Help stop the devastation of plastic in the ocean with hands on hemp reusable bags for produce


Fish, turtles, sea birds, seals, whales and other marine mammals die from ingesting plastic or getting tangled in it.

“Ocean Conservancy says plastics are believed to threaten at least 600 different wildlife species. One in three leatherback turtles, which often mistake plastic bags for edible jellyfish, have been found with plastic in their bellies. In February, a dead whale beached on Norway’s coast had 30 plastic bags in its stomach. Ninety percent of seabirds, including albatross and petrels, are now eating plastics on a regular basis. By 2050, that figure is expected to rise to 100 percent.” Huffington Post

Coral Reefs are being smothered to death from plastic wrapping around them. (Coral reefs and wildlife are also being killed off by inept planning with a good deal of human wastewater being purposely piped directly into the ocean.)


Image: Zak Noyle/A-Frame

“Imagine an area 34 times the size of Manhattan. Now imagine it covered ankle-deep in plastic waste — piles of soda bottles and plastic bags, takeout containers by the mile, drinking straws as far as the eye can see.”  Huffington Post

Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer led the 2015 study that determined 19 billion pounds of trash end up in our oceans EVERY YEAR!  According to Jambeck’s research, this figure is on track to double by 2025 unless something is done, swiftly and at a global scale, to stem the tide of garbage.

“In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments — like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles — are carried into the Pacific Ocean EVERY DAY.

Studies estimate there are 15–51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans — from the equator to the poles, from Arctic ice sheets to the sea floor. Emerging research suggests that not one square mile of surface ocean anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution.” Center for Biological Diversity

Every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic (UN Environment Program). Of the more than 200 billion pounds of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean. Seventy percent of that eventually sinks, damaging life on the ocean floor (source: Greenpeace).


HOW IS PLASTIC ENDING UP IN THE OCEAN???  It seems that plastic trash is finding it’s way into the oceans primarily from land due to lack of waste management infrastructure coupled with increasing population in developing countries.  The top five polluting nations in the world were identified in a 2015 Ocean Conservancy report as China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines – where about 75% of waste is mismanaged.  60 other countries worldwide show 50% of waste is mismanaged.  The US is also a culprit mostly due to the mass quantity of personal waste generated – a small percentage, but very large quantity, finds its way into the oceans mostly through littering.  Also, ships (including the navy), some cruises and offshore oil and gas platforms are known to deliberately throw trash overboard!!!  And, some plastic manufacturers intentionally dispose of waste into the ocean. Micro plastics are also an enormous problem in the ocean.  Plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller “bite-size” pieces but don’t ever biodegrade.  Some micro plastics are crazily added to things like exfoliants in health and beauty products which get washed down the drain.

The Huffington Post reported that “Recent studies have found that microplastics can also get washed out of synthetic clothing, like those made of polyester or acrylic. A 2016 paper concluded that a single cycle of a washing machine could release more than 700,000 microplastic fibers into the environment.”

Clearly change needs to happen on a global level and on a country level.  Without the mind boggling increase in corporate plastic production and usage since the 1970’s, we also would not have this problem. Corporations could end this environmental devastation swiftly by not producing plastic.  And we, the individual consumers need to resist all the plastic temptations – especially single-use plastics.  On a hopeful note, the U.N. has started a new #CleanSeas initiative in which 10 nations ― including Uruguay, Costa Rica, France and Indonesia ― vowed to reduce plastic marine litter.


Two of the most common causes of habitat loss in the oceans are from oil spills and industrial/residential waste which includes plastics washing into the ocean.


Some beaches are buried under five to ten feet of trash, while other beaches are riddled with “plastic sand,” millions of grain-like pieces of plastic that are practically impossible to clean up.


Marine trash is made up of 85% plastic.  Plastic trash collects in large circular ocean currents called gyres and forms massive garbage patches in EVERY ocean body – Pacific, South Pacific, North and South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

The Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest “landfill” in the world, two times the size of Texas with 7 billion pounds of plastic, floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the Central North Pacific by a factor of 6 to 1. (Algalita Marine Research Foundation)

25 percent of our planet or 40% of our oceans is littered with trash and plastic.



