The Bare Minimum

July 10th

Earthy market bags

Want to help the earth, but didn’t make it to the concerts this weekend? Can’t afford to purchase a Prius or are just too lazy to figure out the bus schedule? Good news: you can still help.

The very least we can all do is to stop using plastic grocery bags whenever possible. Carrying your own cup to the coffee shop, recycling clothing and other goods at thrift stores, buying locally, walking/carpooling/using public transport and consuming less by principle earn bonus points in my book.

When some friends asked if I’d mind sewing them some canvas market bags, I jumped at the chance. Sew for a good cause? Absolutely!


What is your favorite environmentally-friendly practice?


Posted in
CAOK, Domestic Art, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse
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44 Responses

  1. Not buying paper towels or paper napkins — once you get used to not having them around, you never miss them. We use all cloth dishtowels and napkins. I really like my reuseable fabric shopping bags too!

  2. Love the canvas shopping bag and need to make one for myself so I can contribute to protecting the earth. My favorite thing I do for the environment is to make all my own cleaning products from safe and natural ingredients.

  3. Great bags…love the tree fabric…I’ve been thinking myself recently about needing to sew up a few more for my friends and family.

    Outside of stuff like recycling/composting, biking as much as possible instead of driving, turning off anything using electricity that isn’t needed, I think my ‘favorite’ practice or one that I really try hard to do is think about what I’m buying…I refuse to buy bottled water…I won’t buy things that come individually wrapped…if it’s packaged, I try to stick with stuff I know can be recycled.

  4. Love the bags! Very cute.

  5. Using cloth diapers. Using rags instead of paper towels to clean. Using earth friendly cleaning products. Buying local and organic thru the CSA. Not turning on the lights during the day. Using Klean Kanteens for water instead of water bottles. Bringing my own EcoBags to the market. Recycling as much as we can – glass, cardboard, paper, plastics. Only using “safe” plastics like #1 and #5. Composting. Using the library instead of buying books. Combining all my errands into one trip instead of spreading them out over days reducing gas and emissions. Feeding our animals a holistic diet. Using “green” and cruelty-free soaps, lotions, hair products and makeup. Resoling shoes instead of buying new ones when we can – i.e. Birkenstocks. I coudl go ON AND ON!

  6. I’m trying really hard not to dry clean as much, but I always take the hangers back.

  7. Well, absolutely no bottled water, I have cloth bags for shopping, hang my laundry out to dry, turn off lights not in use, turn off power bar for computer and tv at night. I can’t use the bus or bicycle because of disability but try to combine shopping trips and errands. Grow organic veggies and fruit but trying to buy locally is difficult. Just about everything comes from U.S. or China, in winter especially all our veggies come from California. I rarely take stuff to dry cleaners and I recycle and compost like a fiend. We have serious garbage issues in Toronto and will be restricted to ONE green garbage bag every TWO weeks come September…should be fun.

  8. very cool, kelli – i’ve been meaning to use up a bunch of my … not favorite fabrics by making a bunch of bags.

    my favorite thing to do is use a swamp cooler instead of a/c and hang dry clothes.

  9. Carrying my own bags to the grocery store, and when I have too many groceries for my totes, I use their bags for other things instead of tossing them. We started composting last year and saw a huge reduction in our garbage. My husband takes the bus and loves it! Also, I’m trying to buy more local produce and even started a garden for the most local produce of all! I love trying to figure out different ways to be kind to the earth, so I’ll be watching the comments on this post!!

  10. Well, it would have to be the good ol’ cloth napkins. It’s about the most eco-friendly thing I manage on a regular basis, aside from consolidating my errands to cut down on driving. I seem to have a mental block about the whole bring-my-own-shopping bag thing (I thought, as I stood in line at Target loading the blasted plastic bags AGAIN!)

  11. Love the bags! The tree fabric is really nice. I use re-usable bags for the groceries, made up a bunch of fabric napkins, hang the clothes out when I can. Recycle as much as possible.

