CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
This is the B. Happybags line of reusable shopping bags, which come in different patterns and designs.
Bringing your own bag now colorful, hip and eco-chic
Going to the grocery store with your own reusable bags is no longer reserved for the tree-hugging hippie or the backpacking eco-geek.
Going to the store with your own bag is becoming something of a fashion statement -- and available in a bright array of colors, patterns and materials that make you look environmentally hip and eco-chic.
A number of businesses catering to the niche for reusable shopping bags have already sprung up, including Honolulu startup Green Bags Hawaii. The choices are numerous -- from hemp to cotton, canvas, polypropylene, nylon, polyester, designer fabrics, woven or unwoven.
If your style is more European, you can go for the traditional, French, woven shopping basket.
For the practical shopper, there's just the plain, square "GreenBag," which is made of polypropylene and popular in Australia. A Los Angeles company, One Bag at a Time, inspired by the Australian version, offers totes at various stores, mostly in California, but not yet in Hawaii. It claims the bags can be used weekly for two years or more.
The ACME workhouse style bag weighs only 1.5 ounces but holds over 25 pounds.
If you want to make a political statement, you can get the "Al Gore bag."
But fashionistas seem to have latched on to the colorful ChicoBags as their shopping bag of choice.
A lightweight, nylon bag from Chico, Calif., ChicoBag Co.'s product comes in every color of the rainbow -- from lime green to mango, pink, blue and deep purple, in its own pouch. It retails for about $5.
They are small enough to put in a pocket or purse and can carry up to 20 pounds. When they've expired, you can give them back to the company to repurpose into door mats, dog beds and prayer flags.
The company, launched by a former software programmer, is a growing business. And the bags are now available at major supermarket chains as well as on Amazon.com. A patent is pending.
At www.thegreenkanagaroo. com, there are fashionable, colorful totes by Envirosax, featuring prints inspired by the Australian rainforest. The "happybags" reusable tote comes in fun and colorful leopard prints or polka dots.
For the ultimate eco-chic queen, there are also bags by Gecko Trader, made from discarded rice bags and handcrafted by Cambodian workers in a certified Fair Trade environment. They sell for about $25 to $27 online.
There are also classic string bags, which are compact, but easily stretch out to hold plenty of items like loose fruits and vegetables. As a sign of their growing popularity, the ecobags were endorsed by Oprah Winfrey.
Then there are canvas tote bags that can be embossed with any kind of logo or design.
Every supermarket in Hawaii -- from Times, Safeway, Foodland and Star Market -- offers its own tote bags to consumers, and five-cents credit every time you use them.
Down to Earth Natural Foods and other local natural foods stores, of course, have long offered reusable bags, given that they cater to consumers already environmentally conscious.
Whole Foods Market is offering "A Better Bag," a reusable bag made from 80 percent recycled plastic bottles and upping its rebate to 10 cents in Austin, Texas.
Down to Earth will be matching that once they switch to biodegradable bags.
For the hard-core environmentalists, it's important that the bags themselves actually be made from 100 percent organic, natural fibers like hemp or bamboo rather than a synthetic material.
Another environmental factor is the amount greenhouse-gas emissions required to produce the bag (the reason paper isn't necessarily better) and the lifespan of a bag.
Lydi Morgan, 28, a Sierra Club board member, has shopped with her own bags for years. She says that for durability, it's best to go with an organic cotton bag.
"I've had mine for years, and they hold up really well," she said. "We keep them around the house, in the car. I usually bring one with me wherever I go, just in case. They always come in handy."
She keeps the bags around the house, in her car, and always has one handy wherever she goes. Morgan also reuses vegetable bags -- the smaller bags used to hold produce.
"I would encourage people to give it a try," she said. "It's about creating new habits."
Green Bags Hawaii is offering two bags -- one plain and one in Aloha print -- which it says is made of 100 percent cotton for $2.29 at www.gbaghawaii.com.
Fon Breiner says she and business partners recently launched Green Bags to provide an alternative to those made of polypropylene or nylon.
Breiner -- who supports the plastic bag ban -- says her business is all about being green. Sales are only available online for now, but she hopes to eventually introduce the bags to stores at a reasonable price.