Green Grocery Bag Challenge

on November 8 | in Sew Good (Charity Sewing) | by | with 111 Comments

We at Sew,Mama,Sew! are proud to collaborate with many crafters and sewers and givers all year long. There are hundreds of people who inspire us to make and create and give back. One of the women who continues to amaze us year after year for her continual determination, generosity and focus is The Green Bag Lady, Teresa Van Hatten. Teresa has been making and giving away cloth grocery bags for several years. In fact very time we have a Giveaway Day Teresa gives 100 bags plus 100 kits to make a bag! At last count there were nearly 13,000 Green Bag Lady Bags in use! We love the fact that Teresa has used her sewing skills to help the planet by getting thousands of reusable grocery bags into the hands of consumers.

This year we asked Teresa if we could help her in her efforts by organizing a holiday sewing project. We really hope that you’ll join us. Without further ado, we’re pleased to present to you:

Green Grocery Bag Challenge

The Green Grocery Bag Challenge: A Holiday Sewing Project Benefiting Mother Earth

Fact 1: US consumers generate 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bag waste during the holiday season alone.

Fact 2: The US goes through 100 billion single-use plastic grocery bags every year.

Fact 3: This year, you can make a difference!

How? The challenge is this:

Wrap your holiday gifts in reusable cloth grocery bags.

That’s it! By doing this simple thing this holiday season you will cut down on the amount of wrapping paper entering the waste stream, while also getting multi-use bags into circulation. Not to mention the fact that your gift recipients get a bonus gift that they can use all year long! It’s win/win for earth and your loved ones!

We’ve asked some friends to help motivate, inspire and instruct, so over the next 6 weeks we’ll be providing links to free grocery bag patterns, ideas for wrapping creatively with a cloth bag, tips for sewing lots of bags at once and more!

If you’d like to get involved beyond the sewing and wrapping, here are just a few ideas:

  • Spread the word about the Green Grocery Bag Challenge (feel free to take the graphic!)
  • Write about your experience using and/or giving cloth grocery bags.
  • Write about your own efforts to reduce waste.
  • Post a free tutorial for a cloth grocery bag on your blog.
  • Take photos of ways to wrap gifts in grocery bags so they don’t look like, well…groceries.
  • Send your friends and family members to the Green Grocery Bag Challenge Facebook page.
  • Make a video of how to “mass produce” a bunch of bags at once.
  • Teach your friends how to sew a simple bag.
  • Involve your children in producing lots of bags.
  • Tweet #greengrocerybagchallenge.
  • Organize a Green Grocery Bag sewing event in your community.

Let us know if you’ve written a tutorial or motivational/inspirational post on your blog–we’ll include it in a roundup and/or put it on FB or tweet it.

We really hope you’ll join us by presenting some of your gifts in cloth bags this year. We have an opportunity to change our wasteful holiday wrapping traditions by sewing a gift that everyone on your holiday list can appreciate, including Mother Earth.

If you’re in, comment here, or join us on Facebook!

PS–Thanks to our friends Sara and Sarah at Miller/Cormier for the Green Grocery Bag Challenge graphic!

PPS–Don’t forget to comment on November 8 ~ Gifts for Outdoor Adventurers for your chance to win lots of great prizes!

Pin It

Related Posts

111 Responses to Green Grocery Bag Challenge

  1. Ines Duarte says:

    I blogged about my drawstring stile bags that I sewed to use as gift wraps this christmas. See here:
    It’s in Portuguese, but you can at least see the photos.
    This has been a wonderful project and I think I will never use gift wrap paper again!

  2. Karen says:

    I blogged about the bags I’ve been making with some pictures of shopping bags and “wrapped” gifts.

  3. Joy says:

    Great idea! And I just happen to have an enormous stack of reclaimed fabric set aside for grocery bags. It’s a bit late to start for Xmas (still have to make gifts!) but I was thinking about making a stockpile for all the gift-giving occasions that happen year round. Might as well make a habit out of it!

  4. Kathleen says:

    I love this idea. Everyone is getting their gifts in reusable grocery bags I’m making using an old tutorial posted here. 2 gifts in 1!

