Saving our planet; one bag at a time

June 29, 2007

What prompted Rebecca Hosking to start her anti plastic bag campaign

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:52 pm

Plastic bags kill marine creatures  
It was providential that the BBC sent Rebecca Hoskin to the Pacific to shoot a film. Watching sea creatures choke on plastic bags in the
Pacific Ocean finally persuaded her that enough was enough.

The following story by Mark Rice-Oxley from the Christian Science Monitor traces the course of events that led to Modbury becoming Europe’s first plastic bag free town. Read on. It’s a fascinating story.

The British filmmaker had already recoiled in disgust at deserted Hawaiian beaches piled up with four feet of rubbish, the jetsam of Western consumerism washed up by an ocean teeming with plastic. Now, filming off the coast, she looked on aghast as sea turtles eagerly mistook bobbing translucent shapes in the water for jellyfish.

“Sea turtles can’t read Wal-mart or Tesco signs on plastic bags,” fumes Ms. Hosking, who returned to Britain in March. “They will home in on it and feed on it. Dolphins mistake them for seaweed and quite often they’ll eat them and it causes huge damage.”

Within a few weeks of coming back, Hosking persuaded her hometown to ban plastic bags outright and found herself in the vanguard of a sudden British revulsion for that most disposable convenience of the throwaway society.

Stores, grass-roots groups, and citizens are joining forces to reduce national consumption of plastic bags, and Hosking is fielding hundreds of requests a day for guidance.

Wave of plastic-bag activism

Dumbstruck by what she’d seen off the Hawaiian coast during her year-long filmmaking trip, Hosking set up a local screening of her film and invited the town’s 43 shopkeepers to come see where plastic bags end up.

All but seven of them showed up. At the end of the viewing, held in a local hall, Hosking called for a show of hands in support of a voluntary ban on plastic bags. Every single hand went up. The rest of the town’s shopkeepers quickly followed suit. On May 1, Modbury won bragging rights as the first plastic-bag-free town in Europe.

Now, larger towns and even cities are calling up Hosking to ask how she did it. Supermarkets and other retailers are experimenting with plastic-bag-free days, reusable totes, or even buy-your-own bags to discourage usage.

Retailer Sainsbury introduced a limited-edition reusable cotton bag with the logo “I am not a plastic bag,” emblazoned on it. Priced at $10, within an hour 20,000 of them sold out. Others stores are trying out paper bags and “green” checkout lines for environmentally friendly customers who bring their own bags.

Grass-roots campaign

Another grass-roots action group, We Are What We Do, was surprised by the strength of feeling on the issue. For a book entitled “Change the world for a fiver” (five British pounds), its activists asked 1 million people what their top suggestions were to make the world a better place. Eschewing plastic bags was one of the most frequent responses, and is now one of its top campaigns.

“It’s one of the worst indicators of indulgence and excess,” says Eugenie Harvey, cofounder of the group, which seeks to inspire people to change the world through everyday actions. “In this country, we [each] use nearly 200 bags a year on average. They can take up to 500 years in landfill to break down. It’s needless waste.”

Hosking adds, “They are the epitome of throw-away living. It’s amazing how many people want to [stop using them], how many towns are keen to get rid of them. We have had 800 e-mails a day.” Modbury is even organizing for plastic bags to be recycled into furniture to remove at least some from circulation.

Yet an awful lot remain. Estimates vary wildly when it comes to mankind’s propensity for the ultimate in convenience shopping. Environmental groups guesstimate that up to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year.

In Britain the figure is 8 billion – 134 per person. Some will be reused or employed as wastebasket liners. But billions end up back in the environment, fluttering from trees and hedges in China, disrupting the digestion of Indian cows, scudding along the ocean floor, and suffocating an estimated 100,000 birds, whales, seals, and turtles each year.

Reduced CO2 emissions

And there is a climate-change dimension as well: Plastic bags are manufactured using oil. Cutting usage in Britain by a quarter would reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 63 tons a year – equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off the road, the government says.

Some countries have taken decisive action against the plastic bag. Bangladesh and Taiwan have banned them. Ireland took a much-lauded step of imposing a tax (€0.15 per bag) in 2002, leading to usage reduction of up to 95 percent. Next month, California will become the first US state to force supermarkets to provide recycling bins.

But so far, despite the growing public clamor in Britain, the government is showing no signs of introducing a ban or a tax. It prefers encouraging retailers to sign up to waste recycling commitments.

The latest arrangement, agreed in February, commits big stores to reducing the environmental impact of their shopping bags by 25 percent by the end of next year. Government minister Ben Bradshaw called it an “ambitious” agreement and noted that consumers had become “increasingly aware that they can make positive choices to help the environment in the way they shop.”

