Ten Ways to Help You Cut Down on Plastic Bags

I love it when our readers help me solve some of my most pressing eco-dilemmas. Remember that Friday Question I posed not long ago? What do you use instead of plastic bags to store produce in the refrigerator? You’ll be happy to know that—thanks to you all!—I no longer find myself hunkered over the sink washing out a three-year-old Ziploc bag for the sake of thrift and the environment.  Here are my top three tips for cutting down on the baggies:

  • Use a container instead of a bag whenever possible. I used to store cheese in bags—now I put it in a dishwasher-safe container. (And even if I didn’t have a dishwasher, I’d prefer to wash out a container instead of a bag.)

  • Don’t refrigerate everything. Lately I’ve been leaving whole vegetables out on the counter. Cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, peppers—all seem to last over a week without refrigeration.
  • Get creative with containers. It doesn’t need a “Tupperware” label to work as a container. I stored a watermelon in a 4-quart soup pot (see photo) and leftovers in a lidded sauté pan. Or place a plate over a bowl for a quick storage solution.

Our readers had even more ideas:

  • Put fruit and veggies directly in the fridge’s crisper drawers, as Lindsay suggests.
  • Make your own bags that can be washed in the laundry, as BB wants to do. Jennifer of Feed Me, Cloth Me suggests sewing them from mesh. You could bring these bags to the store, load up, and put everything straight in the fridge when you got home.
  • Use Forever Green bags, as Emily at Little Home recommends. If the bags aren’t filthy, she just shakes them out and uses them again without washing them.
  • Try out these reusable, laundry-washable bags from Reusablebags.com, as Larisa, Jennifer, and Eco-novice’s Betsy suggest.
  • Choose paper over plastic bags for produce. Ruth suggested this, although she wondered if paper would have just as much impact as plastic. At least brown paper bags are recyclable, unlike all produce bags and Ziplocs.
  • Buy some bigger containers for salads and greens. OnMon bought some 14 cup, BPA-free Rubbermaid containers to use for salads. Her washed greens stay fresh for up to ten days in these containers!
  • Wash the Ziploc bags in the dishwasher! My initial reason for eliminating Ziplocs was because I hated hand-washing them. Lindsay discovered a gizmo that allows you to wash those bags in the dishwasher. She also recommends this article from the Vegetarian Times with even more tips for keeping fruits and vegetable fresh.

In just a few short months, I’ve drastically cut down on the number of plastic bags that I use. With bag-washing eliminated from my list of domestic duties, I now have significant chunks of free time to devote to setting up wind turbines and making my own tofu. . . .


  1. Great ideas. I’m going to try leaving stuff out when it’s not so hot at my house. I also like the idea of bags that can be washed in the washing machine. Good luck with that tofu.

  2. Thanks, Betsy! That produce I have out on the counter in the photo had been sitting out there for a week, at least. I used to refrigerate zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers, but they seem to do fine out on the counter. (It has been pretty cool here lately, though.)

  3. Thanks for the tips! I’ll be putting some of them to use immediately. I like the idea of putting plastic bags in the dishwasher. I also use my pots and pans to store things in the fridge, and keep lots of things out on the counter. Leaving vegetables out reminds me to use them, and it also keeps them a better texture in some cases, like with tomatoes.

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