• Jenna Granger

Upcycled T-Shirt Bags

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Make your own reusable grocery/tote bag

Grade Level:

3rd-12th (younger students can complete with adult support)


Environmental Science

  • Plastic Pollution

  • Human Impacts

Tools & Materials

  • Old/Used Cotton T-shirt

  • Scissors

To Do & Notice

1. Watch this how-to-video created by our friends & partners from the Town of Truckee: Keep Truckee Green Program: Upcycled T-Shirt Tote Bag.

Helpful hints & tips for success:

  • We recommend a cotton t-shirt for ease of cutting, but any material t-shirt will work.

  • “Kid” scissors often are not sharp or strong enough for this type of cutting. Larger crafting or fabric scissors are recommended. BE CAREFUL!

  • Laying the shirt on a flat surface, like a table (as shown in the video) makes cutting easier.

  • When cutting the strips along the bottom:

  • make sure you are cutting the front and back of the t-shirt at the same time so you have even strips

  • We recommend tying after each cut (different from video) so that you don’t get confused with a bunch of strips to tie at the end.

  • Keep watching until the end of the video to learn how to use your fabric scraps to make a doggie chew toy!

2. Use your upcycled t-shirt bag at the grocery store, beach, school or anywhere you need a bag. When possible, use your bag as a conversation starter to let people know about the problem with single-use plastics (see the facts below) and why you are choosing reusable. Please remember to wash your bag between uses to prevent the spread of germs. Visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/CDPH%20Document%20Library/FDB/FoodSafetyProgram/GuidelinesRB.pdf for use and care tips.

What’s Going On

Single-use plastics are a problem! Read below to learn why:

  • Single-use plastics, also called disposable plastics, are commonly used for packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include: grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery.

  • Single-use plastics are a new problem. They didn’t gain popularity until the 1970’s when manufacturers started to replace traditional paper & glass items with lighter and more durable plastic alternatives.

  • Since the 1950’s it is estimated that 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics have been produced, and half of that in the past 15 years alone.

  • Currently, we produce 300 million tons of plastic each year worldwide, half of which is single-use items. That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.

  • Plastic production contributes to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Left alone, plastics don’t really break down; they just break up. Over time, sun and heat slowly turn plastics into smaller and smaller pieces until they eventually become what are known as microplastics.

  • Microplastics are found in our streams, waterways and even in our snowpack.

  • Plastics (and microplastics) are harmful to wildlife who ingest plastics mistaking it for food. Plastics also threaten wildlife who become entangled in it.

  • Find this information and more at https://www.nrdc.org/stories/single-use-plastics-101#what

You can take action! Here are a few ways you can reduce plastic pollution:

  • Choose to REFUSE!

  • Say “no thank you” to plastic straws, plastic cups, plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery & plastic wrap!

  • Go with REUSABLES!

  • Bring your reusable bag (like the one you just made), reusable bottle, reusable cutlery, reusable containers with you everywhere you go.


  • In our region plastics #1 & #2 (hard crunchable plastics like drink bottles, cleaning bottles, milk jugs) can be recycled through curbside pickup. Take a look at Keep Truckee Green’s Recycle Guide to learn more about what is recyclable in our region.


Watch SWEP Staff & Green Team member's favorite short video about the problem with single-use plastic bags….told mockumentary style.: The Majestic Plastic Bag.

Going Further

More DIY projects to help reduce your dependency on single-use plastics:

Thanks to our partners at Town of Truckee and Keep Truckee Green for supporting student’s science & sustainability learning activities.

Please review SWEP's Terms of Use prior to using this resource.


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