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Reusable Bags: Good For the Earth. Good For You?

Reduce, Reuse…Regurgitate? According to a study conducted by the University of Arizona, that just might be in the cards for you if you use reusable bags for your weekly grocery trip.

We love reusable bags, but studies show that over 90 percent of people don’t wash them regularly. That means you’re putting Honeycrisp apples into the same bag that a raw chicken breast was oozing in just a few days earlier. Even if you give your fruit a quick rinse before it goes down the hatch, harmful bacteria like E. coli is often still clinging to your precious produce.

Don’t get freaked out quite yet, this is easy to fix! Here are four quick tips that will keep your reusable bags clean.

Keep raw meat separate. If you do one thing, do this. When your groceries come home, keep your chicken, beef or fish in one bag, and fruits and veggies in another. Tip: Make it easy for your grocer by placing a “veggies” or “meats” tag on the handle of each bag.

Wash your bags. This simple task will reduce harmful bacteria found in your reusable bags to almost nothing. Canvas and other natural fiber bags can be machine-washed and dried in your dryer. For nonwoven polypropylene, nylon and recycled PET bags, machine wash on gentle, or hand wash and lay flat to dry. Note: Never put bags made of synthetic fibers (such as polypropylene) in the dryer! If you forget – or don’t have time – to wash between trips, try this handy disinfectant spray.

In warm weather, avoid the trunk. Trunks can get pretty hot, and warmer temperatures promote bacteria growth. As much as possible, keep your groceries in the coolest part of your car (seat wells and near air vents are best), and out of the sun. It’s also a good idea to make the grocery store your last stop on the way home. Bonus: No more melted ice cream!

Only use your bags for groceries. You’re running out of the house, and you have more in your hands than you can manage. You know exactly where the reusable bags are, so you grab one and throw everything inside. We know it’s tempting, but it’s not a great idea! Think about it: You really don’t want your gym clothes coming into contact with all that nastiness the chicken left behind the week before. No one wants that. (Especially the guy who uses the bike after you in spin class). 

Reusable bags are great for the planet, and with these simple steps they’ll be great for your family’s health, too! 

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