Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2019. Last year seemed to go by both extremely quickly, and extremely slowly. 2018 was an interesting year, to say the least. As far as resolutions go, I don’t make them. I find the whole “New Year’s resolution” thing a bit odd, since everyone seems to give up on them by February. Though I don’t do resolutions, I do set intentions and non-specific goals for myself every year. One of my intentions this year is to be more mindful of how I’m living and of my environmental impact. I started talking about easy ways to live a more natural life in this post.
That post was supposed to be the first part of a monthly series on my blog, and then the holidays happened… and suddenly it’s January! I am going to continue the series now that the busyness of the holidays is over and I have time to breathe again. First up is an amazing product that makes “going green” simple (and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either)!
DISCLAIMER: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review. Some links in this article are affiliate links and I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using them – at absolutely no cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in and support.
Review: Wowe Lifestyle’s Reusable Produce Bags
When I was unboxing the product, Dan asked what was in the box. My response: “The most useful product I’ve ever been asked to review!” This was even before trying them out. What was in the box that I knew would be so useful? Reusable produce bags from Wowe Lifestyle!
Before I had a chance to try them out, I could tell (from the feel of the material) that they would live up to my expectations. Now that I’ve had the chance to use them on multiple grocery shopping trips, I can say that they are a permanent addition to all my future trips and that they have surpassed my expectations.
Reusable shopping bags are an easy swap to help live a more natural and lower waste lifestyle; specifically helping to reduce plastic waste. Single-use produce bags are used by almost everyone, even people that have reusable shopping bags, and they are highly wasteful (they’re so thin you usually can’t reuse them). I’ve watched people in the grocery store put small items of produce into multiple bags – your carrots and cucumbers can share a bag, I promise. That being said, it is very handy to keep your produce contained within a separate bag instead of having them loose in your larger shopping bags, potentially getting banged up and bruised. Dan and I also like to store our produce in their bags/containers, as it makes it easier to find what we’re looking for instead of having them drift around in the produce drawers or on the counter.
Based on the shopping behaviors I’ve observed, I believe a safe estimate for how many plastic produce bags are used would be five per trip. Honestly, I think five may be an underestimate, but it’s an easy number to work with. If you use five produce bags per trip, and you shop weekly, you will use 260 plastic produce bags in one year. That’s 260 pieces of plastic that could be eliminated from the environment! (And I swear I’ve seen carts that seemed to have 260 produce bags in them, it can get a bit ridiculous.)
For full disclosure, I do continue to use the flimsy plastic bags for meat products that have a messy container. With a weak immune system, the germs that can come from raw meat are not worth the risk from “did I properly sanitize that?” Produce, however, doesn’t need a separate bag for sanitation purposes. Not only are raw fruits and vegetables less likely to contain dangerous pathogens on their surface, you should also be washing all produce prior to consumption. Have you ever soaked your produce and seen all that dirt at the bottom of the bowl?! Yeah, you don’t want to be eating that.
Speaking of washing, before I could use the bags, I needed to wash them. I’m allergic to most detergents, especially commercial ones, so I always wash fabrics that will be in contact with my body or food prior to using them. The washing directions on the label use the universal laundry symbols, so that there isn’t any language barrier. I know most people don’t know what the symbols mean, so I’ll translate them for you. The washing instructions for the bags are: Do not bleach, wash on warm (40C), do not dry clean, iron on medium, tumble dry low. I followed these directions (machine wash warm, tumble dry low), and was pleasantly surprised at how well the bags stood up to being washed! There was a small amount of shrinking, due to them being 100% cotton, and the inside seams of the solid bags frayed a little, but otherwise there was no wear or tear from washing. You could prevent fraying with a product called “fray check” (available at fabric and craft stores) or reduce it with pinking shears (they cut the fabric into a pattern that helps reduce fraying). However, there’s no harm in them being slightly frayed on the inside.
Before I get in to the bags any further, I want to briefly talk about Wowe Lifestyle as a company. I wanted to make sure I was comfortable with their business practices and manufacturing process before I agreed to review their products. The website didn’t have all the information I wanted, so I asked, and they were kind and prompt in their responses.
Wowe Lifestyle was founded in 2013 as a company that sold eco-friendly products, but in 2015 they decided to create their own products. This means that the company, using their current business model, started in 2015. Wowe Lifestyle was started by a family (mom, dad, three daughters) that wanted to live a life that respected our planet and helped to preserve our resources. Since eco-friendly versions of common products aren’t always easily available, they chose to start a company that would make it easier to live a more natural and lower waste life!
All Wowe Lifestyle’s products are responsibly made in China. The manufacturer is BSCI qualified. BSCI is a third-party program that promotes “workplace conditions in accordance with human rights, ILO conventions and national labor law” (from the BSCI website). Some of the areas the BSCI program looks at are: working hours and fair compensation, occupational health and safety, child labor and protections for younger workers, ethical business behavior, discrimination, and environmental protection. Knowing that the workers making the products are not having their basic human rights violated is reassuring and fits with the overall mission of Wowe Lifestyle.
