The "tote bag", a cotton bag, has been an essential accessory for some years now. Its name comes from the English word to tote which corresponds well to its purpose: a canvas bag of varying size in which you can put everything, whether it is used as a handbag or a beach bag, it will always have a purpose.

Originally, tote bags were intended to replace plastic bags with a single use, but as time goes by, we realize that this is a fake ecological idea. First of all, by accumulating them, either by buying them or by having them as gifts (company goodies, advertising etc.), we end up with wardrobes full of it. The tote bag loses its essence as a reusable bag if you end up with a new one for every occasion.

Recently, The New York Times magazine published an article on this subject ("The Cotton Tote Crisis") denouncing the false ecological gesture of the tote bag, which in the end has an environmental cost that is much greater than we imagine.

In 2006, the UK Environment Agency produced an impact assessment which showed that the ecological footprint of producing a tote bag, and more specifically the carbon footprint, was comparable to that of producing plastic bags. He also claimed that to have a smaller footprint than a plastic bag, a tote bag would have to be used on average at least 130 times. More impressively, some studies even suggest that tote bags need to be used thousands of times to be "profitable".

Indeed, these tote bags are often produced in cotton which generally comes from Asia, which is a distant destination and accentuates the carbon footprint of this accessory. In addition, cotton requires a lot of water and pesticides to produce. According to the « Encyclo-Ecolo », cotton production is responsible for 25% of the world's insecticide use. The problem is also that it’s not only the cultivation that is polluting, but the whole process downstream : the bleaching of the cotton with products that are usually chemical, the printing on the bag that makes it difficult to recycle, etc. It’s therefore the whole production of the tote bag that will have a significant environmental impact.

Finally, as with many objects in our society, it’s the over-consumption that ends up taking over. The solution would therefore be to have a controlled consumption and not to accumulate, such as refusing free gifts from advertising, which applies to tote bags as well as to all consumption in general. Another solution mentioned would be to be vigilant and check that the cotton is organic. However, the impact of tote bags is still much less catastrophic than that of single-use plastic bags in terms of their direct impact on the environment and particularly on the oceans.