A reusable cotton shopping bag can be a salve for environmental guilt, but a collection of them can be a carbon emissions and water use disaster. According to various research, it takes about 150 uses to offset the embodied carbon footprint of a cotton bag. When you account for water use and other environmental impacts, researchers in Denmark and Britain estimate a bag must be used 7,100 times to be considered environmentally neutral; surprisingly, organic cotton bags do even worse because organic cotton produces lower yields and would require 20,000 uses to break even.

Choose cotton carefully and make the most use of it to lower your impact.

Print and share We Earthling posters to inspire others with stories about nature and the difference each of us can make.

A poster displaying a pile of cotton shopping bags with the text "Use a cotton tote ate least 150 times to offset it's carbon emissions."

By Earth911

We’re serious about helping our readers, consumers and businesses alike, reduce their waste footprint every day, providing quality information and discovering new ways of being even more sustainable.