But Hannah Chance, spokeswoman for Sainsbury, a big supermarket chain, says a total ban is unlikely at the moment. Sainsbury has tried bag-free days and promoting its reusable “bag for life.”

But Ms. Chance says “it would be too radical to completely remove them. The plastic bag does have a functional purpose in life. In cities a lot of people don’t have a car. Lots of people use it as a [trash] bag at the end of the day. It’s giving customers things that are practical.” She said they did try out biodegradable bags, but they weren’t strong enough.

Harvey says that Gordon Brown, poised to take over as prime minister next week, once declared that governments “respond to the climate that people create.” In other words, as one wag once put it, in order to lead people in Britain, first find out where they’re going and then walk in front of them.

But it remains to be seen if enough people will move in this direction.

Anecdotal evidence would appear to show that those who bring their own bags to supermarkets with them are still in a minority.

Campaigners say they hope that by Christmas it will be “as fashionable to carry plastic as it is to wear fur,” but privately admit that they may have a much longer wait.

Plastic stats – and solutions:

500 billion: Number of plastic bags consumed worldwide every year (1 million per minute)

500: Years it takes a plastic bag to decay in landfill

167: Bags used annually by the average British consumer

4.175 million: “Average” person’s plastic-bag legacy, in years

£64 to £80 million ($127 million to $159 million): Amount British retailers spend yearly on providing plastic bags to customers

Countries making headway:

•Since Denmark introduced a packaging tax in 1994, consumption of paper and plastic bags has declined by 66 percent.

•In October 2001, Taiwan introduced a ban on distribution of free single-use plastic bags by government agencies, schools, and the military. In 2003, the ban was extended to include supermarkets, fast-food outlets, and department stores. Customers must now pay NT$1 to NT$2 (30 to 60 cents) for a bag.

•The Irish government says that a tax on plastic bags, introduced in 2002, has cut their use there by more than 95 percent. The “plas tax” has also raised millions of euros, to be used for environmental projects.

Bangladesh slapped an outright ban on all polythene bags in 2002 after they were found to have been the main culprit during the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged two-thirds of the country. Discarded bags had choked the country’s drainage systems.

•In 2006, Hong Kong began a voluntary drive to reduce plastic-bag use. Since then, supermarkets have handed out 80 million fewer plastic bags.•The English town of Modbury became the first plastic-bag free town in Europe after all 43 of its independent retailers committed to banning the bag.

In theory, we have a ban in place in India also, but like most laws, it isn’t enforced. So while we succeed in selling our eco-friendly bags from to people all over the world, we have precious few customers in our own country. Sad, isn’t it?

June 26, 2007

Green represents style now

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 6:05 pm

Green is the new black.

Here are a few bag numbers:

• An estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

• According to the EPA, more than 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are used in the United States each year.

• Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups.

In an article in the Bellingham herald, Zoe Fraley starts with “It’s chic to be green these days. Whether it’s wearing jeans made out of organic cotton or recycling last season’s shirts, going green is the new black”

She’s bang on the button. See some of my previous posts on this blog and you will also agree..

“Green chic has popped up in a surprisingly simple place as an item long used by casual farmers-market shoppers is catching on worldwide as a way to reduce waste: the reusable tote.

“I think people are realizing where plastic comes from and the oil production that goes along with that, and they’re realizing where paper comes from and trying to reduce their impact,” says Michael Marques, a supervisor at the Bellingham Community Food Co-op. “They don’t need to have a fresh paper bag every time they shop. They can bring their own bag.”

Reusable totes gained a chic and cheeky face with the “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” tote by British designer Anya Hindmarch. The bags debuted stateside June 20 and sold out within hours. A representative for the brand said the response has been overwhelming, and a press release lists Keira Knightley and Reese Witherspoon as users and reusers of the tote.

Putting a stylish face on an issue often considered bland can make doing your part for the environment just a bit peppier; it can only be good when what’s fashionable is what’s right.

“A lot of times those kind of reusable totes are kind of ugly,” Marques says. “But if you’re able to make them really hep and stylish, any time you make it interesting to do something good, people have a good response to that.”

For the ultra chic and wealthy, high fashion houses such as Hermes and Marni offer sleek totes in the $800 to $1,000 range, creating a status symbol that says, “I’m rich, and I care.”

But you don’t have to lose all your green just to go green. At larger chain stores such as Fred Meyer and Haggen, inexpensive totes are available. Haggen started selling its 99-cent totes, which resemble large, green paper bags, in mid-June.

“We ordered 10,000 of them for 15 of our stores, and in the first seven days we sold 2,100 tote bags,” says Haggen spokeswoman Becky Skaggs. “We live in a great community that is interested in doing things that are good for the earth.”

On the next order, totes will be purchased for all 32 of the company’s stores, and the market could extend beyond basic totes, into wine carriers and insulated bags, Skaggs says. With such popular demand, Haggen is not alone in the move toward reuse and away from plastic.