I was sent one of each bag: a small, medium, and a large bag in solid fabric and one of each size in the mesh fabric. Both the mesh and solid bags are made with GOTS certified organic cotton – you can read more about GOTS on their website. Having no synthetic materials in the bags means that when they wear out, they are biodegradable (will be broken down by natural organisms). In fact, according to Fabric of the World, it takes organic cotton 1-5 months to biodegrade (an apple core takes 2 months). By using these reusable bags, you’re not only eliminating hundreds of plastic produce bags from reaching the landfill each year, but the reusable bags will be broken down so quickly that they will not take up space in the landfill when they’ve reached the end of their life!
The solid bags are excellent for potatoes, onions, or any of the “dry vegetables” (produce you’d commonly find in a root cellar), as well as smaller produce that may fall through the mesh bags. The website also shows the solid bags being used to hold bulk dry goods, like nuts or grains. With my food sensitivities, I do not buy bulk dry goods (cross-contamination risk), so I have not tested that use. However, after using the bags, I am confident that they would work well for bulk dry goods. The only downside I could see would be that smaller grains may fall through the small opening left by the drawstring.
The mesh bags are great for produce you store in the refrigerator, tomatoes, “wet produce” (anything that is in the section that gets misted), and apples. The mesh bags actually stretch as you fill them, so they can hold a lot more than the solid bags. Most of the produce available in standard* grocery stores won’t fall through the mesh bags, as the openings/holes are small. (*Standard is something like a Kroger store, not Whole Foods or other “health” grocery stores. I’m not sure what types of produce are available at stores like Whole Foods that may not be available at Kroger.)
Wowe Lifestyle’s website gives the bag dimensions, but I always find it difficult to know how much a container will hold when given measurements. Because of that, I decided to test them with russet potatoes and apples! Dan helped, and we both felt a little silly grabbing massive amounts of potatoes and apples, then putting them back. Hopefully, it will help you as much as it helped me. As I mentioned before, the mesh bags stretch significantly when filled. Because they stretch, the mesh bags hold more than the solid bags do, in all sizes.
Large bags, 12×17 inches (about 30.5cm x 43.2cm)
The large solid cotton bag holds 10 average russet potatoes.
The large mesh bag holds more than 10 gala apples. Dan and I didn’t want to hog the apple section anymore than we already were, so we stopped at 10! The bag did not feel strained at all, and it had plenty of extra space in it.
Medium bags, 12×13 inches (about 30.5cm x 33cm)
The medium solid cotton bag holds 7 russet potatoes. We used this bag to purchase all of the potatoes and sweet potatoes we needed for upcoming meals, and I did notice a slight bit of fraying/tearing in the opening below the drawstring. (See the picture in “The Negative” section below.) I noticed tying the drawstring closed prevented any strain on the area, so I will do that from now on. (I will also be adding small reinforcing stitches to that spot on all three of my bags since they’ll hold heavy items on a regular basis.) The seams and fabric on the rest of the bag did not feel stressed in any way.
The medium mesh bag holds 10 apples, potentially with room for one or two more.
Small bags, 8×12 inches (about 20.3cm x 30.5cm)
The small solid cotton bag holds 3 russet potatoes.
The small mesh bag holds 6 gala apples.
All the bags have their weight listed on the label. This is a “tare weight,” which is a fancy way of saying that the grocery checkers can subtract that weight from the total when weighing your produce. As far as I have been able to determine, you cannot do this at self-checkout registers, so go to a cashier if that matters to you. I like the idea of being able to remove the bag weight from what you’re being charged!
Bad things? Honestly, I haven’t found any. The fraying when washed is to be expected – raw edges of cotton fabrics will fray, it’s what they do. And the slight tear near the drawstring makes sense because of how we were using the bag. (If you load up the bags, tie the drawstrings.) Neither of those bothered me in the slightest. We have used them at least a dozen times, and I still have not found anything that I dislike about the bags.
In conclusion: I love my new reusable produce bags! They have gone with us on every shopping trip since we got them, and have gotten significant use. So far, they’ve held cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and other things that I can’t remember now. I look forward to using them for years to come!
To get your own, visit Wowe Lifestyle’s website. There are several purchase options, but you must get them in sets of six and choose which fabric. You can choose a set of six mesh bags, or a set of six solid bags. Then, you can choose your size. You can get six of one size, or you can get two of each size (two small, two medium, two large). Either way, at only $12.95 (plus tax) for six bags and free shipping within the United States, they’re amazingly affordable! And, you can get an extra 5% off of your order if you use the code FLSSGREEN at checkout!