The City Cart: The New Icon of the Environmental Movement

If you're still using the term "granny cart," I feel like I should tell you something. You're really not hip anymore.

I know. I apologize for insulting you, but if you were in any way fashionable, you would know that these wire-framed wonders are now being called "city carts" and are no longer just for grannies.

Indeed, trend-setting city folk all of over the U.S. are turning these city carts into everyday companions and using them to carry groceries, to haul laundry, and, of course, to transport 24-packs of PBR back to their apartments.

Since fashion dictates action (at least sometimes), I want to thank hipster city-dwellers for making the city cart fashionable and allowing it to blossom into its new role as icon of the urban environmental movement.

This may be obvious to many, but here's why the city cart can be an important part of living sustainably:

Reason #1 - City carts make it possible to go to the grocery store on foot. This means fewer people driving and could even mean fewer cars (I say this because trips to the grocery store are one of the only things that ever make me wish I had a car).

Reason #2 - City carts can help prevent food waste. If the city cart could help inspire the reestablishment of the local market as a viable way to shop for groceries, people could go to the store more often, making them less likely to waste food.

This is what happens in Berlin. There are grocery stores everywhere in the city, so people aren't forced to make unreliable predictions about how much produce or milk or yogurt they will need over the next week or two. Instead they can make quick stops to the market to buy only what they need for making dinner that night.

Food waste may not sound like a big deal, but according to the EPA, 31.7 million tons of food scraps were sent to landfills 2007. That's more than 63 billion pounds of food sitting in landfills and creating methane gas as it decays--the same gas that's helping to destroy our ozone layer and cause global warming.

Reason #3 - Less food waste means less packaging waste - 78.5 million tons of packaging were sent to landfills in 2007. Although I don't have statistics, a fair percentage of this is likely from food packaging. If we can cut food waste, we can also cut packaging waste, including plastic waste.

So you see, city carts have the potential to help us reduce the number of cars on the road and cut the amount of food and packaging waste we send to landfills.

Or at least I think they do.

My new boyfriend, Mike, on the other hand, thinks that I've got a thin argument and that I am trying to make city carts cool because I just got one of my own.

He's totally wrong—but if I ever hear someone referring to my city cart as a "granny cart," I'm going to be really mad.

Image courtesy of nona*


hoshikaze said…
ya know.. there are two grocery stores within walking distance of me, but 99.99% of the time i drive because the thought of carrying my bags uphill back to my house just is kinda...

okay, i'm lazy. *blush* but a cart would help tremendously!

and for anyone out there still debating on canvas grocery bags: the first two things i noticed about mine are that they hold FAR more items than plastic bags, and they are EASIER to carry in! i live in a basement apartment and frankly, i'm not very adept at carrying things down stairs. i can firmly hold 3 canvas bags (holding at least 6-7 plastic bag's worth of items) in one hand without any pain.

*reads up*

dangit... i get so excited about this stuff that my "comments" are more like entries of my own. *^_^*
LoieJ said…
I remember seeing these carts when I was a child. When I was on my own, but still not owning a car, I couldn't find one. I had to choose my groceries so carefully, by weight, then walk a mile home. That was often a problem. Sometimes the bag broke (paper sacks in those day.) Once I got right to the house and fell on the ice, breaking the eggs and my ego.

I sure like the fabric grocery bags now. They hold up well and hold a lot of groceries and they are easier to carry than the old paper sacks.
Anonymous said…
Tell us where you got your cart!
Vera said…
Hi LLP! Only just discovered your blog yesterday, so I still have a lot of reading to do here (*grin*) but just wanted to lett you know I'm impressed with all you allready did! Besides, I think you're a very good writer! So keep up the good work!

Vera, Amsterdam
Cute! I think calling it a granny crt makes it even better : )
Unknown said…
I totally should get one of these. It would make the farmer's market an easier trip.
Sara said…
We use these trolleys in Switzerland. Not sure what the Swiss call them, but everyone uses them. Mine has a back strap so I can carry it up four flights of stairs to feed my family of five.
Margaret said…
Hey, I was thinking about these just the other day! I walk to the grocery store in our village and all too often seem to buy too much heavy stuff, which only becomes apparent once I'm halfway home and on the way up the hill. Never heard the term "granny cart" before; growing up in Toronto, Canada, my family called it a "bundle buggy" (or the less complimentary "hag wagon"!). In those days they were annoyingly noisy because of the rattling frames and cheap wheels, but if they come in better-made versions now (the same way strollers have improved), I'll definitely add one to my wish list.
Thanks for your inspiring blog!
Anonymous said…
I think you and your blog are the jam! Please keep writing and helping the planet, you are a gem. Also, I have my own city cart and it rules (I actually love it when people call them "granny carts" because I think granny fashion is the next big thing!).