“There is a push in many places in the country to reduce the usage of plastic bags, and this is one way for us to be ahead of that,” she says.

The Co-op also offers its own logoed canvas bag for $11.95 or a nylon ChicoBag that crinkles into a tiny case for $5. The store also offers a card that gets punched every time customers use a recycled bag or container or tote bag. After 20 punches, customers get $1 off their purchases.

“We sell an incredible amount of canvas bags,” Marques says. “Our shopper base in general is really conscious of trying to bring their own cloth bags or bringing their paper bags back.”

If not for the good of the environment, pick up a tote to save your cupboards from the crinkly overflow of accumulating plastic bags.

“It frees up your kitchen space,” Marques says. “If you fill five bags a week and you’re reusing those bags, you don’t end up with all that clutter and mess.”

You bet. Plastic bags are a big problem and reusable fabric bags are a great idea. See to see how affordable they can be and see to see how many communities have rid themselves of plastic bags altogether.

June 25, 2007

Designers do it. You can too!

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 5:31 pm

Expensive designer totes

Designers like Anya Hindmarch are making a big splash with canvas reusable bags. More than 80,000 people lined up to buy one of around 25,000 bags, which retailed for $15. Some of them turned up on eBay reselling for nearly $800.

What is it being sold? A canvas tote with a clever slogan. If you can think up one, why don’t you start your own ripple? Select a style from and tell us what you’d like it to say and voila – you have your own craze! 

Want to be a celebrity? Sell the bags at a hefty price and give half your proceeds to a charity. See how Lauren Bush did it.

Sara Bonisteel has a nice story called “Behold the $800 Reusable Grocery Bag - Paper, plastic or Vuitton?” on Fox News. See what she says:

This season’s hottest bags are reusable grocery “shopping” bags that carry designer labels and price tags that run upwards of $895.

Stella McCartney and Hermes are among the designers offering reusable totes with the trip to market in mind. Yet, it is the U.S. arrival of British designer Anya Hindmarch’s “I am not a plastic bag” tote on Wednesday that has fashionistas in a tizzy.

“It comes at a time when there’s a bit of a backlash against ‘it’ bags, which is something that I’ve always hated anyway,” Hindmarch told “And I hope it’s becoming cool to be environmentally aware.”

Hindmarch’s limited-edition canvas bag caused a sensation when it launched in the U.K. in March as part of a nonprofit collaboration with We Are What We Do, a group that encourages individuals to take everyday actions to change the world.

More than 80,000 people lined up to buy one of around 25,000 bags, which retail for $15. Some of them turned up on eBay reselling for nearly $800.

A few thousand of the bags will go on sale Wednesday morning in New York and Los Angeles, with 20,000 more set to hit select Whole Foods on the East Coast on July 18. Emblazoned with blue bubbly writing that says “I am not a plastic bag,” the grocery totes are so stylish, they have found fans among the likes of Keira Knightley, model Petra Nemcova and Madonna.

“People are very desperate for them and I think in some ways the scarcity factor probably does cause awareness, which sort of helps, if you like, what we’re trying to achieve,” Hindmarch said.

Sara Snow, the host of “Get Fresh With Sara Snow” on the Discovery Health Channel, says that the use of reusable bags in America is finally catching on with shoppers who frequent stores like Whole Foods.

“When people ask me ‘What are the top three things I can do to start living greener today?’ one of the answers is always: ‘Start carrying reusable bags everywhere you go,’” Snow said.

A million plastic bags are used every minute worldwide, Snow said, adding that in America alone, 12 million barrels of oil and 14 million trees go into producing paper and plastic bags every year.

It’s become easier for U.S. shoppers to adapt with many retailers offering reusable bags for sale at the cash register, Snow said.

Hindmarch envisions her hard-to-get tote as an advertisement for green living.

“It’s more about being a walking billboard to persuade people that the real answer to this problem is to reuse and reduce and recycle,” Hindmarch said.

She’s not alone. Other designers are also finding fans at the nexus of fashionable and green. McCartney’s organic shopper retails for $495, Hermes plans to sell a collapsible silk bag that reportedly sells for $960 and Marni carries a $843 nylon bag.

Even Louis Vuitton offers a “That’s Love” satin “tote” that retails for $1,720. Actress Scarlett Johansson carries flowers in hers for the company’s advertising campaign.

McCartney’s shopper is part of a line of clothing made with organic cottons sold in her Los Angeles and New York boutiques.

“Stella has always had lifelong vegetarian principles and a commitment to help protect the environment,” said McCartney spokeswoman Arabella Rufino.

“This season bigger bags are going to be in and with the functionality of a shopper, you can take it to the beach or you can take it out for a day of shopping,” said Stephanie Rygorsky, a fashion writer for Life&Style Weekly magazine.