  5. This is a great idea! would love to spread the word about this awesome challenge, so we’re featuring the Sew, Mama, Sew! Green Grocery Bag Challenge as a Sew to Serve opportunity all next week! Let me know if you have any questions about being a featured opportunity at, and happy stitching.

  6. amber says:

    I am making reusable shopping bags for everyone on my list this year and I am sewing some for other folks to give to the people on their list. I want to be part of the challenge but I’m not on facebook and don’t want to join. How can I be part of the challenge?

  7. For those who take their own bags to the grocery store, what do you put your garbage in? Until I figure that out I continue to repurpose plastic bags under my kitchen sink. I’m super frustrated by this and would love some input. Thanks!

  8. Of course! Make baggies to put the Christmas tree bunting in. Hooray – this will blast through some stash 🙂
    (scuse me whilst I don’t join you on facebook)

  9. Chris says:

    I am for sure making bags and I like the idea of pillowcases too! thanks!

  10. andy says:

    Instead of making bags, I make pillowcases! Tie them with a corded ribbon and attach a Christmas pick. The gift is fun and the bag very functional. Merry Christmas!

  11. Crystal says:

    I love that I am running into this post just after I myself have just made the decision to make gift bags to wrap my presents in this year instead of buying wrapping paper. I was thinking that I would make actual Christmas themed bags, but now this post has me thinking about using shopping bags. I love it! Thanks for the great idea, and I look forward to seeing some great tutorials.

  12. Megan says:

    I love this idea! I will definitely be posting it on our blog!

  13. Kate sequeira says:

    I’m in! I love, love, love making re-usable bags so what a great excuse to make some more! I want to try making my own net bags for fruits and veggies too!

  14. Ashley A. says:

    Love your idea! I’m all about wrapping “green.” My goal this season is to make all my gifts (my hubby thinks I’m crazy) and wrap them all with things I already own. I’ve started coming up with things in this post… . I’ll be sure to add your graphic to my blog. Thanks a lot for the inspiration.

  15. Caroline says:

    I love sewing bags… I’m so excited to have a great reason to get back to the sewing machine!

  16. This is a great idea — I’ve been trying to green my holiday wrapping for the last couple of years. This year, all in for green grocery bags

  17. Julie says:

    I’m in! What a great idea :o)

  18. Emily says:

    This is great, if you know people will carry your bag. I know my brothers are more likely to lose than use, so I just buy a white sheet at a thrift store and cut it so that the top is along the sheet seam, sew up the three sides, and tie with christmasy grosgrain. We have a great tradition/joke in my family going back to the ’80s when my aunt sewed her own bags one Christmas and wrote ‘please return bag to Joan’ on the tags, so I can always reclaim them :o).

  19. ~Helena~ says:

    This is a great challenge, did it last year. I even made me a dozen bags, I get compliments all the time and I even used fabric we found in Grandma closet(her old stash)

  20. Texana says:

    What a great way to get some good use from those pieces of “what was I thinking” fabric! It may not fit into a quilt, but it will make great green bags!

  21. Emma says:

    I plan to make most of the gifts I give this year, so I’ll already be sewing up a storm, I’m going to be sewing up the wrapping too! It would be a shame to go buy paper to cover something I just made!

    Thanks for spreading the word!!

  22. Jess says:

    I love this idea and just looked at the list of gifts, so I’ll need to get starting on my bags right away. Would love to know how many people end up making for this season.

    Mentioned it in my brand new blog:

  23. Alia says:

    I’m really excited about this! As an American living in Muscat, Oman; we too here use up too much plastic. This is a Muslim country but there are many expats here that celebrate Christmas and even other holidays. I think this is a really great idea to wrap gifts in. My head is spinning with ideas and I so look forward to doing my part here. My 14 year old daughter is very concerned for the planet and my 11 year old son is such a sweetie that I don’t think it will take much cajoling to get them to help! Let my creative juices start up!!

  24. Christy says:

    Count me in!

  25. Alison says:

    This is such an excellent idea!

  26. I made reusable fabric gift bags last year out of Christmas fabric remnants, and am looking forward to seeing them be re-used this year! I have already started making more… including some gift bags made out of leftover quilt squares (a pretty bag… a leftover quilt square gets new life… not wasting wrapping paper… sounds like a win all the way around!)

    tutorial here:

  27. Lindsay says:

    I’m totally on board! Wonderful idea!

