Don’t buy the hype: Tote bags aren’t the holy grail

February 4, 2024 — by Nika Svizhenko
Graphic by Leyna Chan
Tote? More like NOPE.
One brand sells for the shocking price of $350.

Every few months, new trends emerge on social media and incite a frenzy where everyone rushes to buy the latest clothing or product. These trends span from clunky Stanley Cups and overpriced UGG slippers to the most recent one: tote bags have gained the spotlight as an alternative to a backpack. Like many trends, tote bags are absolutely overhyped and not worth the praise or, in some cases, the price.

The tote bag was originally popularized as a reusable shopping bag after the ban of single-use plastic bags in many states due to their environmental impact.

However, many people continue opting for them because of their false perception of its environmental benefits, but few are aware of the actual strain that these bags place on the environment.

Despite being reusable, the carbon footprint of tote bags is significantly higher than that of plastic bags. According to a study by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, to make up for their environmental cost of production, they need to be reused 20,000 times, or every day for 54 years. This renders tote bags more eco-harmful than eco-friendly.

Of course, not everyone wears tote bags because of the environment; many simply wear one as a fashionable accessory. Even then, hoarding should not be rebranded as “collecting.” Owning one tote bag is understandable, but we need to stop normalizing owning dozens of these bags just to use each of them once. 

While it is virtually impossible not to consume products harmful to the environment in today’s world, and we shouldn’t blame people for enjoying fun things, overconsuming a product designed to be sustainable is just ironic and unnecessarily damaging.

Although the appeal of the tote bag is understandable, acting like it is the holy grail of bag designs is insane. 

Tote bags are often uncomfortable, especially if the straps are too short or when carrying heavy items. Backpacks are much more comfortable for carrying things — after all, they’re designed for that exact purpose.

A notable example of how people have lost their minds over this bag is the Marc Jacobs tote bag, a plain tote bag that costs $350. There have been people who unironically buy multiple Marc Jacobs tote bags.

To be sure, tote bags aren’t the worst thing in the world, but if you’re going to buy one, get one from a grocery store, museum or other place that sells them for a reasonable price. Bottom line: Don’t spend $350 on a plain tote bag of questionable value.

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