The 8 Best Eco-Friendly Reusable Grocery Bags of 2022

Our top pick is ChicoBag Original Tote.

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Asian man unpacking groceries at kitchen island

Zuraisham Salleh | Getty Images

Reusable bags are here to stay. Slowly but surely, disposable bags are being phased out, city by city and country by country. Canvas, nylon, polyester, or recycled plastic bags are not just eco-friendly, but they also can hold a lot more stuff than flimsy high-density polyethylene (HDPE). They’re also much more comfortable to carry, either over the shoulder or in the hand. 

But the point of a reusable bag is that it will stand the test of time—not one or two, but hundreds of trips to the supermarket. Otherwise, it’s just contributing to the waste problem. Ideally, reusable bags should be made from an environmentally preferable material. But durability has to be first; an ‘eco’ bag that has to be replaced after 10 uses is less environmentally friendly than one that’s made from plastic but lasts 1,000 uses or more. 

Look for bags that are easily washable, both for the inevitable spills that will occur and also for basic hygiene—you’re often carrying food in them, after all. They should look good, too, because, of course, we all use things we find appealing more than those we find unattractive. 

Ahead, our recommendations for the best reusable bags for groceries and more.

Best Overall: ChicoBag Original Tote

4.8
ChicoBag Original Tote

Amazon

ChicoBags hits all the sustainability marks and then some: Made from 100% recycled polyester (from recycled soda bottles), ChicoBags carry up to 25 pounds and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Each has its own pouch—and each pouch includes a carabiner so it can be attached to keys, a belt, or another bag. They’re inexpensive, at around $8 each and can be used for the long haul.

Price at time of publish: $32

Best Budget: BeeGreen Reusable Grocery Bag, 10-Pack

4.5
BeeGreen Reusable Grocery Bag, 10-Pack

Courtesy of Amazon

At around $20 for 10, these basic-but-still-colorful bags are a bargain. The flat-bottomed design can carry up to 50 pounds, and each one wraps up into a tiny roll. Reinforced handles are long enough to hang over your shoulders for easier carrying. They're machine washable and come with a one-year no-rip guarantee. These bags are durable and comfortable on your shoulders when carting heavy loads.

Price at time of publish: $23

Best Large-Capacity: Baggu Big Baggu

4.8
Baggu Big Baggu

 Courtesy of Baggu

The Big Baggu lives up to its name. Able to hold up to 50 pounds, it’s generously sized at 33 inches tall. It can be worn over the shoulder for easier hauling, and all Baggu bags (they make kids- and medium-sized bags, too) are made from ripstop nylon that’s 40% recycled from pre-consumer waste. The seams are double-stitched, and the bag body is made from one continuous piece of fabric, lending strength to the design.

Price at time of publish: $18

Best for Kids: Baggu Baby Baggu

4.8
Baggu Baby Baggu

Courtesy of Baggu

If you need a bag for individual purchases or kid, Baby Baggu bags are just the ticket. Again made with ripstop nylon that’s 40% pre-consumer recycled, these miniature versions still can hold 50 pounds like the bigger Baggu. Think lunch, kids' books, a six-pack of soda, and so on.

Price at time of publish: $30

Best for Heaviest Loads: L.L. Bean Boat and Tote, Open-Top

4.9
L.L. Bean Boat & Tote

 Courtesy of L.L. Bean

These iconic canvas bags have handles that are tested to hold up to 500 pounds because they were originally designed in 1944 to haul ice. They come in a variety of sizes (and two handle lengths), can be monogrammed, and last for decades. Made in Maine, they are bulky but do fold flat-ish, so they're great when riding in the car or on a bike (the smaller version with the short handles can balance on handlebars well) but not really for carrying around on a regular basis while on foot.

Price at time of publish: $35

Best Design: Envirosax Bag

4.8
Envirosax

Courtesy of Envirosax 

Since 2004, Envirosax has been making bags out of polyester that’s water-resistant and printed with lead-free and low-impact dyes. The regular size carries up to 44 pounds of weight and is so tough it can last for a decade or longer. Seriously, you can spill everything imaginable in these bags, wash and dry them every which way, and they'll hold their color and shape. The company has dozens of prints as well as print collections to fit anyone’s personal style, from classic designs to modern, art-inspired, and styles are always changing.

