“Paper or plastic?” Say “Neither,” stylishly.

by Terry B on July 15, 2009

blue-q-bags

These days, most of us carry reusable bags when we shop. [And if you don’t, get on it!] For everyday shopping needs, the compact, square-bottomed grocery-bag-sized jobs are perfect. They’re easy for baggers to pack and small enough to not get too heavy. But sometimes you want something bigger and, well, cooler. Blue Q to the rescue.

stuff_we_like_smallPittsfield, Massachusetts-based Blue Q makes a dazzling array of durable, commodious “shoppers,” as their site calls them. The bags are about 16″ x 16″ x 6″—plenty big for farmers market or flea market runs. Designs range from fun to quirky, stylish, retro, hippie/bohemian and downright girly pretty, most with a healthy dash of subversive smartass thrown in for good measure.

And Blue Q is green too. According to their site, “the majority of the bags contain 95% post consumer waste in the form of used plastic bottles and grain sacks. And 1% of the sale of Blue Q bags support the conservation work of The Nature Conservancy.” And all this cool ecofriendliness can be yours for a mere 12 bucks a bag.

blue-q-sunshineShoppers aren’t the only thing Blue Q sells. Other bags include totes, shoulder bags, overnighters, zipper pouches [like this charming Sunshine pouch] coin purses and “other bag things.” Besides bags, they carry a staggering assortment of stuff—water bottles, home decor, bath and body products, books, tin banks, magnets, breath sprays, temporary tattoos, car air fresheners… So what holds this eclectic mix together? First, a real sense of fun in everything they sell. Cool design too. Just as important, though, is great customer service. Marion’s sister Lena introduced us to Blue Q and praises their customer service every bit as much as she does their wonderfully random merchandise.

You’ll find Blue Q shoppers and other stuff on their website and in various bricks and mortar stores.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Luka July 16, 2009 at 3:40 am

What happens with people like me who go for a daily walk in the Santa Monica Mountains (or it could be anywhere else) and stop at the grocery store on the way home? Paper and plastic seem to be my only options. A backpack might be the answer, but come on,!

dani July 16, 2009 at 4:46 am

Luka – All Target stores in Phoenix, Arizona carry red reusable bags that fold up, then zip inside themselves to become only 4″ by 7 1/2″ wallet-sized. You could probably fold that in half to put in your back pocket. They weigh almost nothing. They do not have the flat bottom, but you can still carry quite a few items or a gallon of milk. I would imagine that you could get them at http://www.target.com, too. I bought mine for $1.oo each.

Terry B – Thanks for the info. It’s much easier to be “eco-minded” when the items are fun, isn’t it? I love reusable bags! I use them for everything from shopping to carrying a snack for my grandkids when I pick them up from school. It’s sad to see so few people using them.

Terry B July 16, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Luka, I have friends in New York who have the same complaint, that often their shopping is an impromptu thing and they can’t carry bulky bags around all the time. I think dani’s suggestion is one great option for you. I also have at least one very lightweight cloth bag we picked up somewhere that weighs next to nothing and could easily be stuffed into a hip pocket or slung over your shoulder if you know you’re going to be stopping at the store during your walk. If neither of these ideas work for you, then I’d go with the paper option and recycle. It’s a renewable resource, so the lesser of two evils. The Treasure Island grocery stores here in Chicago have another great solution. At the front of their stores they have bins where customers can return the store’s sturdy plastic shopping bags if they choose. Then other customers on their way in can grab these bags for their own groceries, reusing this resource. It’s kind of a lending library for grocery bags—a brilliant idea, I think.

dani—Thanks for the suggestion! I find that many retailers are figuring this out—some even reward customers with cash back and other offers for bringing their own bags. One amusing problem that faithfully using reusable bags—especially the ingenious Trader Joe’s Six-Bottle Beverage Tote—has created for us is that when we’re going to a BYOB restaurant, we can’t find a disposable paper wine bag to carry our wine in!

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