Trend I Wanted To Hate: Baggu Reusable Shopping Bags

Large, durable reusable shopping bags in maximalist patterns that I wanted to hate but simply couldn't.
Me and my cucumber Standard Baggu bag.

It was the day before Christmas and all through the house, I did not have a present for my finance brother and his fashionista girlfriend and was getting increasingly stressed out about it. With no intention to brave the mall, I hit up the bougie co-op next door to my apartment and picked out some locally made, “artisanal” treats like garlic-infused olive oil and “small batch” almond butter (things I assume rich people like).

As I was checking out, I remembered that I had no gift-wrapping supplies at home, nor a desire to make this collection of upgraded grocery store items look like a curated gift basket. And that’s when I caved. Under the register was a sea of Baggu reusable shopping bags, sorted by pattern. They were snakeskin and floral, checkerboard and plaid. Neutral bags and maximalist bags and bags with a funny Gucci ripoff print. I hated them all. I bought the strawberry-printed one, and pictured myself throwing all the items into it like a sort of gift bag and tying the straps to look like a bow.

A cute (last-minute) Christmas gift, thanks to strawberry Baggu bag.
A cute (last-minute) Christmas gift, thanks to strawberry Baggu bag.

Since its launch in 2007, Baggu has taken over the world of reusable shopping bags. If you don’t personally own one (or 70), I promise your cool cousin or trendy coworker does. You’ve likely seen them at the grocery store, gym or just casually tossed on the shoulder of a fashionable stranger.

While the brand now makes all sorts of bags (as well as home goods, hats and beloved fabric face masks), its trademark item is the “Standard Baggu” reusable shopping bag. It’s shaped like a grocery store plastic bag, but it’s made from recycled nylon and comes in a bajillion colors and prints.

In the simplest terms, I’m a trend-hater. Maybe it’s my youngest-sibling energy, maybe it’s never outgrowing my teenage punk phase. Whatever it is: If everybody’s doing it, I want no part. Conceivably, this is why I waited — until 2021, until a last-minute shopping spree, until an “I don’t own tissue paper” crisis — to purchase my first Baggu bag.

I should say, my resistance to Baggu wasn’t only because I’m a “not like other girls” non-binary brat. While I am a brat, I also have what I would consider a valid distaste for the commodification of “green” products, and the capitalist logic encouraging us that buying all these “sustainable” things is how we save the planet. I don’t like the focus being put on individual responsibility to combat climate change as giant corporations continue to make up over 70% of global emissions.

But mostly, I find it deeply problematic that conversations about being “eco-friendly” often center wealthy white vegans wearing $400 handmade pleather sandals — people who judge others for not “going green” the way they are. Especially when studies show us that climate change disproportionally impacts lower-income communities, which, by the way, already have higher exposure to environmental issues (like pollution), less access to produce and less support during and while recovering from national disasters.

In short, climate justice is a social justice issue with racial, economic and geographic implications that often get forgotten in “clean living” TikTok or “zero waste” blogging. To me, Baggu bags were a symbol of all of this: performative “eco-friendly”-ness, the commodification of sustainability and wealthy people congratulating themselves for “doing their part.” Also, basically everyone has them, making them even less attractive to me.

Baggu shopping bag in Chamomile Terrier.

Regardless of all that: I walked home from the store, ready to throw the tiny foods in the bag. Although I’ve seen Baggu bags everywhere for years, I’d never actually held one, let alone filled one with groceries. I was blown away by how durable and big the “standard” size bag was (which measures 25.5-by-15 inches). To my surprise, I packed that thing full of all the stuff I got my brother, but I still could hold the bag from the handles, not worrying about it ripping apart or breaking open. The website says a bag can hold up to 50 pounds, and truly, I believe it.

Even full of groceries, I could comfortably wear the bag around my shoulder, without it digging into my arm. And I have to admit, the strawberries, which at first looked very “I like Veuve Clicquot and Tory Burch” (my brother’s girlfriend’s vibe), started to give me more of a Cary Leibowitz vibes (a queer artist I’ve loved for years).

What really threw me for a loop was when my, ahem, opinionated grandmother
(who literally hates everything I like) complimented the bag four times. If something can meet the tastes of me, my preppy brother, his preppy girlfriend and my crabby grandma, it must be something special.

Baggu shopping bag in "Malachite" (dark green)

As more and more states deincentivize stores giving out plastic bags, it’s no wonder Baggu bags have taken off. They’re colorful and fun (although they also come in solid black and neutrals). They scrunch into a small thing you can actually fit inside a purse or glove box. They’re plastic bagged-shaped, and not a cumbersome, obtrusive cube, which makes the switch to reusable bags feel a little more natural. And mainly, they’re made from machine-washable nylon, not that weird plastic-coated fabric with the dinky cloth handles that gets all stained and gross. They come in an assortment of sizes, and there are even specific ones for wine.

While I personally think reusable bags and other “sustainable” items should be free/subsidized by the government, the strawberry bag was $12, which, for a machine-washable bag that one can hopefully use for years, I’m not up in arms about. (However, I learned that some prints are $16.)

After Christmas, I went back to the co-op and got two Baggu shopping bags — the strawberry one and a cool one with what appear to be cucumbers and suns — for myself. I’ve already used them to carry a week’s worth of groceries home from the market and lord knows how many weeks’ worth of clothes to the laundromat. For reference, I could fit a queen-sized top sheet and fitted sheet in one bag.

Me and my shiny new Baggu bags, packed to the brim with who knows what.
Me and my shiny new Baggu bags, packed to the brim with who knows what.

Although I still feel conflicted about the way we talk about climate change, and especially the onus being put on personal responsibility as a way to distract from not addressing larger systemic problems — I’ve hopped on the Baggu train. What can I say? It’s a trend I wanted to hate but couldn’t help but love. And feelings aside, it’s a freaking great bag.

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Standard Baggu Shopping Bag

This bag comes in 50 colors and patterns.

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