Produce bags: quite a simple technology, yet with a profound effect. They are..... BAGS! (Did you guess it?)
Have you ever wondered how people brought food before, when supermarkets didn't kindly and gracefully provide rolls upon rolls of plastic bags to put your produce in? Well, people didn't use them! I know it's quite impossible to imagine, but people but them in their OWN bags and then brought them home, cleaned those, and used them AGAIN next time they went shopping! I know it's complicated but bear with me... they didn't use 15 disposable plastic bags for 15 individual apples!
On a serious note, how did we get here? Our society is so obsessed and blindly encouraged to value convenience over everything else, even the health of ourselves and the planet we owe our very life to. Medical plastics I can understand, but PLASTIC PRODUCE BAGS!! SERIOUSLY!!
They are so unnecessary, such an utterly stupid way to ruin the planet, and something we can definitely live without. Hence why I think reusable produce bags are the best first switch to lowering your households waste. They take a small amount of preparation and thought, but can save you from throwing a whole load of unnecessary plastic to landfill.
Pictured above are our produce bags, not only do they look absolutely gorgeous but they are also our favourite ones on the market! We buy them from Plastic Free HK, an online store focused on providing sustainable products that can reduce your plastic footprint. We use them for all sorts of produce, and for bulk items too! They are made of certified organic cotton (big plus!) with a drawstring to keep all your goodies inside, and come in both net and cloth versions. Plastic Free HK are the only brand in Hong Kong that sell these specific produce bags, and are by far one of our favourite sustainably minded local brands.
Now, before you say "why don't you just use any bag" let me explain. People are used to routine, I know I am, and if we want sustainability to be accessible to all, it has to be as easy a switch as possible. We are no longer living in the past; we are used to using small individual plastic bags for our produce, which means the sustainable switch is using small reusable non-plastic bags for our produce. For some it may be easy to lower household waste without owning reusable produce bags, but as one can see from the demand for these products, for a large majority that is not the case. If you have a helper who does your shopping (as many Hong Kong-ers do) then making them comfortable and not switching up their routine too much is aided by produce bags. Produce bags allow people at the market to easily weigh your produce, and is simpler to explain to them than no bag at all. Again, it changes their routine slightly but not by too much. For those living in Europe, where a plastic bag is required in supermarkets when weighing your food, this saves any misunderstandings surrounding your attempt to live more eco-friendly (because we don't always have the energy to argue with someone and try to convince them that we are being sustainable and NOT trying to cheat the system).
Then you've got things like grapes and berries which would be quite difficult to throw aimlessly into a large bag without squishing. Or produce such as root vegetables which can make quite a mess in a bag with other produce.
THEN you have bulk buying, which is just easier with a bag in comparison to a container. They are lighter to carry and their tare is so small that you don't have to bother yourself with all that faffing about. In these ways produce bags are immensely helpful to avoid plastic (or single use paper), and make shopping low waste all the easier.
These Ecobags from Plastic Free HK are so easy to use, simply put them in an easily accessible spot, whether that be your car, a grocery bag, next to the front door, doesn't matter! Have them somewhere you don't have to think about them where they will easily come with you when you are shopping and voilà! There you have it, sustainable and you didn't even notice. It truly becomes habit, and you begin to stop realising that you are doing something different to everybody else.
As you can see, they are also gorgeous! Of course this has nothing to do with sustainability, thhhooouuugghhh the more you like something (which aesthetics play a large role in) the more likely you are to value it and want to keep it forever! And that is sustainable. Pictured below are the two types of produce bags Plastic Free HK offers, which we have both of. We have mainly their medium size though we have a few large too! We find that the medium is the best size as they aren't too big but they are large enough that they can fit a good amount of stuff in, though sometimes you need the large so it is useful to have a couple of those too. We use the mesh ones for fruits and veggies, and the cloth ones for bulk food either from the markets or live zero! They are super easy to use and don't need to be washed super often, just be mindful of berries and produce that can stain, and wash them then! They are so lightweight and easy to take around, if you are someone who doesn't have a routine to shopping, then just pop a couple in your handbag and you won't even notice.
Though of course you can make some yourself, many don't have the time or energy to do so, and that is totally fine! You are supporting an ethical, small, and green brand whilst lowering your plastic footprint in a simple and almost effortless way.
However ultimately my favourite thing with produce bags is the conversations they spark. You stand out, and people ask questions, and suddenly an item that seemed small is able to impact and educate the world on the small changes we can make to live a little lighter on our home