Declutter and save the earth, one bag at a time



Reusing paper bags can let both you and your child unleash your creativity without breaking your budget. ©Adobe Stock

Reusable bags may qualify as standard equipment for any 21st century shopper, but many of us still manage to arrive at the grocery store minus the canvas. In that case, don’t forget to ask for paper over plastic at checkout. In addition to being better for the environment, there are also many ways to repurpose your stack of brown paper sacks. Who knows? You might enjoy it so much you start collecting bags from neighbors.

Save the surface. Brown bags prove to be a great boon for summer projects. Cut and spread them to protect your tables and floors from glue, paint and glitter while your kids go craft-crazy.

Wrap and decorate. Cut brown bags into large sheets and embellish with paint, glitter or rubber stamps for quick DIY gift wrap. Your child’s handprints will add a personal touch to a gift for Grandma. Create a bounty of bows by cutting bags into half inch strips, about eight inches long. Curl the strips with a scissor blade and staple several together. Affix bows to gifts and wrapping’s a cinch.

Shred to bits. Run your paper bags through the shredder to create oodles of great packing or party material. Safely ship your fragile items or shower the birthday girl with armloads of confetti.

In addition to being better for the environment, there are also many ways to repurpose your stack of brown paper sacks.

Ripen fruit. Place three or four pieces of not-quite-ripe fruit in a brown bag. Fold the bag loosely and set on the counter. In a couple of days your peaches and avocados will ripen to mouth-watering perfection.

Plant a seed. Make your own seed start containers. Roll a double sheet of brown bag paper into a cylinder (two to three inches long and the diameter of a toilet paper tube). Seal along the side with a strip of masking tape and label it. Fashion the bottom by folding the paper and taping lightly. Place several paper tubes in a watertight tray. (The bottom of a clamshell take-out box works well.) Fill containers with potting soil, plant your seeds and water.

Gardener’s gift. For a perfect weed barrier, spread flattened brown bags (instead of landscape fabric) around your plantings. Cut slits or holes for your veggies, flowers, and shrubs. Or shred the bags, and add to your compost bin as you would leaf debris.

Aromatherapy. Cut and fold brown paper into envelopes, making sure the sides and bottom are well sealed. Place a favorite natural scent-producer in each packet—dried lavender, coffee beans, cedar chips, a cinnamon stick. Seal the top and stash in a drawer or closet for scent-sational infusions.

Floor makeover. You won’t need much more than white glue, polyurethane and a big stack of sacks to create a uniquely beautiful and durable floor. Let your DIY nature shine and wow your friends and family with your thrifty creativity. Multiple sites online provide detailed how-to info. (,
Building materials. Make kids’ building blocks by stuffing brown bags about three quarters full with balls of newspaper (or other bags). Fold the top down and secure with packing tape or staples. Voila! Endless hours of fort-creation and tower-building for pint-sized construction workers.

Re-bag it. Write “Remember bags!” at the top of your shopping list and put a few in your car. You can usually get several uses out of one brown bag.

ASHLEY TALMADGE is a freelance writer and mother of two boys from Oregon. Her articles have appeared in dozens of parenting and lifestyle publications across the U.S. and Canada.

Where to find brown paper grocery bags in or near the Shenandoah Valley:

Red Front Supermarket
Friendly City Food Coop
Bridgewater Foods
Sharp Shopper
Food Lion (upon request)
Trader Joe’s in Charlottesville (the default bags are paper!)
Whole Foods in Charlottesville
Harris Teeter

One reader warns not all brown paper bags are created equal. Some are very thin!

More uses! For even more ideas on what to do with all those wonderful bags, visit the blog of Shenandoah Valley blogger Jennifer Kurtz Murch and this link:



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