But are Americans ready to spend nearly a grand for what is — in essence — a bag that may see itself covered in broken egg?

“I’m not a big designer person when it comes to my reusable bags, but if that’s what it’s going to take to get people to take their bag to the grocery store, then I say go for it,” Snow said. “If you have the means to spend $800 bucks on a grocery bag, by all means do it because you will probably carry it every time you go to the store.”

That is, if you — and your tote — even plan to step foot in a supermarket.

“Most of the people that can afford a $900 shopping bag aren’t doing their own shopping,” Rygorsky said. “It’s novel and people will carry it and maybe use it as their work bag when you just need the extra tote to put your notebook and things in on the way to work.”

The fact remains that plastic bags are a big problem and reusable fabric bags are a great idea. See to see how affordable they can be and see to see how many communities have rid themselves of plastic bags altogether.

Who knows? Your slogan might be a big hit and you’ll be hitting the headlines. Meanwhile, your weary planet, tired of being abused, will be thankful to you.

June 23, 2007

I am not a plastic bag

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 6:19 pm

I am not a plastic bag
That was quite a a surreal image from Soho with people lined up for a city block waiting to purchase a limited-edition tote bag emblazoned with the slogan “I Am Not a Plastic Bag”. I believe it ran out wand was being sold on e-bay for $ 200 upwards!

Is it just the Anya Hindmarch signature or do they really care? Think they’d buy my version at half the price? I sure hope so!

Good sense prevails. Reusable bags are gaining in popularity!

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:38 pm

Buying a reusable bag at IKEA

Some people had given up on good sense prevailing in our crazy world. But Judith Falvey, of Meadville, got through the checkout line at the Ikea in Robinson recently only to discover that the retailer no longer provides free bags. Plastic bags cost a nickel, used cardboard boxes are free and reusable canvas bags are 59 cents.

A pillar of the modern shopping world — the bag, and the plastic bag in particular — is under intense pressure nowadays. Using bags responsibly or getting rid of them entirely has become a new benchmark for green shopping. People are growing amazingly responsible.

“I think they’re just a blight to our whole society,” declared Greenville resident Pat Hopkins, who was part of the shopping expedition to Ikea with her sister.

The typical plastic bag takes hundreds of years to stop being a bag, a concern to those trying to be environmentally responsible. Then there’s the mess caused by bags released into the wild.

This is not just a paper vs. plastic thing. In analyzing the process from production to recycling, industry observers say plastic bags require less energy and produce less waste than paper bags. The trouble is that less than 6 percent of them make it into a recycling bin.

And there are so many. Factories around the world made 4 billion to 5 billion plastic bags in 2002, according to Worldwatch Institute, an environmental advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Americans alone throw away more than 100 billion annually, the organization said.

The bag issue has been loitering in retail circles for a while, but San Francisco lawmakers brought new energy to the discussion in April by voting to require supermarkets and drugstores to replace traditional plastic bags with biodegradable plastic that can go into the community compost heap. The requirement goes into effect later this year.

The biodegrable option sounds like an easy fix, but Giant Eagle won’t be going that route anytime soon. The O’Hara-based grocer has evaluated using such bags. “While they are compostable and have a very limited reusability, they are not recyclable,” said spokesman Dan Donovan.

Recycling has been the grocery chain’s method of choice for years as a way to mitigate the impact of its plastic bag distribution. Last year Giant Eagle collected 450 tons of bags. The company declined to say how many it distributed.

The Environmental Protection Agency calculated more than 4.45 million tons of plastic bags were generated in the U.S. in 2005.

In November, Giant Eagle added another layer to its bag program by selling reusable totes for 99 cents at the majority of its locations. A company spokesman said they have been popular.

Just a few months ago, the Toys ‘R’ Us chain brought in a version it sells for $1.99.

Niche grocers such as Whole Foods Markets and Trader Joe’s have long sold reusable bags. The latter recently introduced a glossy, blue and green $1.99 version that sold out all over the country, although at last check there were still a few at the East Liberty store. The company declined to break out results for individual stores but sales in California weren’t hurt by a mention in a newspaper article discussing the recent wave of designer shopping bags.

In an effort to offer a carrot to wean shoppers off plastic bags, some retailers have put their names on designer creations meant to lend cachet to the cause.

In England, long lines of customers reportedly waited outside Sainsbury stores to grab a version from Anya Hindmarch emblazoned with the words, “I’m not a plastic bag.” It didn’t take long for them to show up on eBay. Then there were the knockoffs listed under the description: “I am I’m not a plastic bag either shopping bag/tote.”

While there are doubts about how much those who go for such bags truly want to save the Earth, the idea is to change people’s habits. Peer pressure, guilt, fashion, fees — whatever it takes.

