Organic Trailblazer: Start Somewhere
Sometimes a single small (and personal) action can kick-start something much larger than you even imagine. That’s what happened to me. About 20-plus years ago I decided to stop using the single-use plastic bags that clerks so freely gave me and started bringing my own cloth bags to carry my purchases home. I was tired of seeing plastic bag garbage on my streets, in trees and in the river, and it didn’t make sense to throw something away after one use. I don’t think I even knew back then that plastics are made from oil, a non renewable resource!
The challenge was that in 1989 I couldn’t find any cloth bags that were just right for shopping and errands. After an exhaustive search and help from friends visiting Paris, I found the bags that I imagined–the classic String Shopping bags–and they were expandable, durable and strong. I used them years ago when I was traveling so now I could start using them in my neighborhood. I didn’t start bringing my own bags to the store to change the world, I just wanted to clean up my neighborhood and create less waste. I had a small child and the “yucky” garbage in the park was catching my attention more than ever before.
Well, funny things happen when you start to do something that is different and touches a nerve. People notice. While some people thought it was really weird, others were taking notice and asked where they could get bags, too. That’s when the business was born. Not from a plan to profit on a trend but from a connection to a problem that needed to be addressed. And, anyway, 20-plus years ago, reusable bags weren’t a trend–or a movement. In fact, it was a hard sell even to natural foods markets! Now, however, the reusable bag is de rigueur or required (there are countless plastic bag bans and taxes internationally) and is considered by many to be the “poster child” of the environmental movement.
I met a young woman on a flight, recently, who asked what I do. When I told her I was the founder of ECOBAGS brand bags she immediately confessed to me (as many do) that she means to bring her own bags but sometimes forgets and feels badly when she does. But then she said she’s frustrated because she uses the plastic bags for her garbage and so many of the products she buys are cased in non-recyclable packaging and wasteful wrapping and well, what’s a person to do? I responded with the way I try to live now (and, being totally transparent, it’s not that easy, but it’s a choice): “You have to re-think what and how you purchase and stop buying things that are over-packaged. Shop your values with your dollars. Think of bringing your own bag as your first step and try reducing the waste you create to zero. And, keep in mind, that when you shop this way, other people are going to notice. You have to start somewhere.”
Margaret Mead said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”