  28. Oh, and there is a very easy pattern on Green Bag Lady:


  29. I’m so excited about all this enthusiasm! I love it! I can’t wait to see some of these lovely bags that all of you are to create!


  30. Kelli says:

    I LOVE looking at wrapping paper, especially Christmas wrapping paper, because it’s just so sentimental and lovely to look at. But, I agree that paper just ends up wasted, so I will try to wrap at least some of my gifts this year in reusable bags. Baby steps, right?

  31. Aileen says:

    What a wonderful project. Each year, I cringe when buying wrapping paper. So wasteful! Now to find a good tutorial!

  32. Madeline says:

    I LOVE THIS! I decided earlier this year that this would be how I would “wrap” all my gifts to family and friends. I have been making grocery bags out of old plastic grocery sacks. I found a bunch of tutorials online and was so excited to get started! I am thrilled to hear that others are seeing the benefit of this as well! Best of luck to everyone!

  33. Lisa says:

    We were talking about what a waste all the wrapping paper was last year. I love this idea!

    The graphic is not coming up for me. Is anyone else having an issue with it?

  34. Krystina says:

    I’m SO IN!

  35. jes says:

    I’m going to try this on as many gifts possible

  36. bleuvanille says:

    it’s a fantastic idea. I’ll post a grocery bag tutorial in French on my blog!

  37. Stephotographer says:

    I started doing this last year, I picked up a ton of Christmas themed fabric and went to work making gift bags. And I also picked up some lovely re-useable shopping bags and wrapped gifts in those as well. It makes it much easier to bring gifts to friends too.

  38. ChrissyB says:

    I’ve been doing this for years. I haunt the fabric stores after Christmas to buy holiday fabric on clearance. I also make bags for birthday and other gifts. I’m always tickled when the recipients seem to like the bags as much as the gifts inside!

  39. I’m in! I was thinking about doing this anyways so you just pushed me over the fence. This year for our adult gifts we are making homemade bread along with our neighbors honey and our homemade jams. Putting it all in a reusable grocery sack (but fancied up) just makes sense.

  40. Great idea! I have been wrapping my presents in cloth for years now. Much of my family still think I’m strange, but I don’t care!

    I’m also an avid cloth grocery bag user. Thanks for including this topic.

  41. Terri says:

    Great idea!!!!

  42. Sue says:

    This is a great idea. I have a lot of paper rolls and bags I bought several years ago and I after I use them up or if I need a bag size I don’t have already I will be making cloth bags to use and as I run out of the paper and bags I have, I will not buy more but will be using cloth. I have a lot of Christmas paper but not so much for birthday and other types of holidays so this whole coming season and then next year I will be putting this idea to good use. I already use cloth grocery bags and have for many years.

  43. I’ve been making and using reusable gift bags for the past two years. : )

  44. Q @ JAQS says:

    Love this idea of sharing Green Grocery Bag ideas. And I am always up for a challenge. I don’t sew my own grocery bags, but I love finding that perfect sewn bag and sharing it with family and friends. Last year I was able to get my favorite Green Bag in the hands of all my family and friends.

  45. Laura Lane says:

    It’s amazing that she’s made and given so many bags.

  46. I love wrapping gifts in fabric. I don’t usually wrap them in a bag though. A good idea. 🙂 I wonder how we can switch Santa over to cloth?

  47. Crystal says:

    I already have some cloth bags planned for using this year. I’m using one that I got last year as a lunch bag now – it’s perfect! I need to find some more fabric for this purpose 🙂

  48. This is so exciting! I’m already planning to use reusable cloth bags for all gifts this year. I’m down to a few paper rolls from the last time I bought (about 3 years ago), and once those are gone, that’s it! Thanks for the inspiring challenge!

  49. Hilary says:

    Also if your givign a gift to a crafter you could just wrap it in unfinished fabric and give them an additional gift.

  50. Hilary says:

    Last year I recieved a set of mesh bags that were commercially produced to use to bring produce home. They work great to replace the thin plastic bags we all use weekly for fruits and vegetables (until I build a greenhouse or move to a climate that allows for increased growing season). If anyone has a link to an appropriate type of fabric let us know.

