top of page
  • Writer's pictureJenna 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 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

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.

721 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page