Coolest arm candy these days? An old bag. Not those brand-new, brand-name-emblazoned, "reusable" plastic shopping sacks being sold at supermarkets, drugstores, bookstores (they should pay us to display their names). As for the giveaways? If they're not made of recycled or organically grown materials, no thanks. It's just another instance of more stuff being produced, and trashing the planet, in the name of reducing trash. According to Ecobags, some manufacturers falsely claim that the non-woven polypropylene used in many store-brand reusable totes is made from recyclable materials. A close look at the issue, The Wall Street Journal's "An Inconvenient Bag" was its top emailed article last Friday, in the midst of bailout hysteria.

No matter what, the small daily things still count. Costs add up, whether it's groceries or what we tote them in: Americans throw away at least 100 billion plastic shopping bags a year.

What makes the reusable shopping bag pictured here so especially sweet is, no new yarn was bought to make it. One of the Monteagle Bags, designed by Ann Buechner, that are "sprouting all over the knitting blogosphere," according to Kay Gardiner, coauthor, with Buechner, of the Mason-Dixon Knitting books, this one is made by "using up long-stashed bits and pieces of yarn--a different kind of sustainability."  Indeed. We now recall our aunt's knitting basket of odds and ends. Look what a pair of capable hands can do with leavings!

"People are talking about using string from baker's boxes," Gardiner adds. But how is this done? You splice in one bit of yarn until it runs out, and add the next. "You just start knitting with the new color. Later you 'weave' or sew in the dangling ends of the new yarn and the old yarn." Knitting is definitely something to sing about, as the coauthors prove by performing their original country western knitting song.  

For more artistic inspiration, check out the truly green reusable sacks made by Teresa Van Hatten-Granath from repurposed fabric and even old shower curtains, as reported in the October issue of Plenty Magazine, on newsstands now.

Okay, so in the name of charity you accepted a giveaway plastic reusable bag of murky origins. Not to worry, just treat it right: Reuse it. One less plastic bag per American household would save 25,581 barrels of oil, and one less paper bag would save 60,000 trees, according to the folks at Starter Kit for Change, which sells small and large soft, carpet-y totebag made of recycled materials, and donates part of the proceeds to the world's hungry.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in September 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008