Environmentally-friendly shopping bags include handled bags designed to carry varying amounts of groceries as well as specialty bags designed to protect and gather unpackaged foods such as produce. Green shopping bags come in a variety of sizes, colors, and materials. Many grocery stores now sell inexpensive environmentally-friendly shopping bags at a low cost to customers and even offer a small cash credit to shoppers who bring in their own reusable bags or reuse paper or plastic bags from previous shopping trips.
For many people, a handled tote-style bag works well for carrying groceries, making these perhaps the most popular type of environmentally-friendly shopping bags. For durability, many people like bags that are made from tough canvas, as the sturdiness of this material minimizes the risk of tears and spills. Canvas is also washable, which means the bag can easily be cleaned and reused many times. Some companies sell shopping tote bags that are made from plastic, which tend to be less expensive and lighter than canvas and in many cases are either made from recycled plastic or are recyclable.
Some retailers sell insulated tote bags that can protect the temperature of hot or cold foods during a shopper's trip home. Although the materials used in this type of reusable shopping bag may not be technically green, these bags allow people some time to get their cold, frozen, or hot groceries home. This means that shoppers may not have to use a car to transport themselves and their groceries and can instead enjoy a walk or take public transportation, which reduces fuel consumption.
Another option are string mesh bags, which easily expand or contract to the size and shape of the items held in the bag. One advantage to string bags is that they take up very little space when not being used so it is easy for someone to tuck a couple of string bags into a purse or even a coat pocket so that they are handy for shopping trips. Many people also like to use these bags as beach totes, as they do not collect sand in the way that a fully enclosed bag will. The disadvantage of these bags is that small items can fall through the mesh holes. In addition, they are typically not suited to carrying large amounts of groceries.
Some purveyors of environmentally-friendly shopping bags offer alternative produce in bulk-item bags made out of very thin material of a comparable weight to the plastic bags that are frequently available in grocery stores. These very thin bags are reusable and washable and prevent the need for using individual plastic bags for the one-time purchase of produce, nuts, or other foods that are not already packaged. The customer who uses these little bags can place the items he wants in the bag and bring them to be weighed by a checkout line clerk. The bags do not add any weight to the products and do not add any waste to landfills, as they can be reused on the shopper's next grocery run.