  12. My favorite unexpected environmentally-friendly fact was reading about how much energy you save if you first let your food cool BEFORE putting it in the fridge. 🙂

  13. i turn the sink off while i brush my teeth. that’s the main one. i complain to ian that he’s wasting water because he lets the shower run several minutes to let the water warm. it’s become a source of contention for us, but i have no way to convince him that i am right.

  14. 1. Your bags are way cute!

    2. Anything I can think of or see someone else doing. Including: keeping a couple cloth bags in my purse for all shopping trips, using cloth napkins, organic veggie gardening, only washing the car when it goes in for 3K mile maintenance, replacing landscaping with drought tolerant plants, buying local, driving a hybrid, carpooling in the hybrid, using fans vs AC (not that I have a choice), buying organic, going paperless at the office, turning off the water when brushing teeth, washing and reusing plastic zippie bags, ditching fabric softener, buying energy star appliances, recycle anything and everything – then reuse whatever’s left and looking into the possibility of putting solar panels on our house for energy.

  15. save the earth. look like a million bucks. what’s the down side again?

  16. I have been busy making market bags this weekend myself! I copied a target bag. Well, I had it in my hand and don’t you know the clerk handed me the goods in a plastic bag and I was so tired this morning I walked out carrying an empty market bag and a full plastic bag. I guess change takes time!

  17. love the tree fabric! i couldn’t think of a more perfect fabric for the purpose.

    wow, what do we do to help the earth? we recycle, we don’t buy needless “stuff”, we always donate old clothing and other items, buy used when we can (or free), and we try to be careful about our energy useage (cfl bulbs).

    i need to do the grocery bag thing. i saw some cute bags for sale on delight just for shopping, and since i am not a great seamstress i may have to invest in them.

    🙂 happy tuesday!

  18. The bags look great!!

    I am very good about turning off and unplugging (electricity still runs, even if the appliance isn’t on!) eletrical things. Organic gardening, thrift shopping, and recycling. We bring all our boxes and papers to the dump where they have a huge recycle bin.

    Now, I need to make myself some of those bags because I keep coming home with like a million plastic bags!!

  19. I do lots of the stuff mentioned above (Yay for everybody!), but my two favorites are…

    Worm composting- I do it inside, all year round (and it doesn’t stink). They eat everything but meat and dairy, so we throw out a whole lot less. And I’ve encouraged and helped bunches of other people to set up their own bins (and given them the worms to start the process).

    Reusing Glass Bottles- Well, it’s actually a project that I’ve just recently started and I’m still working out the kinks. Everybody knows that plastic bottles are bad, bad, bad,(for you and the environment) but I really like having bottled water around when we have lots of people over for parties. So, I’ve started diverting all glass bottles from the recycling bin (reusing is better than recycling) and cleaning them well. After that, I’ll fill and recap them using home brew supplies. Now all I need to do is figure out a project that uses the spent bottle caps.

    And Rebecca- they have things you can install in the bathroom that recirculate the water as you’re waiting for it to heat up. Also, an on-demand water heater is so small that you could put one in in a bathroom closet and the water wouldn’t have very far to travel. Tell your husband that those are the two options and watch how quickly he decides get right in the shower! (if he’s anything like my man)

    Sorry for the marathon comment, but this was a really good post.

  20. Oh yah, and lots of shopping at Thrift Stores.

  21. One last thing and then I promise I’m done with the comments for today, but I think one of the most important thing any one person can do is to make being environmentally responsible look fun, stylish and easy. Because that motivates others to try it themselves (and it *is* fun, stylish and easy). So instead of just changing one person, you’re multiplying the effect and helping others to think about their daily choices.

    And I think that you, Kelli, have done an absolutely wonderful job of this!