  51. christine says:

    I have a few that I am planning to make for “wrapping” this year but for the past few years, I have been buying reusable grocery bags at the store. I buy them in holiday colors and they are my gift bags. People love getting them and cost is actually less than buying a paper bag. This year I made the decision to make one bag for each person so this is a very timely post. Thank you again for another great idea!

  52. Jerimi says:

    I’m in! I’ve been looking for a little motivation to make the switch. This looks like just the thing.

  53. Kristen says:

    Fun! I’m sure there will be many great ideas as alternatives to the standby of wrapping with the Sunday newspaper comics!

  54. Yeah! I can’t remember the last time I used wrapping paper.
    A few year ago, I started the tradition of making a cloth bag for every gift I give-I just sew up three sides of the bag and use ribbon to close the bags. I turn down the edges of the top and sew a simple hem.
    It really doesn’t take that long to do and I can almost sew them as fast as I can wrap them! I have used lots of different fabrics that I have had just lying around and have used old clothes, old drapes and lots of other miscellaneous scraps. It’s a great way to use up things you otherwise have lying around! My family has now started giving them back to me and that is great feeling too!
    Wonderful, wonderful project-THANK YOU!

  55. Ramona says:

    I bought Christmas fabric at a garage sale to use for this very idea. I have made tote bags in the past for other gifts. Most people love the tote as much as the gift.

  56. I have been doing this for a while, like with my mother’s birthday gift this year, that later became a pillow for my sister.

  57. I make grocery bags from shower curtains. (not the liners) and these would be perfect. Thanks a bunch.

  58. Edris says:

    Love the idea. I already had totes on my Christmas giving list. Can’t wait to see the various posts.

  59. Sue says:

    I like the idea of the bag being part of the gift and really like the additional idea of using drawstring bags for the kiddies. We had a challenge in my family (issued by my niece) this year to use cloth napkins instead of paper. The families who decided to participate have been surprised at how easy it was to switch.

  60. abbie says:

    Great idea! I’m totally in!

  61. I make Morsbags using thrifted fabric and plan to make a bunch to “wrap” my gifts this year. I have also been saving the brown packing paper we receive to reuse as gift wrap.

  62. patricia says:

    My daughter’s preschool has a focus on Healthy Planet. I can put this in out newsletter. The parents at her school will certainly appreciate it, as do I. Thank you for caring about the Earth.

  63. Sarah J says:

    I’ve been doing this for a few years now – I use ‘morsbags’ to wrap my gifts in. please see for a simple pattern.

  64. Valerie says:

    I just “wrap” my gifts in unsewn fabric. The packages look beautiful and there is no waste!

  65. Theresa says:

    sign me up!

  66. Donna B. says:

    Great challenge 🙂

  67. Kayla says:

    Can you post a simple bag pattern on here to encourage people to make their gift bags? As a new sewing momma, I’d love to see a few tips on making fun bags! Thanks!

  68. Cynthia I says:

    I like this idea. I usually make a cloth bag to fit the gift but a great grocery bag would be fun. I like the comment about using Christmas (or seasonal) fabric on one side and durable on the other. Hmmm…Maybe recycled denim from all those worn out jeans! I am excited to see about mass production of bags. I’m not sure I have time to make bags and gifts!!

  69. Johanna says:

    To be honest, I don’t think of wrapping paper as a waste. Sure, I don’t give everyone around me a present. And I also use black and white newspaper or some stylish pages from magazines to wrap up presents for the more artsy people in my life. And I use wrapping paper from recycled paper and reuse them multiple times. One touch with the iron and they are as good as new. We don’t tear wrapping paper here but carefully open presents so this might be a reason 🙂

  70. beth says:


  71. Charmaine says:

    A few years ago I stopped using any wrapping for our girfts. I have been making gift bags, pillow cases, backpacks, duffle bags. I also began using squares of cloth to wrap after finding this amazing pdf from the Japanese government about furoshiki.
    here is a link:

    I also use cookie tins to store our tree decorations during the year and once Christmas comes I use those same containers to hold gifts.