  • First and foremost we can stop using plastics that could end up in the ocean.  STOP using single-use plastic bags AND start using sustainable options like Hands On Hemp reusable bags, glass and other sustainable materials.
  • Tell all your friends about the devastating effects of plastic in the oceans.
  • We can also support organizations that help with ocean cleanup, innovative solutions and better waste management in other countries.


  • SCIENCE: There may be a caterpillar that can actually process and break down plastic in a way nothing else in nature has been shown to do thus far.
  • ADDIDAS and other brands are actually using collected ocean plastic and reusing it into new products and/or packaging.  See article in Blog.
  • BOYAN SLAT – once a young concerned student now IS actually harnessing science and people power to solve the ocean clean-up conundrum.


The oceans of the earth cover 70% of our planet and hold about 97% of the earth’s water supply.

The oceans are actually all one connected body of water, divided into sections.

This huge body of water serves many functions, especially affecting the weather and temperature of our entire planet and surrounding atmosphere.

The oceans moderate the earth’s temperature by absorbing incoming solar radiation and storing it as heat energy – most of the solar energy from the sun is stored in the ocean.

The always moving ocean currents distribute this heat energy around the globe. This heats the land and air during winter and cools it during summer.

The ocean is home to a vast number of living creatures with more than 200,000 known of and much of the ocean floor still unexplored.

By volume the oceans make up 99% of the earth’s living space – it is the largest living space known in our universe that is full of living organisms.

The ocean is responsible for most of the earth’s oxygen production. Oxygen is produced as a byproduct of photosynthesis by phytoplankton (single celled sea plants) and algae (multicelled sea plants).

Considering the Earth is more than 70% water and phytoplankton are found throughout the ocean, it’s not surprising that they make up 90% of the Earth’s oxygen production.

The ocean is big and beautiful, soothes and calms us with the pulse of its waves. It gives us a sense of perspective and reminds us how vast and unknown our exsistence and the universe is.



We are touching, eating, drinking, and breathing plastic everywhere we go.

The harmful chemicals in plastic are in the plastic bags and containers that hold our food, in the pipes that carry our water, in the bottles we use to feed our infants…in window frames, shower curtains, raincoats, cars, eyeglasses, safety helmets, phones, keyboards, bandages, lipstick, nail polish, CDs, dinnerware, sports safety equipment, incubators, heart-lung machines, IV bags, bottle tops, packaging, dental sealants, sports bottles. The list goes on and on…..


Various studies have linked plastic to increased rates of cancer, asthma, neurological disorders, infertility, reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.  We are ingesting plastics from eating fish and shellfish that contain micro-plastics. One study shows an average shellfish consumer could be ingesting 11,000 micro plastics a year.


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis detected BPA in urine samples of nearly 93 percent of 2,517 people who took part in a national health survey from 2003 through 2004. BPA (Bisphenol A) and Phthalate are harmful chemicals that can leach from plastics and be absorbed into our bodies.

Consumer Reports, released in November of 2009 found that in almost all of the 19 name brand canned foods tested; including soup, juice, tuna, and green beans, each contained some level of BPA.

The report states “The canned organic foods we tested did not always have lower BPA levels than nonorganic brands of similar foods analyzed. We even found the chemical in some products in cans that were labeled “BPA-free.”


  • Use glass, stainless steel and porcelain
  • Use reusable alternatives to plastic grocery, produce and bulk bags
  • Limit canned foods, canned beverages and liquids.
  • Acidic foods like tomatoes and liquids containing grape or citrus juices etc break down lining of cans.
  • Use baby bottles that are glass or that you are sure are BPA free
  • Do not heat or microwave food or liquids in plastic containers
  • Polycarbonate containers with No 7 on the bottom have been known to contain BPA. Avoid using them to store foods and liquids

Challenge yourself to become more plastic free. Make this goal part of every shopping trip!


REDUCING is Better than Recycling: You can easily reduce your consumption of single-use plastic bags/containers and paper bags by using reusable bags/containers.

Recycling is a really ingenious idea that works great for reducing our trash and CO2 footprints, but replacing single-use items with long lasting reusable ones has the greatest positive eco-impact.