Viki said…
Oh, how funny, I had actually thought recently of getting one of these things. I live within decent walking distance of two grocery stores (well, three, technically... no wait, make that four) and have only walked to one of them once in the entire two years I've lived in my current apartment. I bet if I bought one I'd be more likely to remember to actually use my huge collection of reusable shopping bags (that currently are either collecting dust in my closet or sitting in my car, only remembered as I return with an armload of grocery bags full of stuff and proceed to smack myself in the forehead). I think if I forced myself to have to walk to the store, the necessity of actually sitting down and carefully planning the trip would make me remember to grab the bags on my way out. Now, if only I can find one... I know I've seen a few old people pushing those around my area (which is really why they're sometimes called granny carts... around here anyway).
Coccinelle said…
I bought one last week!

The only problem is that I don't know its made from what but I am sure it has VOC because of the smell I notice once I have already brought it home...

So, I warn you all!
Anan's Corner said…
I got one too lOL, it can be flipped & be very compact like a handbag, I call it my little "Ferrari" to do my morning Sunday fresh veggies foods for the week :p
Laura said…
I go grocery shopping on my bike. It has a rack over the back wheel and two wire baskets attached to the sides of the rack with snap-on loop connectors.
I can carry 50+ pounds on the back, and I tie it down with bunji cords. I'm not that limited with shopping. I used to carry 40-pound bags of dogfood home
I would never want to walk to the grocery store, it would be so slow dragging a cart all that way. But the bike is a practical way to shop except for things that are very big and heavy. Seldom do I have to have things delivered.
Varina said…
"City cart". Ha! Just call it a granny cart and give those trend-setting grannies their due. ;)

Just discovered your blog last week - love it!
Hi there,

I just found your blog and am in love! You have so many wonderful tips in here.

I run my own green living blog,, and was researching how to stop using so much plastic in my own life. Which is how I found your blog.

Thanks for giving people such a great resource, and so many wonderful tips. You've definitely given me a lot of great ideas to stop using so much plastic in my own life.
LoieJ said…
The bike comment reminded me of my visit to Uganda, East Africa. Bike or motor cycle is what most people use to transport anything, if they can afford the bike or hire the "boda boda" (motorcycle.) There might be a mom plus three kids on the bike, or a couple of large gerry cans of water strapped to the back of the bike. Or a large (80 pounds??) of corn or flour on the back of the bike. How do they ride with some much on there? Mostly they are pushing the bikes everywhere. The forks of the bikes are strengthened by rebar.
Carol Pavliska said…
Ooh! I want a city cart! But I live on a ranch in Texas and don't think I could walk to my nearest grocer and make it back in one day. Also - I have a whole slew of kids and a ton of groceries to buy. But we have made some great changes in our lifestyle (long way to go) and I love reading your blog! Thanks! We are down to producing 1 can of trash/week (not too shabby for a family of 7) but hope to get it down to way less than that. Also - BIG TIME knocking out the plastic. We have been using canvas bags for a long time - they actually used to call the store manager over because my requests to have my items placed in the bags I brought just totally threw them for a loop (not anymore, of course). Anyway, thanks for the inspiration! I still want a city cart :(.
I lived in southern Europe for a few years and I put a lot of miles on one of these. I am a guy and some of the old bench guys seemed to be pretty entertained by my use of what to them was a lady's thing. It was ironic, since old Gozitan men push 50s baby carriages full of seed potatoes and farm implements.
Jamieo said…
What are you doing for tooth brushes and shoes? I know they make earthy shoes, and recycled parts shoes... but we can't all just wear hemp sandals!
Denise said…
I have a shop that sells things for people who live in the city and in small homes. My goal was to find some nice looking (ahem...) City Carts and I'm really excited about the German carts we just got - Reisenthel's Carry Cruiser comes in four colors/designs. Very chic, canvas tote style with drawstring top. Not anything like your average granny- I mean CITY cart!
Eco Yogini said…
OMG, I totally wanted one while I lived in Montreal- I would make about two trip down to the d├ępanneur to get my food as I couldn't carry all the food at once!
and yes- I was calling them 'granny carts' but now feeling empowered by the new term- city carts :)
Jesse said…
We call them 'granny trolleys' here! Mine's a life saver - I carted 53 metres of fabric home in it last week. I was a little worried that it might mean the end of my trolley, but we made it.
Academichic said…
I am currently living in Germany and lots of people of all ages use these types of carts or similar baskets/totes to carry their groceries. It never even occurred to me that these might be mocked in the US. Why, oh why, is it that being green equals being old/uncool/dowdy/strange in so many places in the US? I say rock that city cart! S.

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