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Eco-friendly options to replace paper and plastic bags, cups and straws

With the City of Vancouver’s new (and controversial) bylaw on single-use bags and cups , keeping reusable options on hand for everything from groceries to take out meals, will save the fee and keep garbage out of the landfill.
 Anjelika Gretskaia Getty Images
Stocking up on reusable tote bags for groceries and more.

With the City of Vancouver's new (and controversial) bylaw on single-use bags and cups, keeping reusable options on hand for everything from groceries to take out meals will save the fee and keep garbage out of the landfill. When choosing the most useful items, there are a few considerations: weight capability, comfort (carrying a sack of groceries on one arm can hurt!), walking and commuting on transit, leak-proof options for ready-made foods, coffee mugs (for places that will accept it) and straws that don't disintegrate all help eliminate day-to-day plastic use.

FOR THE WEEKEND GROCERY HAUL

Trolley Dolly

The multi-use Trolley Dolly is a two-wheel fold-able shopping card with seven compartments, made from waterproof material, and can handle up to 110 pounds of groceries. There's space for large items, as well as a phone, wallet and keys (so items won't get lost at the bottom of the cart). While it's a tad pricier than a basic option (like this one), the benefit is that the bag can be removed, and it functions as a dolly as well, perfect for moving heavier items at home. Available at Amazon.

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who wants to do a hefty grocery shop without lugging multiple bags.

Why we're endorsing it: Size, ease of use, fold-able, doubles as a dolly.

Where it could use improvements: Price varies by colour; more expensive than other pull-cart models.

Size/weight/dimensions: 5 pounds; holds 110 pounds.

FOR TEMPERATURE CONTROL ON-THE-GO

Grocery totes.

These insulated grocery totes keep a steady temperature when carting frozen items like ice cream or warmed items like a rotisserie chicken. It's easy to transport and wipe down with a bottom panel to keep its shape and double handles. This set of two is collapsible when not in use so that it won't take up much closet space. Available at Amazon

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who has to commute with groceries.

Why we're endorsing it: Practical, compact.

Where it could use improvements: Only comes in one colour.

Size/weight/dimensions: S-XL.

FOR THE BAG YOU WON'T FORGET

BagPodz

Getting to the checkout and realizing the canvas bag is at home on the counter is one of the minor annoyances of life. Avoid that with BagPodz, which comes in a compact holder (in packs of five or ten) with a clip for grocery carts. Each bag is made from reinforced nylon and is machine washable, so no worries about spills or stickiness. Available at Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who finds themselves short a bag at check out.

Why we're endorsing it: It comes in packs of 5 or 10, stores easily in a bag or glove compartment.

Where it could use improvements: Made from nylon but not insulated.

Size/weight/dimensions: One bag holds up to 50 pounds (or eight bottles of wine).

FOR THE FRUIT AND VEGGIE SECTION

Reusable produce sack

Produce bags are not subject to the City of Vancouver levy, but it's always nice to eliminate unnecessary plastic bags. Earthwise reusable mesh produce bags are transparent and washable, perfect for grocery shopping and home storage.

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who doesn't want to push fresh food into plastic.

Why we're endorsing it: Reusable, eliminates plastic.

Where it could use improvements: Bags don't clasp.

Size/weight/dimensions: Weighs less than 10 grams; pack of nine.

FOR THE DRIVE-THROUGH LUNCH

luckies of london

Take-out meals (including fast food and drive-through windows) are subject to the paper bag fee. To keep food warm, consider a large insulated lunch bag. Luckies of London's brown "paper" bag (a reusable thermal lunch bag) looks like an old-fashion school lunch sack, but it's insulated, tear-proof and leak-proof with a double-magnet closure. Available at Amazon

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who doesn't want to put a Big Mac on their passenger seat.

Why we're endorsing it: Not a bulky lunch kit, folds flat.

Where it could use improvements: Higher price point than other lunch kits.

Size/weight/dimensions: 22.99 x 14.99 x 19.99 cm.

FOR THE COFFEE RUN

reusable coffee mug

This reusable coffee cup feels like a take-out drink but doesn't contribute to more waste. It's double-walled (for hot and cold drinks), BPA-free and dishwasher safe. It's also smaller and more manageable than bulky travel mugs.  

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who wants an eco-friendly coffee shop experience.

Why we're endorsing it: Design, durability, size.

Where it could use improvements: Because it's styled like a to-go cup, there's no handle

Size/weight/dimensions: 8 ounces.

(For a heftier hot beverage holder, this Yeti tumbler holds close to 18 ounces of hot coffee, tea, or water. It's double insulated with a leak-proof and drink-through top.)

Available at MEC or Amazon.

FOR FOUNTAIN DRINKS

Glass straws

Plastic straws are bad for the ocean, but paper straws are the devil's instrument. (Who thought using paper for drinking liquid was a good idea?) This set of four glass straws includes a bristle brush for cleaning and an angled tip. Available at Indigo

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who doesn't want to use paper or plastic. 

Why we're endorsing it: Eco-friendly.

Where it could use improvements: Size may not be long enough for larger cups. 

Size/weight/dimensions: 3.9” L.