Kelly Kinsey, of Lawrenceville, has become much more aware lately over how so many things affect the environment. She was leaving the Whole Foods store in East Liberty last week with a couple of reusable bags she’d just purchased. She’d first taken the plunge into reusable grocery bags a few days earlier but found she didn’t have enough to do the job.

“There’s awareness pretty much everywhere now about the environment,” she said, noting some of the consequences of people’s actions are pretty scary.

Olivia Robertson of East Liberty got her reusable bag from a previous occupant of her apartment building, but she’s training herself to get in the habit of using it by leaving it in the front seat of her car. She’s even used a Whole Foods bag at Giant Eagle and said the staff didn’t make a fuss.

“My concern is more the environment factor,” she said. Eventually she hopes to buy a hybrid car.

Retailers have tried different tactics to make it worth customers’ while. Trader Joe’s enters those who BYOB (bring your own bag) in contests. Wal-Mart, which does not sell reusable totes but has recycling bins in its stores, two years ago began a contest to get elementary school children to bring in plastic bags for recycling.

After introducing its new policy this spring, Ikea has already exceeded its one-year goal of reducing plastic bag use by 50 percent and it ran out of blue bags in Atlanta, according to a company spokeswoman.

Despite her initial confusion, Ms. Falvey had no problem buying a reusable Ikea bag to hold her new candles and rugs, explaining, “I’m all for recycling.”

She hasn’t been in the habit of bringing her own shopping bags but she’s been thinking about changing. Not long ago she noticed a man loading up his own totes at a small grocery store near her home. “I thought, if he does it, I should,” she said.

Darlene Ratliff, of Independence, Ohio, came through the Ikea line a little while later with her 3-year-old daughter, Samantha. They picked up a blue bag, too, even though they had already bought one at a different Ikea store. They just didn’t bring it.

Ms. Ratliff said she liked that the retailer tries to be environmentally conscious and finds the blue bags useful for more than shopping. But old habits die hard. “I think this is nice as long as you can get into remembering to use it,” she said.

She isn’t accustomed to taking her own bags to shop at Kroger. Besides, she said, the bags come in handy to line trash cans. When she stops at Sam’s Club or Aldi — two more retailers that don’t provide free bags — she’s fine with grabbing the empty boxes they try to leave out for customers.

Avalon resident Kathie Church was unloading a full grocery cart from the nearby Aldi store into her car. The mother of six had her own bags ready in the trunk — paper, plastic, even some foldable totes from Hannaford supermarkets in Albany, N.Y., that her mother bought.

Not a hard-core environmental activist, her priorities tend to be keeping costs down and avoiding waste. If she stops at Giant Eagle, she doesn’t bring her own bags, adding, “Here I do it because I have to.” It’s a trade-off she’s willing to make for the savings that she believes Aldi offers.

It would be hard to convince all shoppers that the bag switch is just about being green. One Ikea shopper opined that this was about retailers cutting down on costs and that she definitely expected a bag when she’s paying department store prices.

The traditional European system of picking up a few groceries daily may lend itself more to keeping a shopping bag on hand than the American tradition of loading up once a week, said Donna Dempsey, spokesman for the Film and Bag Federation, a unit of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington, D.C.

The trade group has been paying close attention to the issue, of course. San Francisco’s move brought a lot of queries but the federation argues that wouldn’t work for most municipalities since most don’t have curbside composting programs as San Francisco does.

The plastics organization has been working with retailers in California to encourage more recycling, said Ms. Dempsey. Training retail workers not to double bag would also be good.

“Honestly, the industry gets it. It’s a visible blight,” she said. But the plastic bag is a lightweight, inexpensive product that serves many useful purposes. “It wouldn’t be blowing in the wind if people properly disposed of it.”

One generation pollutes the world, the next cleans it up!

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:21 pm

schoolgirl environmentalists
Even as our generation pollutes the world, the next generation is cleaning it up.

Australian shoppers with a fondness for those plastic bags should beware — two crusading teenagers are watching.

Kate Charters, 14, and Millicent Burggraf, 13, have beaten off adult competition from around Australia to dazzle the United Nations with their campaign to banish plastic shopping bags from Armstrong Street, Middle Park.

And, after the project reduced plastic bag use in the shopping strip by 34 per cent in its first four months, they have been selected as finalists for this year’s World Environment Day awards.

Kate and Millicent were inspired to do something after representing Australia at the United Nations’ 2005 International Children’s Environmental Conference, which was held in Japan.

Now they can look on proudly as Middle Park shoppers carry their groceries in the aqua-coloured bags they designed.

“We live in a bayside area and see plastic bags litter beaches and the area all the time,” Millicent said. “So we really wanted to do something to change that.”

The pair, who live close to each other but attend different schools, spent their spare time persuading traders to support the scheme.

