Saving our planet; one bag at a time

June 11, 2010

Say YES to PLASTIC? NO Not Really!

Saving our planet, one bag a time!

June 11th… A day we have all been waiting for; FIFA kicks of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. 1 month of pure excitement and finally something to look forward to at the end of the day!

The newspapers have been full of stories and articles that have been used to build up the furore over this event. But one article this morning stood out from rest “Soccer teams to wear recycled bottles”.

The Portuguese winger, Christiano Ronaldo along with other players will be seen wearing jerseys made from recycled plastic bottles. 8 bottles to 1 jersey, 23 players to 1 team, 9 nations in all and this is not counting what is being retailed. Apparently some 13 million bottles have already been diverted from landfill sites to manufacture these jerseys.

This seems to be a fantastic way of diverting waste plastic to a productive and even fun use. The intent behind it is of course to tell the world that this is a great way to end the adverse impact of plastic on the environment.

So is this a shifting paradigm? A world that now says YES to PLASTIC?

It is brilliant to find a viable solution to the millions of plastic bottles that are being discarded. But what after? Where do these jerseys go once they tear and get worn out? Won’t they be sent to landfills and if so, then isn’t the plastic going right back where it came from, albeit in a different form?

So while this concept deserves applause, it does require further thought. We can’t ban plastic from our lives, there is just too much of it being used for every little thing. But where there is a substitute we must use it. Plastic bottles and plastic bags are the biggest examples. There are easy and immediate substitutes available, so why aren’t we using them? Glass bottles and cotton bags, that’s the way to make a difference!

Here are Norquest we really do believe that changing over from plastic bags to bags made from sustainable fabrics like jute and cotton is a real and feasible choice. Help us save the planet one bag at a time.

June 5, 2010

World Environment Day!

It’s been 38 years now, this being the 39th, since the United Nations General Assembly stepped forward in an effort to make our planet a better place to live in; an effort to promote environmental issues that if taken care of would guide the present to a sustainable, prosperous and safer future; an effort to awaken the people of the world and make them contribute to the betterment of our environment; an effort that has been immensely adulated and has only earned more and more of appreciation all over; an effort better known as World Environment Day (WED).

As time matured, the 5th of June not just attained importance in the minds of people but also gradually made them understand the reason behind the constant arguments put forth by environmentalists all over the world. Now, people are well aware of the fact that they themselves, by their constant unsustainable actions, are putting their home at stake.

We took cognizance of this fact and decided to help the cause in the best way we can. This led to the establishment of our company, Norquest Bags in the year 2002. We’re a modest little company in India that makes and ships eco friendly bags to customers all over the world and believe that one day there can exist a world without plastic bags. We constantly strive to achieve this reality by working with natural fabrics like cotton and jute.

We’ve recently come up with a fabric called recycled waste cotton and another one called, juton. Juton, which is a unique blend of jute and cotton, has already bought in tremendous response from customers all over. Cotton which is rendered as waste during the spinning, weaving and cutting processes, and even discarded cotton clothes are reused and yarn is made out of it; the fabric weaved out of this yarn is recycled waste cotton.

We hope that with our existing line of products (www.badlani.com/bags) and the new ones we’ve recently introduced, we continue to serve our existing customers and every new one to the best we can and do our little bit, to save our planet, one bag at a time.

May 29, 2009

And the winner is recycled cotton!

With all the debate going on about what is really most environmentally friendly and what is less so and what is just greenwashing (where eco-friendliness is exaggerated or lied about. Sadly lots of people and companies are doing greenwashing. You keep reading ads about “recyclable” polypropelene, for example. Yes, in theory it is, but in practice not even 1% actually gets recycled), I just read an article which said

Cotton is good

Organic cotton is better, and
Recycled cotton is best!

So, folks, ask about our recycled cotton bags (write to me at Rajiv at Badlani dot com).

Not only are their really eco-friendly, but they also have a very, very attractive feel and look!

May 14, 2009

A reusable bag you will never forget

As an environmentally concerned person I tend to read news about plastic bags. One of the most common things I encounter are people who agree that plastic bags are bad, but lament the fact that it is difficult to remember to carry your reusable bag. Well, here’s a simple solution. Just tuck a couple of these into your pocket or purse, put a few into your car’s glove compartment and you’re always equipped to shop and not use any plastic bags.

We make tote bags, backpacks and overnighters as part of this range, all of which fold into convenient little pouches that you can easily carry wherever you go.