  22. I want one, Kelli. Can I buy one like you show here? Please?


  23. I meant to add this: I can’t sew. At all. Just missing buttons…or a sagging hem. That’s it.

  24. Well, I took the bus and subway today. That’s gotta count for something. 🙂

  25. Love those bags. I do the basics, but need to get better. I buy organic…buy milk in glass, returning bottles for my cash deposits. Carry my own bags to the grocer. Ride my bike vs. my gas guzzler when I can. Chose to live in a neighborhood that is self-sufficient and has all the resources I need within a short bike-ride or walk. I harass my neighbors into using my recycling bin whenever possible – (since recycling programs are fee based here and few on my cul-de-sac wish to pay the fee!) I live in a hot environment and am one of the few that waits to the very last minute to turn on the AC. And, then I keep the thermostat high, which annoys anyone who visits my house hoping to relax in a chilly environment. We add trees and plantlife for beauty, and for the betterment of the air quality (inside and out). I collect rain water for plant watering. Compost. Reconstruct clothing because it’s cool and good to reuse what we have. Take the time to refuse JUNK MAIL. Making sure all of my bills are set up to be paperless, and paid electronically to avoid more paper use. I use all my husbands old t-shirts as rags instead of paper towels.

    You know….I do a lot. But, it still ISN’T ENOUGH.

  26. I love those bags! The tree fabric is great.
    I do some of what others have mentioned. I keep trying to incorporate more. ONe thing I do when purchasing something new is (when possible) to choose the item with the most minimal packaging- or recycled packaging. Have you seen this?
    It really makes you think! If that won’t motivate someone to recycle and reuse, I don’t know what will.

    We are having a good summer – busy, but good. My back is doing well as long as I don’t do anything stupid.
    Oh, and I am excited about my new pattern I won for the “In Stitches” sew-a-long!!!!!

  27. Wow, those bags are almost too cute for groceries! I enjoyed reading everyone’s greening ideas, many of which we do too. I would add as a tip for reducing heat and A/C use, ceiling fans are great. Our house came with them and I never gave them much thought before, but they really help both with cooling and heating, using far less energy. The reverse setting helps circulate heated air in the winter, which I didn’t know about before we moved in.

  28. your bag is wonderful. i try to add a new re-newable practice every month or so – so not to overwhelm myself with new routines.

    right now i’m 100% hooked on cloth bags and get almost outraged when i seeing someone double bag or like yesterday when i saw a woman ask the clerk to bag her new bag. eggg.

    cloth napkins + reusable water bottles are good. bike riding is also wonderful.

  29. love the fabric! we recycle, recycle, recycle, we take the T (boston’s public transportation), we walk, use a nalgene bottle at work to stay hydrated, and now I’m going to make canvas bags for our shopping!

  30. I love that fabric! What is it, please? More fabric bags for shopping has been on my list of things to make too. I walk to work when possible, buy used everything, started using cloth napkins and towels instead of paper…

  31. That’a beautiful bag! If you’re in the mood to sew more of them–and help spread the practice of using cloth bags instead of disposable ones–you maybe interested in Morsbags.

  32. Our favorite thing this summer is our clothesline. We haven’t used our dryer in months. Our clothes dry outside in like 20 minutes here!

    Confession: I sometimes do take the plastic bags at the store! BUT: it’s because we have pets and they get “recycled” as poop bags and for cat litter. Otherwise, I don’t know what I’d use…maybe biodegradable poop bags? I should go for that. We do reuse the bags they put our Sunday paper in too…

  33. I’ve been thinking of making those, and now I have some inspiration. I always recycle clothing, reuse our plastic bags and our city now has organic recylcing, but I compost the non-meat stuff. I also taught my older daughters to sew (14 & 15) and they’re into refashioning. The latest obsession is Generation T, and I made myself a twirly skirt and my oldest made a bikini from the book. We have been saving our old clothes to use in other sewing projects, too, like appliques, making small bags, etc. We have to drive, but we don’t have to use plastic bags or buy all of our clothes from the store.

