Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rescuing Bags for Upcycling

I wanted to mention the story behind the baskets on my shop:, because from all the items in it they are the ones getting the most attention. So here is a brief story behind it.

I went to the supermarket in my neighborhood rather than the small market I usually go to because circumstances required me to. I paid closed attention to my surroundings. As I suspected, there were grocery plastic bags everywhere. Bags that were not even used were carelessly left in carts, or gathered with garbage-to-be material, or thrown in the floor of the supermarket where customer and employees stepped on them, eventually making them unusable. I picked each single one of them ending up with nine perfectly good-to-upcycle bags.
After thoroughly wiping and disinfecting them the ecofriendly way (with vinegar and baking soda) I started to think what to do with them. I grabbed a plastic bag and ran my hand over its surface, feeling the texture of it, looking at the colors and shaping it in different ways, thinking "how can I make a functional item out of this bag?" The result of my play-time with the bags was a basket with unique qualities made with the nine bags I found in the supermarket.

I was happy to have come across a good solution for all the "bags at risk" I found at the supermarket and to find the perfect handcrafted item to carry in my shop. But it takes quite a few bags to make a good size basket so my next dilemma was whether or not there would be enough plastic bags to make more of these baskets.

So I started asking my sister for her bags and my friends and noticed I certainly would end up with a lot of bags to make plenty of baskets. I also noticed that my sister was bringing home a lot more bags than usual and my friends did too. Then a revelation. Maybe I was encouraging them to bring home more bags than they usually would in their quest to help me make some items out of them. This was not my intention. If I was going to make these baskets it was not through this method. So I informed my friends and family I had way too many bags and would not be taking in any more bags and to please start taking fabric bags to the supermarket.

I had to re-think for a second if I was helping create sustainability or instead creating a demand from an item that was not made sustainably. I stopped making the bags for a while and stopped thinking about them,  but my break from the dilemma did not last long. When I went shopping again I noticed a few more bags left as garbage, sometimes unused, sometimes briefly used and then tossed to the floor of the supermarket. My next trip to the market was the same, a lot more bags kicked to the curb, literally. I made my trips to the supermarket more often, not to purchase anything there, as I try to support local farming, but to pick up the "waste" that it produced and that I find every time I'm there.

I still get some bags from my friends but now they don't bring the excess bags only, the ones they gather as usual, and I use the ones that I gather every time I forget my eco-friendly bag at the supermarket. But a large portion of the bags that I get to use in the baskets come from what my small way of community service and by doing this, picking up the bags that we leave for garbage, I get the enjoyment of ending up with surprisingly unique looking textures, colors, and patterns and the honor of passing on to my customers truly sustainable items they can proudly discuss over coffee or wine (as I would...).

"Social wounds cannot be salved nor the environment 'saved' as long as 'we' cling to the outdated assumption of classical industrialism that the 'summum bonum' of commercial enterprise is to use more natural capital and fewer people."  - Natural Capitalism-


  1. In the spirit of upcycling I just added this item to my shop!:

  2. I love your blog and would love to learn more about how to be more green. Looking forward to future posts!


  3. Thank you Jacquie,

    You have a nice blog too, love the handmade button, I may need to find one too!

  4. Very cool! What a fun blog and a worthy read. Passing the love on...

  5. Thanks B! right back at cha!