Best Canvas: EcoBags Organic Cotton Canvas Tote

4.8
EcoBags Organic Cotton Canvas Tote

 Courtesy of EcoBags

Made from 100% organic cotton canvas, these bags have nice long handles for comfortable shoulder-carrying. The flat bottoms allow for easier packing but still fold flat for storage. EcoBags is a woman-owned, certified B-corporation (with a triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit) and has been working with its factory in India for over 20 years, ensuring both fair pay for workers and extended health coverage, retirement benefits, vacations, and holidays for employees.

Price at time of publish: $13

Best Backpack: Girlfriend Backpack

4.6
Girlfriend Backpack

If you like to take a backpack for your walk or bike ride to the grocery store, you’ll want something that’s heavy duty and washable. This sleek backpack is available in five colors has a roomy interior. It has padded adjustable straps and two non-zippered side pockets that are perfect for stashing bottles. 

But what we really love is that this bag is not only made from recycled water bottles, but itself can be recycled through the ReGirlfriend program. You can machine wash it on cold, and let it air dry flat.

Price at time of publish: $82

Final Verdict

Our top choice for a reusable grocery bag is the ChicoBag Original Tote. However, if you need to carry really heavy loads, consider the extra-sturdy the Open-Top Boat and Tote.

What to Look for in a Reusable Grocery Bag

Material

Canvas bags are ubiquitous, given away for magazine subscriptions, nonprofit donations and promotions. Many of us end up with a collection of these bags, but are they eco-friendly? They can be, but look for organic cotton if you are going to buy them, and opt for lighter-weight bags that can fold and be carried easily. While growing cotton does use a lot of water to grow, it’s also biodegradable (as long as it’s 100% cotton). “While organic cotton is better, both conventional and organic cotton use a significant amount of water, so the environmental impact of the fabric bag is directly proportional to its weight,” says energy and sustainability management consultant Pablo Päster.

Easy to Pack

By now, remembering our bags at the grocery store has become a habit for many of us. It doesn’t hurt that many supermarkets have signs reminding us to bring them in. But remembering them at other times can be a challenge—the simplest way not to forget? Keep bags in your handbag, backpack, in your pocket, on your keychain, or in the bowls with your keys and sunglasses by the front door.

Most reusable bags are designed from light material that can easily roll up to be secured with a band or snap, and others will fold into a pocket that’s made from part of the bag itself. When you unpack them, throw them right back into your bag or clip them back onto your keychain. Canvas bags can be slung over the shoulder while empty and still look great (plus you can put a couple of extra bags in the otherwise empty one).

FAQs

Are reusable grocery bags washable?

Yes, most reusable bags are made from cotton canvas or a lighter cotton fabric, nylon or polyester, and all of those can go right in the washing machine. Use whatever detergent you normally do. . Line-dry most of your bag, or tumble dry on low. The only types of reusable bags that you shouldn’t put in the washing machine are waxed cotton bags, which need to be wiped down using a sponge soaked with soapy water.

Are reusable grocery bags unsanitary?

They are if you never wash them—and you should, considering you put food in them. In a University of Arizona study, fully 97% of participants said they never washed their reusable bags. When scientists tested bags collected from Tucson, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and tested them, half were found to contain fecal coliform bacteria and 8% tested positive for E. coli. The study also found hand or machine-washing reduced bacteria by 99.9%. 

Can you recycle reusable grocery bags?

For the most part, no, because most nylon and polyester bags can’t be recycled. Cotton totes aren’t recyclable although they might be downcycled if you donate them to a used clothing store that makes shoddy (stuffing used for some furniture) from processed textiles). Cotton totes may be biodegradable if they are 100% cotton, not stitched with a polyester thread, and not printed on with anything other than biodegradable dyes. 

You can reuse totes that are worn or stained by washing them and then using them for clothing storage; food storage (they are ideal for storing potatoes and onions because they let air in but keep sun/light away);  or shoe storage. If you donate food to a bank or charity, provide it in reusable bags they can pass along for use by their clients. You also can use them as gift bags, give them away at the supermarket to anyone who doesn’t have one with them, or leave them filled with clothes and other items when you donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Starre Vartan has been covering sustainable consumer products for 15 years, 10 of those with Treehugger (under the MNN brand). She’s also a science writer who has covered biotech, astrobiology, animals, women’s health, and space for a variety of publications including Scientific American and National Geographic. She has personally tested compostable packaging in her backyard compost heap, a variety of solar chargers, hybrid cars, and other products meant to leave a lighter footprint.

Arricca SanSone updated this article. She washes her reusable bags frequently so she never worries about germs transferring to her groceries.

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