Join other members of the Cooking Light community to trade eco-friendly shopping bags from your hometown.

By Maggie Gordon
March 24, 2009

It's just another example of why we think our readers are the savviest around: Bag swaps. They regularly get together in our online community to organize a  nationwide swap of eco-friendly bags

We say: Brilliant! Avoiding disposable grocery bags is one small act that adds up to big environmental impact over time. More than 380 billion plastic bags are used each year, less than one percent of which are recycled. The other 99 percent take about 1,000 years to decompose. (If Christopher Columbus had brought some grocery bags with him in 1492, they'd be only halfway back to the earth by now.)

The most recent bag swap, in the Fall of 2008, was headed up by Hélène Péloquin, a long-time member of the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards. She started a thread htat invited folks to sign up, then paired members from different regions and countries, who mailed each other reusable bags from their favorite home-town stores.

"I tried to pair people from different area," says Hélène, who lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. "They exchange emails and decide if they want to include goodies from their hometown. Chocolates, coffee―things like that."

The first swap began when Cooking Light bulletin board member Bob (known on the boards as Bobmark226), who lives in New York, pitched the idea on the boards. Sixty-seven BB members signed up for the swap. That's when Eva (aka Aggie94), an Arizona-based reader, took over. Eva matched the participants, pairing members from different regions of North America. Bags made their way from New York to Washington, Hawaii to British Columbia, and everywhere in between.

This wasn't the first successful swap our BB members have orchestrated. Previous swaps have included a cookbook swap and the "Brownie Fairy" RAK (random act of kindness) franchise in which members mailed a surprise package of treats to a random BB member.

In this swap, many participants didn’t stop with the bags. One reader included notes explaining the history of the home town stores from which she bought the bags. Another member sent earrings made from recycled buttons.

Mary Kate (AKA MKSquared), a reader from Ohio, sent her partner a hand-made bag using a pattern she found online. The satchel is made from so-called "plarn" (plastic yarn, which she created by looping together strips of old grocery bags), and took her about a week to make. Check out her photos of the bag on Flickr.

"I used bags from three different stores to make the different colors," Mary Kate said. "My bags are now sorted by color and folded neatly so I can make yarn if I ever get the urge again."