  72. Laura W. says:

    What a great idea! And also gives me a reason to sew more! 🙂

  73. Kimberly N says:

    What a great idea. I’ve been making Christmas-y gift bags with scrap fabrics from FabMo ( but then I put them in the garage for most of the year. I’ll have to make some year round bags too!

  74. Patrice says:

    I was fortunate enough to get one of the green bag lady bags and I love it. This is a great idea!!

  75. Elle says:

    I have been making pillowcases as wraping paper for gifts (I usually give books) for children. Its been a big hit! I keep a supply handy but if I know the child is really into dinosaurs or farms or cupcakes I love to find fabric specifically for them. Children also LOVE to see their initials on anything 🙂

  76. Darla says:

    Wonderful idea and I plan on passing it along to others. I just saw some great fabric, so I’ll put that on my project list. I would so love to meet the green bag lady!

  77. Jessie says:

    I love this idea! I will be re-posting this lovely idea on my blog to see how many people I can get involved from my end!

  78. Jeni says:

    Definitely doing this again! Last year I wrapped all my presents in fabric using the furoshiki method! 🙂

  79. mjb says:

    I made a cloth gift bag at school when I was in 6th grade – it still makes an appearance under the tree when the right size gift needs wrapping! I need to make a few more because it’s fun to see them come back around.

  80. Karen says:

    wow, great idea! looking forward to wrapping, or bagging, gifts this year!

  81. Tierney Barden says:

    I happen to have a few under way doubling as tote bags once the gifts are removed. I’m looking forward to learning tips on sewing a bunch at once – anything to help make more!

  82. Coralee says:

    I am totally in on this one – love how simple and effective this is. I’ve posted a link on my facebook page and will be blogging about it soon!

  83. Lisa Wiehle says:

    I did a few of these last year, using festive PJ pants from goodwill. I also made up gift tags that were long & skinny with “To: From: ” repeated several times, hoping to reinforce the pass-it-along mentality. Just snip off the bottom portion and fill in your own To/From.

  84. Tami says:

    There is a family at our church that collects items for the homeless shelter every year. They usually collect shoe boxes to put the items in to give out. Last year they saw one of my handmade grocery bags and asked me to make several to put the items in to hand out. Will do again this year, w/o being asked. lol. Works out great!!

  85. Kate says:

    This is such a great idea. I just finished making my 16th bag for Christmas gifts. My parents commissioned me after last Christmas and we are going to split the bags. I’ve been making the drawstring bag from “Weekend Sewing” in all sorts of various sizes and in gorgeous Christmas fabric. But to actually be able to use the bags for shopping would be a great idea. I think that I might give some special gifts for friends in bags that can fold up and slip into purses for shopping etc.
    Thanks for the wonderful idea!

  86. Kris says:

    sounds like a fantastic idea! Count me in.

  87. Such a great idea! I was also going to be wrapping my bags in reused brown paper grocery bags & newspaper since they can be recycled afterward. I will definitely incorporate this into my repertoire!!!

  88. Cricket says:

    Last year I bought 6 yards of pine tree fabric after the holidays ($1.50/yard! Can’t even buy wrapping paper that cheap!) I have now to whip out a boat load of bags. I was thinking drawstring that would be used each Christmas, but grocery bags would be a fabulous bonus gift to wrap in.

    Hm. It would be cool if my presents came wrapped in fabric for me to use later. Maybe I will spread the word this year. I mean – tell Santa. Ahem.

    I wonder also if I could get my kids to draw some Christmas pictures and embroider them on bags to leave for Santa to ‘wrap’ his presents in. *Now* I’m getting clever. That would definitely lessen the work Santa has to do.

  89. Brigette says:

    I’m a beginner sewer, so I commit to at least make 2 bags.

  90. Julie says:

    so excited about this! I actually have two green bag lady bags that were a gift from a friend in Nashville. This is a wonderful idea, and I’m so excited to take part! Will be thinking about how to incorporate this challenge into all my gift-giving this year.

  91. Leigh says:

    I’m in!!! I’ll try to get a tutorial up on my blog in the next week or two!

  92. I always use fabric or recycled paper to wrap with but wrapping WITH a grocery bag as part of the gift is pretty brilliant. Especially a purdy sewn one. Thanks for sharing this idea!!!

