I have a reusable bag problem.
These things are all over my apartment. They’ve eaten the hooks in the hallway, keep falling off the hook in the kitchen, and often can be found strewn about the living room where I’ve tossed them or emptied them when I come home. I have a reusable bag filled with reusable bags in my bedroom. My fiancé wants them gone, but despite my adept organizing and purging skills, I still have dozens. Shhh, honey. It’s OK.
Reusable totes are elegant. Usually in unbleached off-white with black lettering, occasionally in black or with punchy-colored logos, they have become my own personal It bags. I have no interest in a quilted Chanel purse, or anything with an interlocking V and L. Leather bags are too heavy (and often cruel), and faux-leather vegan bags look sad and cheap.
No, I would rather slip my Claire V. wallet and keys into a slim, black tote with Reformation or Modavanti stamped on the outside, or proudly stride down the street with a Zady bag over my shoulder. I want my bags to have life-affirming messages, like, “Respect Earth and Party On” (Susty Party), or “Be Beautiful, Be Yourself” (ABC Carpet & Home). I want to put my purchases into a bag that says, “No Thanks,” after I’ve said the same to a Duane Reade employee trying to bag my stuff in plastic. I think an Elephant Journal tote says much more about who I am than a pink Kate Spade bag ever could, plus invites conversation. The “Fuck Weddings,” tote certainly has sparked delight among strangers and friends alike, and I will continue to wear it even as I begrudgingly fall into the wedding-industrial complex this year.
These bags are my humblebrags. They tell the world that I’m not fancy or striving, that I use what I have around, and also that I patronize brands that have social good at the core of their mission. They say, “I give a shit.” Designer label bags, I feel, say, “I dropped a bunch of money on this because a marketing campaign told me to.”
Who says sustainability costs more? These bitches are free! And washable!
I know it is not the most sustainable to have a million of them. But I wonder how much in resources a simple cotton bag uses compared to a leather purse with zippers, rivets, latches, pockets and lining? One-fifth the resources? One-tenth? One-twentieth? One fiftieth? Many of these reusable bags are made from organic cotton right in the United States. The best ones lay flat and have three materials: the fabric, the thread, and the ink, while regular purses have more than 10 materials that are shipped across the world to be put together in Asia, then shipped here. When reusable totes fall apart, I can throw them in the textile recycling bin at my local farmer’s market and complete the circle. You cannot do that with a typical purse that is falling apart – it will end up in the landfill.
I know that I am not a typical consumer. I am not even a typical sustainable consumer. I have all these bags because as a blogger I am forever attending events at which brands put their gifts in reusable bags, or I receive free samples for testing inside a branded bag. But I bet you have a bunch of these, too.
So wear them, and wear them with pride! Embrace the simplicity and the self-congratulatory aspect. Yes! You are a conscious consumer! Serve as a walking advertisement for your favorite sustainable brands – they deserve your support. Wear them until the threads break and the fabric stains. Then thank them for their service and put them in the textile recycling bin.
Caring has become chic, my dear readers. Totes are status symbols. The truly fashionable know that.
Dear readers, do you use your reusable bags as purses? Tell me in the comments.