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There are several reasons to choose to use canvas grocery bags or reusable grocery bags made from other materials. Some environmental organizations push the use of such bags, pointing out that reusable bags can be a small change with a big difference, but the uses of these bags go beyond the benefits to the environment. Many grocery stores carry canvas grocery bags, as do some department stores that want to provide an environmentally-friendly option to their customers.
From an environmental perspective, canvas grocery bags are better choices than paper or plastic bags. Canvas tends to be more environmentally friendly to produce than paper or plastic, and because these bags are designed to be re-used, consumers get a lot of mileage out of a single bag. Turning to re-usable supplies is viewed as more environmentally friendly than using disposable products, many of which wind up in landfills because a community lacks the ability to recycle them.
Plastic grocery bags have a number of environmental drawbacks, with the use of petroleum being only one example. When plastic grocery bags are not recycled or landfilled, they end up in the natural environment, where they can cause a wide range of problems. Animals may choke on or become entangled in such bags, and if plastic reaches the ocean, it can linger there for thousands of years. While the bags may eventually break down, they can poison a wide assortment of sea creatures along the way. Paper bags will biodegrade much more quickly, but they still require the use of timber, a resource which some people would prefer to see left in forests.
Canvas grocery bags are also much sturdier than regular grocery bags, for consumers who are not persuaded by the environmental arguments. As anyone who has had a bag break open in the parking lot knows, it can be very frustrating to lose a batch of groceries to a poorly-constructed grocery bag. Canvas bags can hold much more weight than regular grocery bags, and they can easily be washed in the event of leaks or spills.
They also have uses beyond the grocery store. Canvas grocery bags can be used to pick up books at the library or to carry other shopping, for example, and they make great beach bags because of their sturdiness and washability. For people who don't want to carry around a grocery store logo, canvas grocery bags can be turned inside out and left plain or stenciled with new designs, and some companies sell plain bags which people can dye or decorate to taste.