Creating a Reusable Bag (From an Old T-shirt)

There are always new ways for us to reduce our waste and its effect on the environment. One way we can reduce our impact is by eliminating single-use plastic bags. This activity takes something that would otherwise go to waste - an old T-shirt, and converts it into a bag that can be reused for a variety of purposes! It can be used for groceries, to pack a picnic lunch, or hold school supplies. You can even give it to a friend or family member, or donate to your local food bank!

By participating, you are both recycling an old product (t-shirt) and helping reduce the need for plastic bags, which can be harmful for our environment. It’s a win-win!

Recommended Ages: 4th-8th grade

Estimated Length: 15-20 minutes (per shirt/bag)


  • An old long or short sleeve t-shirt

    • The thicker the fabric, the sturdier the bag!

  • Sharp scissors or fabric scissors

  • Washable Markers (optional)

Before getting started, please read this passage from One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia” by Miranda Paul:

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred. The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, some were buried, but they strangled gardens. Something had to change. Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.”


Step 1: Using your scissors, carefully cut the sleeves off of the shirt

Step 2: Cut the neckline out of the shirt to form the top opening of the bag

Step 3: Across the bottom of the shirt, cut slits (through both fabric layers) long enough to be tied twice.

Step 4: Align the fabric strips and starting at one end, begin to double-knot them together. This will form the closed bottom of the bag. You can tie them outside the bag for a fringed look, or tie them inside for a concealed look.

After this, you're all done! Give your bag a test by placing some object inside of it.

Step 5: Optional: using washable markers, personalize your new bag with designs and illustrations. You can also use the fabric you removed from the neckline to tie bows on the bag’s handles.

Step 6: Consider about the essential questions below:

  • What are other sources of unnecessary waste in our communities?

  • What are some other ways we can reuse or reduce our waste in ways that benefit people and our world?

  • Is it enough for me to do this alone? Do I need to encourage others to help too?

  • How can I communicate the importance of eliminating waste to others?