  34. Turn off lights, unplug appliances that are not being used, using cloth napkins, using rags to clean with, washing in cold water, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, taking shorter showers, using my own tote bag, using my own water bottle and refilling it instead of buying bottled water, hanging clothes out to dry on a drying rack instead of using the dryer, electronic bill statements, recycle, use magazines and newspapers as stuffing in packages to me mailed, and as gift wrap, buying energy star appliances.

  35. That is such a great grocery bag! The tree fabric is neat. We’re pretty good about recycling grocery bags. We’re not so good at bringing our own cups to get coffees and ice teas. it’s not really done in this town and I always think people will raise their eye at me. Or, if you order a certain size drink, they won’t know how much to give you. I want to try to bring my cup more often though, and I’ll just figure out the fluid oz size of the cup so the vendor doesn’t worry.

  36. Thanks for the reminder. I think even the most sewing-phobic can sew a square onto a canvas bag!

  37. Its funny I was thinking about your question this am while I got ready for work, drove to work, and settled in with my am break and fast. Our lives are wrapped around using so much energy that sometime I don’t think what I’m doing,for instance. This is the total energy producing items I used just this am. 3 plastic bags for lunch, drive an hour to work by myself, 1 banana, 1 carton of milk, 1 straw, 1 cup with water and lid, small carton of yogurt. Whew! You really have to be conscious at all times what you are doing, the easy route of using time saving devices really add up. I think I also left the TV on in my office.

  38. Thanks for a great post. I’m currently remodeling my kitchen and am selling things to friends, on craig’s list and giving away on freecycle to keep the construction debris to go the landfill down to a minimum. Other things that I won’t need for the new kitchen are going to the church rummage sale and I’m stalling all energy efficient lighting.

  39. These are all wonderful ideas!! I turn the water off when I brush my teeth, and a staunch believer in if it’s yellow let it mellow….:):), I try to use cloth bags whenever possible, I recycle just about everything that is recyclable (I don’t think I spelled that right). One thing I’ve started doing is rinsing and reusing my ziploc baggies. I can’t get either hubby or Miss S to use plastic containers in their lunch bags, but I have found a little bit of success in having them bring home their ziploc baggies.

  40. I’m with Wendy, I think it’s important to make being environmentally responsible look fun, stylish and easy. I have been using cloth bags, just bought my first Preserve toothbrush (made from recycled plastics),and am perfecting my cloth pantyliner design.

  41. I shower with a bucket at my feet and use it on the garden. I use cloth bags for supermarket shopping but am trying to come up with a “seethru” bag to use when buying small items like beans etc, maybe old nylon curtains? any ideas anyone? they can’t be heavy as you are then paying for that weight at the checkout… hmmm. Thanks for the reminder, I am pretty good on most stuff except the lenght of my showers and hours and hours spent on the computer, but at least I turn off the lights 🙂

  42. michelle fiori July 12, 2007

    Love the canvas bags. I love using reusable bags at the grocery store. I bought a few from Trader Joe’s, but I use them in every store I walk into. They sit in the front seat of the van until they are needed. I get the craziest looks from the cashiers at Fry’s and Bashas, but lets see when I start to care.

  43. We compost all of our food waste which means our garbage can is nearly empty (and it’s the small kind) for our weekly pick up (usually 1 bag of garbage + kitty litter). We have our entertainment system on a power strip and shut it down when not in use (latley all the time), same with the computer gear. I reuse plastic grocery bags for everything from mailing packages to kitty duty to picking up garbage while hiking or just on our street. I make my own greeting cards and we donate everything we don’t want/need…we use SIGG bottles or Nalgenes for our water…but there’s more we could/should be doing!

  44. i love using my cloth grocery bags! each time i see how many bags i am saving i feel like this small step is so important. i noticed that in europe they don’t bag your groceries at all… everyone has their own! if you need a bag you have to pay a bit extra. wish this practice would catch on here…