In trying to minimize our footprint on planet Earth, a great strategy is to carefully select products that can fulfill multiple purposes beyond just the obvious one or the one indicated on the label. This way, we accumulate fewer items. And when those items are plastic-free we know that even at the end of their useful life, there will be no detrimental trace.
This is Part 1 of our attempt to show you all you can do with some plastic-free essential products. We’re going to focus on food bags.
We introduced mesh bags more than 10 years ago as a way to replace the flimsy produce plastic bags that are so difficult to clean that they are usually thrown out after just one use. These mesh bags allow the contents to be visible at the cash register while being lightweight. They have become quite common, including in a popular version made of nylon. We, of course, prefer organic cotton over nylon.
While they are great for produce shopping, they also have two other fine uses:
HACK # 1: Use a mesh bag as a salad spinner
Have you ever seen a plastic-free salad spinner? We haven’t either. Even the ones with a stainless steel exterior have a plastic interior. But perhaps the better question is to ask who needs a salad spinner in the first place? They use up a ton of cupboard real estate for only one very specific use. Instead, fill up a mesh bag with your wet pieces of lettuce, step outside (or in the shower if it is cold outside) and spin the mesh bag with the drawstring rope. The absorbing cotton will absorb some of the water initially but it is the centrifugal force that will do most of the work by pushing the excess water droplets out of the bag. After just a few spins, your lettuce pieces will be just dry enough for a crunchy salad.
HACK # 2: Use a mesh bag as a delicates laundry bag
You’ve probably heard that our laundry is an enormous source of microplastics. All our polyester, acrylic, nylon and other synthetic fabric clothing releases microplastic fibers while being washed. Not just a few wee fibers, hundreds of thousands, even millions, of micro- and nanoplastic particles per load of laundry. The great majority of filtration plants do not yet have the technology to prevent these particles from reaching our waterways, resulting in our streams and rivers being constantly polluted with miniscule bits of plastic. We do not want to add to this pollution by using a delicates bag made of nylon. Instead, stuff an organic cotton mesh bag with your delicate items such as bras, panties, stockings, tights, and add to your laundry load. If necessary, use several mesh bags to avoid overstuffing one bag and negatively impacting the quality of the wash.
We couldn’t be prouder of our bulk bags, which we introduced three years ago following conversations with our friend Valérie Leloup who is the founder of NuGrocery, a chain of zero waste grocery stores in the city of Ottawa, Canada. We created a small, medium and large version of bags that have a flat bottom designed to make the bag stand on its own while being filled up. Because the large bag was most likely going to be used up with bulk items such as flour or sugar, which are usually bought in large quantities, we decided to double it to prevent minuscule flour particles from sifting through the bag and causing a cloudy mess. While our bulk bags are wonderful for storing bulk staples such as dried beans, pasta even gummy bears, we have a few ideas for other fantastic uses.
HACK # 3: Use a bulk bag as a cosmetics or pencil case
Because our bulk bags have drawstrings that make them open wide, they are great for storing cosmetic items such as lipstick, eye shadow, brushes, eye pencils, etc. You can get a view of the content easily by just opening up the strings. No need to blind search the bottom without seeing what’s in there. Similarly, use a medium bulk bag for pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, highlighters, scissors, etc. Anything you need for school, work, crafts.
HACK # 4: Use a small bulk bag as a cold compress
We’ve all heard of how convenient frozen peas are for applying on an inflamed or bruised body part. That’s because they are small and so much more malleable than bigger ice cubes, which usually have an inconvenient sharp shape. The problem is that it is sometimes difficult to find the optimal bag to hold the peas in place. Use a small bulk bag that you fill up with frozen peas.
We created flip bags in response to sandwich and snack bags that all seem to have a velcro closure, even the cotton ones. With an ingenious opening that folds open or closed, we could avoid using any plastic velcro, ensuring the bag would be entirely natural and go back to feed the Earth at the end of its useful life.
HACK # 5: Use a flip bag to store precious items in your purse or backpack
Not only are flip bags awesome for snacks and sandwiches, they are ideal for carrying small precious items that would otherwise get lost at the bottom of a purse or backpack. Use the flip bag to store your smartphone, your keys, a passport, sunglasses, intimate hygiene products, maybe even condoms. And with the pandemic, they are particularly useful for keeping a mask and gloves clean and handy. Our foldable spork and telescopic straws fit perfectly in the small bulk bag in case you need a small stock of reusable on-the-go zero waste tools.
These are just a few suggestions of various uses our many bags have in addition to being great for storing food. When you buy one of our plastic-free organic cotton bags, you get a bag that is not only reusable and washable, but all our bags are also repairable with a simple needle and thread.
So keep calm, and hack on!
Chantal Plamondon, Co-Founder