Paper, Plastic, or... Kudzu? The Bag Debate Just Got More Interesting

kudzu reusable bag photo

Image credit: Nature Bag

When I wrote about a study suggesting plastic bags might be the greenest option after all, many commenters objected. Pablo's follow up post on the merits and drawbacks of paper versus plastic versus reusable bags provided some more useful numbers, and suggested that buying reusable bags makes most sense—but only if you hold onto them. But the impact of those reusable bags varies, of course, depending on what they are made from and how they are made. That's why my ears pricked up when I heard about handwoven reusable bags made from wild-harvested kudzu. Could this be the greenest option of all?The Nature Bag website suggests that these bags are handwoven by members of the Khmu indigenous minority in Laos, from something they are calling JungleVine™ cord. On closer inspection that JungleVine turns out to be kudzu, which is native to the region, and can be harvested without the need for cultivation or agriculture. The result, they say, is a versatile, elastic and 100% biodegradable textile that's been used for over 5000 years—and an opportunity to support economic empowerment of a marginalized community:

Southeast Asia's poorest make these environment-friendly tote bags at home by hand. Coordination and quality control come from a 23 year-old Laotian student. Skilled volunteers empower our poverty-reduction mission. Funding is entirely private, mainly from an elderly disabled American.

Given the problem that invasive kudzu has become in the USA, maybe someone should try manufacturing these things here too.

More on Plastic, Paper and Reusable Bags
Are Plastic Bags the Greenest option After All?
Ask Pablo: Are Plastic Bags REALLY Better?
Reusable Shopping Bags: Which is the Greenest of them All?

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