friends don’t let friends trash the earth” and “Real men recycle” and “Your plastic can kiss my canvas.” What would your canvas bag say?

If you’re looking for a bag that’s unique, a little bit edgy and not mass produced, head to, the online one stop shop for all things handmade. Here you can put in a search for “canvas totes” or “shopping bags” and more than 500 styles pop up, and each one is made individually by some art-minded person. Check out the seller Haute Totes Fashionably Fierce Bags. She takes durable vintage vinyl to create large, strong tote bags that will definitely turn heads at City Market. I personally like the Japanese Anime pin-up girl totes, like the hot pink and black “Dragon Princess” and the chic blue and green Kawaii Ninja Teens. For more sophisticated totes, head to Dees Dee Signs Quality Bags shop on

Recycled Cindy from the blog actually takes those nasty plastic bags, turns them into “plarn,” and crochets them into reusable bags that she sells. So crafty. The blog also shows you how to weave your own. So if your plastic bag bank underneath the sink is reaching maximum capacity, time to start this earth-improvement project.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at

1. Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.

2. According to the EPA, more than 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.

3. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)

4. According to the industry publication Modern Plastics, Taiwan consumes 20 billion bags a year ” 900 per person.

5. According to Australia’s Department of Environment, Australians consume 6.9 billion plastic bags each year ” 326 per person. An estimated 0.7 percent or 49,600,000 end up as litter each year.

6. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.

7. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade ” breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.

8. As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected.

9. Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month.

10. Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

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