“It was hard to get everyone to agree,” Kate said.

“To get a government grant you have to get support from 80 per cent of traders, and some people thought it wouldn’t really happen.

“But then the IGA supermarket signed up, and that made a lot of others realise we were serious.”

Kate and Millicent are determined to continue their hard work and eventually cut plastic bag use in the street by 80 per cent.

While they initially gave away some of the reusable bags, they are now charging for them to get enough money to keep the scheme going.

Kate and Millicent are among three finalists in the individual category for the United Nations Association of Australia’s 2007 World Environment Day Awards.

The winners will be announced in a ceremony at Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt Hotel this Friday, June 1.



June 21, 2007

Customer delight is pure delight for us too

Filed under: Happy customers — Kaajal @ 5:14 pm

UNFP bag we made
Some time back we made some bags for the United Nations Population Fund in
Suva, Fiji. They were thrilled with the bags we did and Vela Serukalou just wrote my daughter Kaajal a mail which says

Hi Kaajal, So sorry for the delay in sending this to you. I am working on getting those pictures to you soon. Thank you so much and please be advised that I have sent the same to all the UN Agencies here in Suva.The handbags have become such a “hit” here that we are getting so many requests from all over Fiji and even in the region. Norquest Brands is just so awesome. Kind regards. Vela”

Thank you, Vela! That minute you took to write that mail really made our day! The letter she’s circulated to all the other UN agencies in the region is also lovely. Here’s what it says:

 UNFP letter saying they are thrilled with our bags



FOR:     Norquest Brands Limited.

In July 2006, we contacted Norquest Brands Ltd. through their website to procure handbags specifically designed for the UNFPA Office for the Pacific .  These Pacific-branded handbags are intended for our workshops and promotional initiatives.

Our communications with Norquest Brands was facilitated by reliable email and quick turnaround responses.  Considering that they were new vendors for UNFPA and all the way across the world, this posed as an element of risk for us however, we had our office in India do a background check and they responded positively.  We happily entered into this agreement with Norquest Brands.

The information given by Norquest Brands for quotes based on what we had proposed was so detailed, they left no stones unturned and the price they quoted was very reasonable.

We received the first shipment of our handbags on the first week of March, 2007. Their services were exceptional and very efficient.

Norquest Brands Limited is highly recommended by UNFPA for other UN agencies.

The sales representative at Norquest Brands is Ms. Kaajal Badlani.  Contact and address is listed below.

Ms. Kaajal Badlani

office [+91 79] 2646 1626
fax [+91 79] 2644 1812
mobile [+91] 98792 77106

email kaajal  @
blogs |
address b1, norquest house, udyan marg, mithakali, ahmedabad 380 006, india

June 19, 2007

G8 agreement on climate change a “disgrace”: Al Gore

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 5:34 pm

MILAN (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore denounced a deal by world leaders on curbing greenhouse gases as “a disgrace disguised as an achievement,” saying on Thursday the agreement struck last week was insufficient.

The dedicated climate crusader, whose 2006 global warming documentary won an Oscar, said leaders at last week’s G8 summit in Germany had not risen to the challenge to respond to what he calls a “planetary emergency.”

G8 leaders agreed to pursue “substantial” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, stopping short of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hopes for concrete numerical commitments on emission reductions, including her key aim to cut gases by 50 percent by 2050.

They said they would negotiate a new global climate pact that would extend and broaden the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.

“It was a disgrace disguised as an achievement,” Gore said at an event in Milan, where he praised Merkel for her efforts.

“The eight most powerful nations gathered and were unable to do anything except to say ‘We had good conversations and we agreed that we will have more conversations, and we will even have conversations about the possibility of doing something in the future on a voluntary basis perhaps.”‘

The former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate is spearheading efforts to get the world of pop music to back his crusade with the Live Earth concerts on July 7, which will be held in numerous cities around the world.

Gore served as Democrat President Bill Clinton’s vice president and narrowly lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

This story appeared here.

June 18, 2007

Can you take the G-8 seriously on global warming? Really?

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 6:09 pm

Global Warming

I just read this hilarious article by Diane Roberts on the G8 and their reluctance to face up to the threat of global warming “George W. Bush loudly celebrated his alleged “leadership, ” touting the “voluntary targets” which will somehow transform the United States into a land where carbon dioxide is tamed, where mercury no longer taints the waters and Alaska stops melting. Tony Blair, dittohead-in-chief, dutifully endorsed Bush’s boasting, choosing to pretend (the poor guy is leaving office, after all) that the United States might actually bestir itself and do something about global warming”

I’ve reproduced the whole article from here

Britain’s got a brand new bag

By DIANE ROBERTS Special to the Times
June 16, 2007

LONDON - The Observer, the venerable British Sunday paper, ran this cartoon the other day. It showed a polar bear - a skinny, sarcastic polar bear - clinging to a tiny ice floe, saying, “Great news! The G-8 have agreed to ‘consider’ cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050.”