As for recycling plastic bags, very little of it happens, only 5% or so.  It is not as easy to recycle plastic bags as other things because they can only be recycled at special disposal centers or now some grocery stores take them.

Plastic bag recycling is more accurately called “down-cycling”, because the original purpose can not be replicated.  Plastic bags can be turned into synthetic materials such as composite lumber for example, but don’t end up becoming plastic bags again.  Plastic bags are made only from virgin resin.

Many plastic bags end up in traditional recycling facilities that are not capable of dealing with them and their machines get gummed up and take twenty minute intervals several times a day to clean up.

Also, plastic bags that are supposed to get recycled, often end up getting shipped to third world countries where they can be incinerated more cheaply creating toxic waste for innocent people.

(Video is Courtesy of  Vox Feminista)

The issue of cultural norms: Why consumption and waste seem to be okay!

What? You don’t think that it’s okay to consume as much as we want and not worry or care about the waste our intense consumption creates for ourselves and the world?

Probably most of us would agree that consumption and waste are not okay, perhaps are in fact the result of habits that are pretty bad! But if you use the statistics for the United States alone, the way most of us are living does give the impression that we think it’s more than okay to live a lifestyle that is overflowing (literally) with consumption and waste.

Why does it appear that consumption and waste are okay for most of us? Here are some reasons that we thought of:

  1. Because for some reason it is not illegal.
  2. It’s just part of how we live.

  3. On trash day it all just magically disappears.
  4. It’s so inconvenient or difficult to avoid things like packaging – we wouldn’t be able to buy hardly anything and, of course, we need to buy things.

  5. Because now we recycle. (Recycling gives us the feeling that we are offsetting all of our consumption and waste, even though source reduction and not creating the waste to begin with is really the ideal option.)
  6. Because there is a big disconnect in our lives and our schools between our choices and the impact on the world. We don’t learn that we must take care of our earth if we hope to stay alive.

  7. We often don’t see the waste caused by our consumption. (Since we have not littered every square inch of the earth and oceans yet and don’t really need to question our ways until it’s too late. ) 

  8. If we run out of room here we have great hopes of shipping our trash into space or to other planets!
  9. We have been seduced into not really questioning our lifestyle.

  10. We think the issue is too overwhelming and we can’t see how our little changes will really help anyway.







 Why Consumption and Waste are NOT okay

  • It’s not Natural!
  • There is just too much Trash!

Each person, on average produces 4.5 pounds of trash a day, or 1,642.5 pounds a year or 131,400 pounds in an 80 year lifetime. Holy trash!

There are serious environmental problems caused by our bad habits of consumption and waste!

Municipal waste contributes to several environmental problems including habitat destruction, surface and groundwater pollution, and other forms of air, soil, and water contamination.

Depending on the disposal method, there may be other negative consequences, such as the creation of toxic substances through incineration. Landfills also emit methane (which contributes to global warming) and other gases.

Biodegradables don’t biodegrade in landfills!

Even normally biodegradable items, when put in a landfill do not decompose due to lack of light and oxygen. According to the EPA, researchers have unearthed cabbages, carrots, and readable newspapers that have been in landfills for 30 years or more! Biodegradables are the majority of trash. Despite the fact biodegradables do not biodegrade in landfills, organic materials continue to be the largest component of municipal waste.

Everyone does not recycle…in fact the majority of people don't recycle. Only a small number of people are lucky enough to live in one of the places in the United States, Canada, or Europe where recycling is offered as part of the services of the area. Most locations simply do not offer recycling, or if it is available, it is up to the individual to take their recycled materials to a recycling center.

The fact is many, many, MANY things that could potentially be recycled get thrown away on a daily basis!

One of the outcomes of our extreme consumption and waste is trash in our Backyard (with a big B.)

We are simply running out of space that can be used to store all our trash. I don’t want it in my back yard and no one else seems to either. Despite that, many people in many countries do live with trash all around them all the time.




Do you think you can’t live without plastic and paper?

It’s not exactly an easy task when 99.9 % store bought items are packaged in one material or the other.

Packaging consists of one third of all municipal waste!

Simply Noticing (At the Store)

One of the things we did, as we began our own experiment in living an environmentally healthy lifestyle, was to take some "research" trips into the supermarket looking for all the foods that are packaged, and then look for all those with no packaging.

