Are You Washing your Resuable Grocery Totes?


Reusable grocery bags seem to have become the norm these days, particularly in San Francisco. In October 2012, San Francisco issued a checkout bag ordinance which not only required all retailers to switch from plastic to paper bags, but also required retailers to charge a fee of $.10 per bag. While this seemed to bother some people initially, San Francisco residents have learned to embrace the change and pack their reusable grocery totes on their way to the store or suffer the $0.10 consequence.

Supporters of this ordinance claimed that paper bags are more environmentally friendly and that the $0.10 fee would encourage people to start carrying reusable bags. What supporters may not have thought about were the potentially harmful health effects of reusable totes. A study published in 2012 at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University discovered that the plastic bag ban may be directly related to the increase in San Francisco emergency room visits due to E. Coli infections and food born illness in the months after the ban was enforced (yikes!).

Moral of the story? Make sure you are regularly washing your grocery totes! While I think the ban is beneficial to our environment longterm,  some shoppers may not realize the potential health risks of reusable totes, hence this blog post :). I will admit the thought of washing my reusable bags did not even cross my mind until I read some of these articles and you better believe I threw my bags directly into the washing machine!

Below are three tips to keep you safe AND environmentally friendly:

1. Wash bags regularly– Make sure you wash your reusable totes at least once a week. This will not only keep you safe from E. Coli and other food born illnesses, but will also save you from the unsanitary dirt and grime from your commute (particularly for you city bus people like myself). Make this part of your Sunday laundry routine!

2. Separate grocery items – Try to keep your produce separate from your meat and fish products to avoid cross contamination.

3. Let your bags air out– Letting your bags air out in a cool climate will help prevent other bacteria from growing in hot temperatures.

Photo Credit:

Photo By <a target=’_blank’ href=’’>Martha Merry</a> via <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>