These aren’t on the website yet, but write to me ar Rajiv at Badlani dot com if you’d like prices and things. Do also look at the rest of our range at www.badlani.com/bags.

May 13, 2009

Branding. Essential and simple.

Trends, says futurist John Naisbitt, are like horses, easier to ride in the direction they are going.

Who would argue with this? Don Quixote perhaps, but marketing wisdom says go with the flow, it makes more sense.

The flow is going the ecological way. Most markets that have matured passed the novelty of the neo-capitalistic fascination with gimmicks and toys have become increasingly tired of novelty for novelty’s sake. Utility and common sense and good taste are back in fashion.

Studies show that most consumers prefer not to receive and carry home unnecessary packaging, and actually choose products based on the ecological impact of what they are buying.

Under these circumstances it makes sense for you to consider including cotton bags as part of your marketing strategy.

Like these savvy folks did. In the picture above you see a small selection of the branding activities we’re proud to have been associated with.

Here’s why. They get re-used as many as 500 times. Every time it gets re-used it acts as a walking billboard for your brand or for your message. In addition to just doing a passive reminder job like other stuff – for example a billboard – can, it also makes a proactive statement that the consumer who is carrying your bag endorses your decision to use a cotton bag as a promo device rather than some flippant giggle-once-and-throw-away thing.

Whether it’s a product or a service brand you are promoting, or an event, a fund raiser or a rock show, the same logic applies: Do stuff your audiences respect you for. Show that your actions prove your attitude.

Makes sense doesn’t it? David Ogilvy hit the nail on the head when he said “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.”

Lets go on from there and agree that everything you do should meet with approval by your target audience. People don’t like what plastic is doing to their world. They approve of people who work towards solving this problem. You can plug into this by using a cotton bag as par of your communication.

But aren’t they expensive?

Not if you buy them direct from us in India. Come see our range at http://www.badlani.com/bags and discover to your delight how economical they are.

April 14, 2009

The Green Marketing niche grows during recession also

Advertising Age recently carried an article about how green marketing as a niche was saving advertisers and consultants from the overall recession. The green marketing area is a growth zone at the moment and Cincinnati based HSR B2B reported revenues growing by 30% in this zone.

Ogilvy North America has formed a new practice called the Greenery, which is helping clients such as DuPont, IBM Corp. and Motorola Inc. with green marketing initiatives.

“So many of our clients are ready for green,” said Carla Hendra, CEO of Ogilvy North America. “So we designed a total offering around helping clients associate their brand with the mission of being better at environmental management and policy, as well as promoting green products.”

But, Examiner.com’s Lisa Booth says greenwashing is becoming a growing concern: “Some companies are sincere in their efforts and want to make a positive impact by becoming more eco-friendly. However, there are businesses that have figured out that making consumers think they’re doing good can be just as beneficial. This dishonesty is known as “greenwashing.” Greenwashing refers to a marketing technique whereby a company falsely claims to have taken environmentally friendly actions.

The most harmful effect of greenwashing is that it takes away from those who are making difference by feeding growing green consumer cynicism. Eventually all eco-friendly companies might be placed under the same umbrella and our confidence in green maybe undermined”.

I see so many bag manufacturers use the word recycled and recyclable in relation to nonwoven polypropylene bags. This is an example of greenwashing. None of the bags are recycled and while they may be potentially recyclable, almost none are ever recycled in actual fact.

At Norquest we always advise customers looking for a green image to choose from a variety of nature based products we offer – cotton, organic cotton, recycled cotton, and jute. See the range at www.badlani.com/bags

April 3, 2009

Every celebrity endorsement helps the cause of reusable bags

Though it sounds so simple, a lot of people still have to catch on that using a reusable bag really makes a difference to our environment. 

It helps to have any form of publicity that promotes the idea and celebrities endorsing good ecological sense is a very useful step. 

Texas-based grocery store H.E. Butt Grocery Co. (H-E-B) is launching an April ad-campaign featuring Eva Longoria Parker discussing the impact of recycling and using reusable shopping bags. 

It will make so many indifferent people sit up and take notice and will definitely influence many star struck young girls to follow suit. 

In addition, H-E-B stores will be selling Longoria Parker-themed reusable bags at each of its locations, while also collecting plastic bags from customers for recycling. 

Way to go H-E-B, and way to go Eva! 