We noticed a lot we'd never really paid much attention to before:

  • Practically everything is packaged!!! It is as if the packaging is an attempt to replicate the bright colors of natural produce!

  • Packaging is mostly used as a form of advertising—marketing the brand name item and basically convincing customers to buy the product.

  • Many items are actually double, or triple packaged!

  • Convenient, quick, and easy are three of the biggest catch words around…..what have we lost in our search for quicker, faster, cheaper?

  • The idea of trademarking a name and using it to sell a product was created in 1870 and ushered in a whole lot of wasteful packaging.

  • Buying in bulk can still give pertinent product information to the consumer on one sign above or below the product for sale.

  • Even those grocery stores that represent themselves as environmentally conscious are often overflowing with packaging!


 One interesting side effect of looking around at the store is that we noticed how processed foods are inextricably linked to packaged foods.

Many of the foods we know we shouldn’t really be eating for our best health are also contributing to the total disease of the planet through packaging. Some examples are chips, cookies, frozen foods, candy, many processed cereals, and a lot more.

Of course we do eat these things from time to time, and we're not saying you can’t. We're just saying the correlation is clear.

Take a look around in the stores for yourself and see what you notice!



Before Bags

What did People do Before Bags?

Humans have been around for the last 200,000 years and most of those years we did not need or use single use plastic or paper bags.

For much of our human history we have lived a very simple and basic lifestyle. We grew our own food, gathered edible plants, and hunted or fished to sustain ourselves. Traveling just a few miles was a long trip and so our family, close neighbors and the nature we lived in tended to be our main sources for understanding the world around us.

Depending on the period of time in history, people used different things to carry and store their belongings and food.  Until recently, people always used natural and reusable options. 

How Did People Carry Their Food?

In the past, consumers would carry their items home in reusable containers, cloth sacks, and baskets. Before stores existed and carrying food home was an issue, people had farms and used wooden crates, woven baskets or wagons to collect their harvest.  It was not until 1977 that plastic single-use bags were actually introduced into our society for transporting items home.

How did people previously store their food?

Historically people used cloth bags, hand-made wooden crates, pottery and glass jars to carry and store various goods including food.

The original containers people used, before paper and plastic, were made out of natural, biodegradable materials they found in nature.

Very early in time people consumed food where it was found (or grown). Families and villages were self-sufficient, making and catching what they used. When containers were needed, nature provided gourds, shells, and leaves to use.

Later, containers were fashioned from natural materials, such as hollowed logs, woven grasses and animal organs.

 As ores and compounds were discovered, metals and pottery were developed, leading to other packaging forms.




Preserving Food is Ancient:

Fruits and vegetables were dried in the sun or on an open stove. By 1000 BC, the Chinese were using salt, spices, and smoking to create a sterile environment for different food products.

North American Indians dried the meat of buffalo or deer and then mixed it with a large amount of fat. This was effective because the fat presumably excluded oxygen.The Incas stored their potatoes and other foods high in the mountains in freezing cold temperatures.

Single Usage and the Industrial Revolution:

Plastic grocery bags have only been around about 40 years. Considering our historical ability to thrive without plastic and paper bags, how do we explain and justify why we currently use and cannot live without our collective 500 billion plastic bags a year and their pollution?




Over the last hundred years we have perfected the art of destroying all of our forests for paper consumption – how can we justify that?



When humans shifted from the Agricultural Period into the Industrial Period, our entire purpose and relationship to life shifted.  In the last 200 years, we have created "convenience" and a much physically easier lifestyle (for first world countries) with running water, home heating and cooling, appliances, roads, cars, railways, and lots and lots of products!  The industrial revolution was an incredibly significant period as the standard of living increased for the masses. 

One of the deepest effects of industry though, especially in the U.S., is that convenience and buying stuff has become a central part of our culture.  We feel that buying and having stuff is more important than the impact manufacturing, transporting, and decomposing that stuff has on the land, air, and water. Plastic and Paper bags are provided free of charge and have been promoted as the easiest and best option, but this is simply not true.

The U.S. uses 60,000 plastic bags every five seconds and 1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags every hour.





