Saving our planet; one bag at a time

November 3, 2008

Witty, colourful and practical, the reusable shopper is today’s slogan T-shirt

Filed under: Environment — Tags: , , , , — Kaajal @ 5:13 pm

Britain has really picked up on using reusable bags. This story by Alice Fisher from a recent issue of the Guardian suggests that using plastic should become like wearing a fur coat - something that makes you embarrassed. And it is happening. Up and coming new designer David David says ‘The shopper is a billboard and a status symbol, it’s perfect merchandise.’ 

The new It bags

Witty, colourful and practical, the reusable shopper is today’s slogan T-shirt. Alice Fisher on why ethical consumers and trendsetters are all fans, by Alice Fisher  

It’s weird to think of a supermarket queue making a difference, but that’s what happened last year when a line formed outside Sainsbury’s for Anya Hindmarch’s ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ reusable shopper. The queue convinced the supermarkets that consumers wanted action. It signalled mainstream acceptance of a green initiative: owning a shopper was cool as well as worthy. And at the height of the it-bag trend it showed the fashion world that you didn’t have to make a bag from exotic leather to cause a stampede. 

The shopper was the brainwave of eco movement We Are What We Do. Co-founder Eugenie Harvey had noticed a decrease in plastic bag usage in her native Australia and realised the same shift could happen here. But even she was surprised by how right she was. ‘Those women who queued at Sainsbury’s wouldn’t have gone into the streets and campaigned against plastic bags, but that’s what they did without realising it. Every time we use these shoppers, we’re creating the mood of what’s acceptable behaviour. Using plastic should become like wearing a fur coat - something that makes you embarrassed.’ The figures do show a change in mood. In August, the number of plastic bags handed out at Tesco was 40 per cent lower than for the same period in 2006 . Marks & Spencer saw an 80 per cent drop in the first 10 weeks after they started charging for plastic in May. 

It would be great if we’d truly experienced an eco-epiphany, but the success of the reusable bag is as much about style as saving the planet. Like T-shirts and badges, the square-shaped shopper is the perfect blank canvas for slogans, logos and patterns. Consumers who couldn’t give a toss about the planet love its fashion statement just as much as the green contingent loves its ethical credentials. 

At last month’s Fashion Week the designer shopper replaced the paper goodie bag at shows from Mulberry to Marc Jacobs. Fashion East, a London showcase for young designers, asked new talent David David to create theirs. ‘The shopper is a billboard and a status symbol,’ he says. ‘It’s perfect merchandise.’ 

It’s certainly the first bag taken up by pensioners and hipsters alike, and the green movement hopes there’s life in it yet. Eco entrepreneur Kresse Wesling created Sainsbury’s new reusable bag from used jute coffee bean sacks. 

‘I grew up in Canada,’ she says, ’so I love the shape of the brown paper bag [used to carry shopping in the United States]. That’s what we’ve made: a brown bag, double-wide, with a really long shoulder strap.’ 

Whether this new shopper will get consumers queuing through the night remains to be seen. But it’s safe to say that if the bag is pretty enough and useful enough, there’s someone out there just waiting to use it.

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