Yeah, great news. You may not have heard much about it, seeing as Paris Hilton (herself a noisome emission of the Bimbo industry) fogs up so much news space. Nonetheless, like Paris in the L.A. County lockup, the G-8 meeting of developed nations represents your tax dollars at work - or not. George W. Bush loudly celebrated his alleged “leadership, ” touting the “voluntary targets” which will somehow transform the United States into a land where carbon dioxide is tamed, where mercury no longer taints the waters and Alaska stops melting. Tony Blair, dittohead-in-chief, dutifully endorsed Bush’s boasting, choosing to pretend (the poor guy is leaving office, after all) that the United States might actually bestir itself and do something about global warming.

But no U.S. government will seriously address climate change until Big Coal, Big Oil and the other corporate planet-foulers stop giving campaign megabucks to both political parties.

Here in Britain, the government has a split personality on the issue. Blair, Gordon Brown, his successor as prime minister, and David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, all want the developed and developing nations to go beyond the Kyoto Treaty to address climate change urgently. However, the Blair government also endorses airport expansion at Heathrow and Stansted and more highway building everywhere.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that more flying and more driving mean a Godzilla-sized carbon footprint instead of a Bambi-light mark upon the Earth.

The British people, however, are ahead of their leaders. About the same number refuse to acknowledge global warming as believe that the Earth is only 6, 000 years old and evolution is wrong - that is, almost nobody. Recycling, low-energy light bulbs, composting, good insulation and efficient appliances are so much a part of the culture that people don’t even congratulate themselves on these things any more. Plastic grocery bags are frowned upon; indeed, towns such as Modbury in Devon have banned plastic bags altogether. If you shop there, you’ll be given a biodegradable cornstarch sack, suitable for everything from organic produce to garbage to picking up dog poo when you take Rover for a walk.

Even the rich have decided (sort of) that petroleum products are so last century. When designer Anya Hindmarch launched a “sustainable” cloth carrier printed with “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” for a supermarket chain, cashmere-clad women lined up to snag one. The green chic was marred somewhat by some people toting their “Not a Plastic Bag” bags off in plastic bags.

Still, the British middle classes can be hard-core. In restaurants, you hear people asking sharply whether the fish was line-caught and if the coffee and chocolate are Fair Trade - not bought from agri-giants but cooperatives in Brazil or Kenya where the workers get a decent price.

Don’t get me wrong: There’s plenty of waste and excess in Britain. People dump their Big Mac boxes on the sidewalk. You can buy peaches in January and a gas-glutton of a Range Rover any time. But this society is changing for the better and without giving up much - if any - of the affluent lifestyle to which we in the West think we are entitled.

America is not beyond hope. In 17 months we’ll have a new administration in Washington, and whoever becomes president cannot be worse than Bush on climate change. And recently the usually craven Florida Public Service Commission refused to sanction a vast new poison-spouting coal-fired power plant next to the Everglades. Are we getting a clue? We’d better, or else we’ll be as isolated as that polar bear.

Diane Roberts, a former Times editorial writer, teaches English and writing at Florida State University.
Link to original article

June 14, 2007

Rebecca Hosking on how she made Modbury plastic free

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 6:13 pm

I wasn't kidding. Rebecca Hosking's really become a star

Reproduced from The Guardian of Wednesday May 16th, 2007

A small town in Devon has become the first place in Europe to turn its back on plastic shopping bags. But how did it do it? Rebecca Hosking, the local activist who galvanised traders and shoppers, explains:

Two weeks ago, the town of Modbury, in Devon where I was born and raised, with its 43 shopkeepers and traders, was thrown into the spotlight. We never anticipated that our decision to turn our backs on plastic bags and stop selling them or giving them away would hit such an international chord of approval.

First came a storm of emails, letters and phone calls. In one day I received more than 800 emails - far too many to answer individually. Many people wanted to pass on their best wishes, but hundreds more wanted to know how we had done it. I was completely overwhelmed.

But now the dust has settled, and I find myself in the bizarre position of being the country’s leading source of knowledge about how to turn a town plastic bag-free. What follows is how we got rid of relying on plastic bags, and some pointers for anyone contemplating a community that is plastic bag-free.

Many of the people who contacted me said they would like to follow the Modbury example, and asked if I could come to their town to do the same. But, the truth is, this will not work. Sadly, there is no quick fix. My best advice to anyone who wants their town to be free of plastic bags is that they are going to have to fight the fight themselves. You are in a far stronger position than when we did it because you now have Modbury as a success story.