In the days before bags, and all the stuff we put in our bags, our lives were more difficult in many ways, but our planet was pristine with very little impact from humans.

We must stop ourselves from furthering our destructive habits. They are indeed merely habits and habits can change.

Going back to simpler times and simpler methods is a good thing in most regards.

We have to ask ourselves if we are happier now, with our quick and easy, throw-away lifestyle? Will our children be happier as the planet falls into deeper and deeper crisis?

We can effectively halt, or perhaps even reverse, the damage done by making small changes, like reusing instead of continuing the single-use practice we were trained to think is better. Reusable bags, like those offered by Hands On Hemp, are meant to be reused for a long time without adding more waste to our planet. This is just one small solution to a much bigger problem.


  1. Issues of Plastic
  2. Issues of Paper
  3. Your trash footprint

History of grocery stores in America

Before large corporate supermarkets, there were family-owned, co-ops, general stores and trading posts. Before stores, people grew their own food or hunted and gathered it. How did we get from there to here?

  • 1859: The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company were established. Grocery stores of this era tended to be small (generally less than a thousand square feet) and also focused on only one aspect of food retailing.

  • I916: Piggly Wiggly stores were established in Memphis, widely credited with introducing America to self-service shopping. Self-service stores came to be known as “groceterias” due to the fact that they were reminiscent of the cafeteria-style eateries that were gaining popularity at the time.hopping,

  • 1920s: Chain stores started to become a really dominant force in American food (and other) retailing. Small regional chains such as Kroger, American Stores, National Tea, and others began covering more and more territory. Most of these stores remained small, counter service stores, often staffed by only two or three employees, with no meat nor produce departments. Some still offered delivery and charge accounts, although most chain stores had abandoned these practices.

  • 1926: Charles Merrill, of Merrill Lynch set in motion a series of transactions that led to the creation of Safeway Stores. Growth by merger became common in the late 1920s and 1930s, and led to numerous antitrust actions and attempts to tax the chain stores out of existence.
  • 1920s: Some chain grocers were experimenting with consolidated (albeit still rather small) stores that featured at least a small selection of fresh meats and produce along with the dry grocery items. In Southern California, Ralphs Grocery Company was expanding into much larger stores than had been seen before in most of the country.

  • 1930: Michael Cullen, a former executive of both Kroger and A&P, opened his first King Kullen store, widely cited as America’s first supermarket. The emphasis was on volume, with this one store projected to do the volume of up to one hundred conventional chain stores. The volume and the no frills approach resulted in considerably lower prices.

  • Late 1930s:  A&P began consolidating its thousands of small service stores into larger supermarkets, often replacing as many as five or six stores with one large, new one. By 1940, A&P’s store count had been reduced by half, but its sales were up.

  • 1950s: The transition to supermarkets was largely complete, and the migration to suburban locations was beginning.

  • 1960s: Is seen by many as the golden age of the supermarket, with bright new stores opening on a regular basis, generating excited and glowing newspaper reports, and serving a marketplace that was increasingly affluent.

  • 1970's: Discounters and Warehouse Stores became the norm. Numerous stores around the country embarked on discounting programs at about the same time, most of which centered around the elimination of trading stamps, reduction in operating hours, and an emphasis on cost-cutting.

  • 1980s and 1990s: Upscale Stores, Warehouses, and Mergers of smaller stores. The middle range began to disappear, albeit slowly, as mainline stores went more “upscale” and low end stores moved more toward a warehouse model, evocative of the early supermarkets of the 1930s. Many chains operated at both ends of the spectrum, often under different names.

 From "A Quick History of the Supermarket" –




A brief history of plastic & paper bags

When and why did people start using paper and plastic bags?

People switched from using cloth bags to using paper bags when paper bags were invented because they were cheaper for stores and provided a value added service to consumers which made shopping easier and more convenient.

Later, when plastic bags were invented stores switched to those because they were even cheaper than paper. 

History of the 1st Paper Bags

  • 1852: First machine for making paper bags by Francis Wolle.
  • 1870: Invention of the first square bottom paper bag machine by Margaret Knight.
  • 1912: First paper shopping bag with handles

Margaret Knight's story is too interesting to leave out:

Margaret Knight invented a device to cut, fold and paste bag bottoms.