  93. Greeblygreebly says:

    What a great idea! I’ve been wrapping gifts by sewing gift bags (mostly from scrap fabric) it would make even more sense to make grocery sized bags for gift bags!

  94. Judy R says:

    I already made a ‘no new paper’ pact with myself. We are using up our paper stash and using bags this year. Hubs had to remind me of my promise when we were at IKEA and I saw all their fabulous paper-haha!
    Also, with the paper, I plan to make the tiny Danish heart totes to hang on the tree for the Nisseman to fill with treats. I am trying to think of a way to make them with fabric. Just need to figure out how to reinforce the fabric. Then I can use my stash!

  95. Christine says:

    I like the idea of making fabric bags to hold presents! Thanks for the idea.

  96. Colleen says:

    I am committed to wrap in handmade grocery/shopping bags!!

  97. Sara Suzanne Sews says:

    Last Christmas we wrapped all our gifts in reusable bags made based on this tutorial:
    I bought red and green fabrics and made a variety of sizes – it was fast and easy and everyone loved them. We’re planning to do the same thing this year.

  98. Leesa says:

    I have tried to use cloth bags for shopping. Last year I made about 50 cloth shopping bags and gave them to everyone for Christmas.

  99. Holly U says:

    I am already thinking of making cloth gift bags to give as part of my gift this year, but now you have me thinking. Shopping bags would get so much more use. Hmmm. Either way, I’m up for the challenge!

  100. Emma K says:

    What a great idea. I was planning on making some grocery bags as gifts this year so now I will just make a few more to wrap up the other presents as well.

  101. duff says:

    While on a retreat this weekend, I tried Grand Revival’s Practical Bag pattern. I whipped one out in about two hours, carefully following directions. Now that I know what I’m doing, look out! It’s so fast and easy–a perfect match for your Green Grocery Bag Challenge!

  102. Serena says:

    I bought some Christmas-y-but-not-too-much fabric a few years ago on clearance for this purpose, and, I tell you, it will last me years.

  103. brendajos says:

    I have been making drawstring bags for my gifts for years now. Sadly, they keep getting taken with the gifts so I keep having to make new ones. I think this is the year that I start demanding them back, since I never see presents wrapped in them again the next year. 🙂

  104. Mama Urchin says:

    I started giving gifts in reusable bags last Christmas and have been really happy with it. For kids though I don’t give a grocery sized bag, I usually go with a drawstring bag or backpack. I have a tutorial for a quick string backpack ( that’s a great size for kids.

  105. Aditi says:

    I love it. Been doing this for years. For kids’ gifts, I make smaller drawstring bags so they can be used for toting around small toys – my son has a few of these bags in the car: one for cars, one for crayons, one for miscellaneous small objects!

  106. Leah says:

    I’ve been using cloth gift bags for years but they are only reusable as gift bags. I do occasionally use a cloth grocery bag for a gift, especially if it is local food and wine in the bag. It sound fun to sew some new bags!

  107. Leann says:

    What a great idea! If I have time, I will try to do this. I have a big side-job project coming up before Christmas, so I’m not sure how much extra time I’ll have to sew stuff but I really want to!

  108. Millie says:

    I am in! I have already been working on and thinking about “re-useful” wrappings for all my gifts by making bags, but I was not yet thinking grocery bags, which are super useful. Great idea, thanks! I will make reversible grocery bags, using christmas novelty fabric on one side, so it looks festive as a gift bag, and something more versatile on the reverse side for every day shopping. Thanks for promoting this great idea; Sew Mama Sew rocks!

  109. MaryBeth says:

    I have been doing this for a few years now.. let’s all help Mother Earth..

  110. Lina says:

    What a great idea! I’ve never made my own since I make do with a set of five I bought a few years ago, but there are two nice-looking patterns for bags in “One Yard Wonders” that I’m eager to make as gifts. Maybe this is the year for it!

  111. alice says:

    I am soooooo excited to see this blog because I was just thinking about this the other day and how much I hate the idea of buying tons of wrapping paper that will just get tossed anyway. I was thinking about buying fabric and than when we were all done unwrapping I would have tons of new fabric to play with and try to make things out of.

« »

Subscribe to the newsletter

Sewing inspiration, projects, events and offers delivered conveniently to your email.


Get the latest news via