Also, there can be no blueprint because every town is different. Every town has different traders, different needs and different attitudes. You, as a local in your community, will know those issues far better than me. If you want to change attitudes in your town you must have the trust of the traders, and to do that it has to come from a local resident.

The first and most essential step is the laborious job of doing your homework. To make Modbury plastic shopping bag-free took weeks of research and hard work. Sorry guys, nothing in life is easy, especially changing people’s attitudes.

I suggest you learn - really learn - what plastics are doing to the environment, to animals, and how, in particular, plastic is entering the food chain and could be affecting us. This last subject has the potential to shock even the most conservative individual into action. A good place to start for the facts is our website ( From there you can continue to delve as much as you like. After reading up you will see clearly why I was driven to act.

Art of conversation

The next step is to approach the traders directly. Remember, you are going to have to educate the people in your town on how their actions could be damaging, and to do this you have to know your subject matter. You must be prepared to answer all their questions. A handout from me or anyone else will not persuade them. Engaging in conversation is the best way to win them over.

Many people have asked if I applied for help with my cause through grants, or the local council or chambers of commerce. But I did none of these. If I had, I am certain we would still be spinning wheels and caught up in red tape.

Instead, I started with the traders who were my friends, suggesting to them the possibility of making Modbury plastic shopping bag-free. After that, I invited all the town’s traders to an evening at which I showed the BBC film I had made about the effect of plastic bags in the Pacific Ocean. I then provided them with the names of bag wholesalers with environmental bag alternatives.

Some days later, I began individually approaching those traders I was less familiar with, and was pleased to see that wind of my campaign had already reached them. Slowly, I started to tick off the list those who backed my efforts to be plastic-free. But it was not all easy going, and some said: “I like my plastic bags.” This is where the research into what plastic does to the environment came in very handy. Once I started throwing a few statistics at them, their faces dropped and we soon got into conversation. For anyone still sitting on the fence, I called in the help of those traders already on board.

While visiting the shops, I asked what plastic bags they used and for what purpose. Things then became a lot more complicated. Nearly every trader needed something different from bags, whether it was strength, size, appearance or material.

The next step, then, was to research every type of environmental bag on the market. You might start with the list of wholesalers on the Modbury website ( However, it is imperative that you learn about where your bags have come from. Are they fair trade? What materials are they made from? Where and how are those materials sourced? Are they sustainable?

If there are supermarkets or large chain stores in your town they will surely ask you these questions. If you can’t answer them, they will not take you seriously.

As the magnitude of the task I had undertaken dawned on me, I started to look for advice from other areas in the country that had made this move. To my shock, I realised that nowhere in Europe had. My rescue came from Australia and a brilliant charity called Planet Ark. The co-founder, Jon Dee, had helped more than 20 Australian towns go plastic bag-free, and was a great help to me and a world of advice.

The next stage was to set a date. All the Modbury traders agreed to a complete changeover just one month away. The big day was May 1. We created a chamber of trade letter, a gentlemen’s agreement, stating that from then on no plastic bags were to be issued.

Over the following month we had weekly group meetings, at which one of the key issues to resolve was what to charge for the reusable and compostable bag alternatives (£3.95). We kept our mission simple, thinking only of what we were doing as a service to the environment, never to make a profit.

In Modbury, the campaign has galvanised the traders and a new community spirit has awakened. As for me, I only ever saw myself as a bridge between what I witnessed while filming in the waters around Hawaii and the traders of my home town. My place in life is educating people, through my camerawork, about what is happening to our environment - and that is what I am now returning to.

I could only have done this campaign in Modbury because the traders trusted me. The town has a great community but we are nothing special - neither am I. All we did was get out there and make it happen. I hope our story will inspire you to take the message to your own community and do the same.

Plastic plague

· The world uses more than 1.2 trillion plastic bags a year - an average of about 300 bags for every adult, or 1m bags used per minute.

· On average, we use each plastic bag for 12 minutes before discarding it. It then can last in the environment for decades.

· 47% of windborne litter escaping from landfills is plastic - much of it plastic bags.

· About 80% of all marine rubbish comes from off the land, and nearly 90% is plastic. In June 2006 the UN environment programme estimated that there were an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic debris floating on or near the surface of every square mile of ocean.

· Plastic bag litter is lethal in the marine environment, killing at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year. After an animal is killed by plastic bags, its body decomposes and the plastic is released back into the environment, where it can kill again.

· A report, Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, by Greenpeace, suggests that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris. An estimated 1 million seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic nets or other debris every year.

· Countries and cities that have banned or discouraged the use of plastic bags include: Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, Taiwan, Mumbai, Scotland, France, West Bengal, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Switzerland, Rwanda, Denmark, Germany, South Africa, California, Somalia, Botswana, Philippines.

· Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photodegrade - break down into smaller and smaller bits, contaminating soil, waterways and oceans, and entering the food chain when ingested by animals.

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