Before she could place the patent, a man named Charles Annan tried to steal and patent her idea after seeing her machine. Knight, 33 at the time, filed a patent interference suit against him.

His defense was that because Knight was a woman she could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities of the machine. But, due to her careful notes, diary entries, samples and expertise the court ruled in her favor.

Margaret Knight is considered the most famous 19th-century woman inventor, and received 26 patents for such diverse items as a window frame and sash, machinery for cutting shoe soles, and improvements to internal combustion engines.

History of the 1st Plastic Bags:

  • 1957: First plastic bag is invented, the sandwich bag.
  • 1969: Bread and produce are sold in plastic and the first garbage is collected in plastic bags in New York City.
  • 1974: Retail stores begin switching to plastic shopping bags.
  • 1977: Grocers begin using plastic bags at checkout lanes and Retail giants Sears and JC Penney are the first department stores to use plastic bags.
  • 1996: More than eight out of every 10 bags used is plastic.
  • Today: 60,000 plastic bags are used in the US every five seconds.

 Plastic and paper have not been around long enough to warrant their destructive impact on the earth. Switching to natural, biodegradable, and renewable sources of bags for carry and storage must happen sooner or later. Otherwise our single-use habits jeopardize our future.







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 I'm old enough to remember when plastic grocery bags started being offered at the checkout line in grocery stores.

I remember that my parents didn't like them at all. The plastic bags seemed flimsy and they could hardly hold anything. It seemed pointless to walk out of the store carrying 10 or more little plastic bags with only a few items in each one!

So when the grocery clerk asked us if we wanted paper or plastic, the obvious choice was paper. At least with paper it was possible to walk out of the store with just a few bags. Plus we reused the paper at home many, many times.

The grocery store my parents shopped in solved the problem of getting their customers to accept the change to plastic grocery bags by starting to have their checkout baggers put the brown paper bag inside a plastic grocery bag! And slowly, bit by bit, the plastic bag became the norm.

Today, most of the time, I check out at a self-checkout line at my grocery store. I have committed to never accepting a plastic or paper grocery bag at the store. So I have to push aside the already open plastic bags, lined up in each checkout line, in order to put my groceries down. It's actually much more difficult not to use the plastic bags!

So in a country where we believe that we have unlimited choices do we really have as much choice as we think? Are we using that choice?

Plastic bags have been around for such a short period of time and yet they appear to be deeply part of our culture. Why is this? Before people had stores to go to, much less a choice of bags, how did they get their food?

This might seem like a stupid question but it's a question worth thinking about.


Cloth Sacks have been around a long, long time!

Hands On Hemp didn't invent the idea of using cloth reusable bags for carrying and storing food, we just took a good idea, that's been around long before plastic or paper bags, and made it better with sustainable hemp cloth!

Cloth flour sacks and feed sacks were used since the 1800's, from the earliest years of pioneering and settling the United States. At the time these cloth sacks were introduced they made transport easier than the old barrels, boxes, and tins used to transport food staples, grains, flour, seeds, and animal feed,

Storing and transporting these goods in barrels, boxes and tins was replaced by this new cost-efficient cloth sack for many reasons. Because of the invention of the sewing machine, and the ability to sew a stronger seam than a hand-stitched seam, the cloth sack was the preferable method of storing and transporting goods. And, because it was lighter weight and easier to toss a cloth sack on the back of a horse than trying to transport bulky and heavier items, it became the preferable method of transporting goods.

In the Depression era (1921-1941), both money and cloth were scarce. Due to their strong and well-made fabrics, cloth flour and feed sacks inevitably became fashionable as clothing.

Because people didn’t have money, women would recycle the cloth sacks to sew clothes for the entire family.

The flour and grain companies immediately caught on to this trend. They began making the cloth bags in all kinds of interesting colors and patterns–making the bags themselves, as much as the products they contained, hotly desired items.

Clothes could be somewhat unique because flour and grain companies kept producing new patterns and discontinuing previous ones. And, depending on the skill of the seamstress, these bags could be legitimate fashion statements!


