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Eco-Challenge: Pick your produce plastic-free

 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

A colorful array of produce sits on a gray countertop in green and white reusable mesh produce bags

As part of our commitment to Earth via our Laudato Si’ Action Plan, we are inviting everyone who shares in our charism to take a monthly Eco-Challenge with us.

When shopping for produce, consider mesh or string bags instead of plastic bags

This June, learn new ways to stop using plastic bags when shopping for vegetables and fruits at the market. How about using recyclable mesh bags or string bags?

Mesh produce bags and string bags can replace the thin single-use plastic bags available in most stores. The string bags are larger and can be used for more than produce. The mesh bags are primarily for fresh fruits and vegetables. Mesh and string bags allow one to identify quickly the contents in the bag and provide excellent air circulation. Bags of onions, potatoes and garlic can be hung by the strings to give extra space in a pantry. Mesh bags work well for refrigeration storage of thick-skinned produce like apples, oranges, cucumbers, etc.

Sustainable produce bags: What you need to know

There are many factors to consider when you decide what grocery bags and produce bags are best for you and the environment. It is important to consider:

  • The full life cycle of the kind of bags you will use,
  • How long you will use them, and
  • How you will dispose of them.

Here are a few helpful pieces of information to consider.

Although thin plastic bags, available at many stores, take the least amount of energy to produce, they can only be effectively recycled once or twice, and few people actually recycle them. Many people use them a second time for trash, but that means they go straight to the landfill. They are not biodegradable, often blow away and break down into microplastics that harm the environment.

So what about the energy (usually from fossil fuels) needed to make more reusable options? It’s true that other options use more energy in their production phase. However, cotton, canvas, paper and recycled plastic bags are not single-use products, so over time, they reduce the number of plastic bags needing to be produced.

These options are biodegradable or recyclable:

  • Non-woven polypropylene bags—often made of recycled plastic—are durable and washable. After 11 uses, they will have offset the energy used to produce plastic bags for stores.
  • Canvas bags are durable, sturdy and washable. With two to three years of use, they offset the energy used to produce compared to thin plastic bags.
  • Cotton bags are biodegradable and washable. It takes 5 years to offset the energy used to produce them compared to plastic bags. Please remember to wash these bags to prevent contamination.
  • Paper bags are easy to recycle, biodegradable, and 68.1% of paper consumed in the United States is recycled. It takes four times as much energy to produce a paper bag as it takes to produce a plastic bag, but if a bag is reused three times, then it has the same energy impact as a thin plastic bag.
  • Mesh bags are made to be used and reused again and again. Mesh produce bags and string bags are very versatile and can be used in many ways. The open weave makes it very easy to find things inside the bag.

“For the first time since CivicScience started tracking the data, the number of Americans who use reusable shopping bags has eclipsed the number of Americans who rarely or never use them.”

“Older American Women Leading the Reusable Bag Charge,” CivicScience

Why does this matter?

We can each make the decision to use or not use reusable bags for produce instead of plastic! Take time to view the video below to learn more about the effect of plastic in our oceans.

Take the Eco-Challenge

How many of these actions will you take this month?

  • Check to see where you can purchase reusable mesh bags and/or string bags.
  • Find a crochet pattern for a string or market bag.
  • Forego plastic bags for your vegetables or fruits at the supermarket.
  • Talk to at least one other person about using mesh bags or string bags instead of plastic bags.

🛍️Win a set of bags!

Enter our contest to win one of several varieties of cotton, recycled plastic or mesh produce bags. We’ll choose four lucky winners on June 15 and four more on June 30.

Spread the word

  • Leave a comment about how you’re taking the challenge below.
  • Invite others to take the June Eco-Challenge by sharing our post on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Eco-Challenge: Pick your produce plastic-free”

  1. Avatar

    I’ve been using recyclable grocery bags for some time. For my challenge I will look into a knitting pattern for such bags, and then try to get them sold at the gift shop at our retirement center.

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About us

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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