The Flour Sack:  A Poem By Colleen B. Huber

In that long ago time when things were saved,
When roads were graveled and barrels were staved,
When worn-out clothing was used as rags,
And there were no plastic wrap or bags,
And the well and the pump were way out back,
A versatile item, was the flour sack. Pillsbury's Best,

Mother's and Gold Medal, too
Stamped their names proudly in purple and blue
The string sewn on top was pulled and kept;
The flour emptied and spills were swept.
The bag was folded and stored in a sack
That durable, practical flour sack.

The sack could be filled with feather and down,
For a pillow, or t'would make a sleeping gown.
It could carry a book and be a school bag,
Or become a mail sack slung over a nag.
It made a very convenient pack,
That adaptable, cotton flour sack.

Bleached and sewn, it was dutifully worn
As bibs, diapers, or kerchief adorned
It was made into skirts, blouses and slips
And mom braided rugs from one hundred strips
She made ruffled curtains for the house or shack,
From that humble but treasured flour sack!



As a strainer for milk or apple juice,
To wave men in, it was a very good use,
As a sling for a sprained wrist or a break,
To help mother roll up a jelly cake,
As a window shade or to stuff a crack,
We used a sturdy, common flour sack!

As dish towels, embroidered or not,
They covered up dough,
helped pass pans so hot,
Tied up dishes for neighbors in need,
And for men out in the field to seed.
They dried dishes from pan, not rack
That absorbent, handy flour sack!

We polished and cleaned stove and table,

Scoured and scrubbed from cellar to gable,
We dusted the bureau and oak bed post,
Made costumes for October (a scary ghost)
And a parachute for a cat named Jack.
From that lowly, useful old flour sack!

So now my friends, when they ask you
As curious youngsters often do,
"Before plastic wrap, Elmer's Glue
And paper towels, what did you do?"
Tell them loudly and with pride don't lack,
"Grandmother had that wonderful flour sack!"



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A 1942 estimate showed that three million women and children of all income levels were wearing print cloth feedbag garments.

Cloth feed and flour sacks were used to make:

  • Clothes
  • Toys
  • Underwear
  • Pillowcases
  • Diapers
  • Laundry bags
  • Curtains
  • Table cloths
  • Towels, dish cloths

Flour sacks in World War I

The Commission for Relief in Belgium was a voluntary effort established during the World War I under the chairmanship of Herbert Hoover, for the purpose of providing food relief to war torn Belgium. Between 1914 and 1919 up to 11,000,000 Belgians were fed through this relief organization.

The CRB shipped 697,116,000 pounds of flour, sugar and grains to Belgium. The flour was packaged in cotton bags by American mills.The empty flour sacks were carefully accounted for and distributed to professional schools, sewing workrooms, convents, and individual artists.

The flour sacks were used by various Belgian groups to make new clothing, accessories, pillows, bags, and other functional items. Many women chose to embroider over the mill logo and the brand name of flour, but entirely original designs were sometimes created on the sacks and then embroidered, painted, or stenciled on the fabric.

Frequent additions to the flour sacks were Belgian messages of gratitude to the Americans. Artists used the flour sacks as the canvas background for creating original oil paintings.

The completed flour sacks were carefully controlled and distributed to shops and organizations in Belgium , England , and the United States for the purpose of raising funds for food relief and to aid the prisoners of war. Many were also given as gifts to the member of the Commission for Relief in Belgium out of gratitude for the aid given the Belgian people.

Herbert Hoover was given several hundred of these flour sacks as gifts and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum has one of the largest collections of World War I flour sacks in the world. (See the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum website for more information about this war effort.)



Invention and destruction

Deep Sustainability With Hands On Hemp newsletter

At Hands On Hemp our deepest value is to be part of supporting the planet in every way we can!

We believe that each of us has the power to create true change in this world, and that this force of change expands beyond what seems possible if we support each other and create change together. 

Our monthly Deep Sustainability Newsletter is one avenue we're using in order to expand consciousness and to create and support community. We'd like to inspire you and have you inspire all of us. Please sign up today!

We will not share your email address with anyone else.

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If you would like to contribute articles or ideas to the Deep Sustainability Newsletter we'd love to hear from you!

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If you have questions or comments about your Reusable Produce or Bulk bags please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!


Contact Ariel Goettinger





Deep Sustainability

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