Lots more businesses could benefit from using reusable bags to promote their brands by showing their ecological concern. See www.badlani.com/bags to see how affordable and economical they can be.

March 17, 2009

Just too much plastic for us to handle

Toronto’s tap water is some of the cleanest in the world and subjected to more filtration and safety regulations than bottled water.

But, for Torontonian consumers that’s not enough. Before tap water would be accepted as the absolute cleanest choice, the perception that bottled water is cleaner and healthier had to be quashed and the environmental drawbacks presented.

Toronto’s Agency59 filled city bus shelters with plastic bottles to illustrate the environmental impact of plastic.

With so many bottles in such a small space, Torontonians literally felt as if they were “drowning in plastic.”

Plastic bottles are nowhere near as bad as plastic bags because they can be and actually are recycled, but the sheer numbers and the effort is a nuisance and costs city administrations plenty.

The problem is one of numbers. Plastic bottles like plastic bags may seem inncous but the numbers used are staggering.

February 26, 2009

The great thing is - they’re thinking about what to do about plastic bags!

I’ve long admired Britain’s The Independent as being one of the more thinking news entities. This brilliant and thoughtful article by Michael McCarthy, their Environment Editor (how many other news bodies even have an Environment Editor?) proves me right.

Why are we asking this now?

Because yesterday the Government’s anti-waste body, Wrap, announced that plastic bag use in the UK had dropped from 13.4 billion in 2007 to 9.9 billion in 2008 – a reduction of 26 per cent, or 3.5 billion bags.

That’s a pretty hefty reduction in just 12 months, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed it is; the 3.5 billion bags which have been cut from use, laid end to end, would stretch to the Moon and back twice, or around the Earth 44 times, Wrap obligingly points out (which is a bizarre but undeniably impressive image). On the other hand, we are still using 10 billion bags a year – approximately 166 bags for every man, woman, child and infant in these islands. That’s hardly a kicked habit.

So how many of those 10 billion can we cut?

There’s the rub. In December, seven of the major supermarkets, which are the leading plastic bag sources, agreed that they would seek a 50 per cent reduction in single-use bags by May this year, as against May 2006. It is not clear yet how they are doing, but the rate of change indicated in the UK figures released yesterday certainly suggest that the target is achievable. But where do we go from there? In December, the Government hinted at a 70 per cent eventual reduction in UK plastic bag use (in Whitehall-speak, this is an “aspiration” rather than a target. Targets you have to meet. Aspirations, you aspire to). Could that be attained? Even if it could, we would still be using four billion bags a year. That’s a long way from zero.

Why does all this matter?

Because plastic bags are one of the greatest scourges of the consumer society – or to be more precise, of the throwaway society. First introduced in the US in 1957, and into the rest of the world by the late 1960s, they have been found so convenient that they have come to be used in mind-boggling numbers: in the world as a whole, the annual total manufactured now probably exceeds a trillion – that is, one million billion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000. And according to the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone from being rare in the late Eighties and early Nineties to being found almost everywhere across the planet, from Spitsbergen, at latitude 78 degrees North, to the Falkland Islands at 51 degrees South. They are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal clean-ups. On land they are ubiquitous too. Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags, with one group harvesting 30,000 per month. In some developing countries they are a major nuisance in blocking sewage systems.

What matters is what happens to them after use. Enormous numbers end up in landfill or incinerators, itself an enormous waste of the petrochemical products which have gone into their manufacture; but billions get into the environment, especially the marine environment, where their lack of rapid degradability makes them a persistent and terrible threat to marine life.

What threat do degrading bags present to nature?

Sea turtles mistake them for their jellyfish food and choke on them; albatrosses mistake them for squid and die a similar death; dolphins have been found dead with plastic bags blocking their blowholes. The British wildlife film-maker Rebecca Hosking was staggered by the plastic-bag-induced mortality of Laysan albatrosses on the Pacific island of Midway; she found that two-fifths of the 500,000 Laysan chicks born each year die, the vast majority from ingesting plastic that their parents have mistakenly brought back as food. As a result, Ms Hosking started a movement to turn her home town of Modbury into Britain’s first plastic bag-free community, which many residents and retailers have enthusiastically joined.

So is a plastic bag-free Britain possible?

Perhaps. Who could have imagined half-a-century ago that Britain’s public places would one day all become cigarette smoke-free? Of that we would all be using lead-free petrol? Who would have thought even a decade ago, come to that, that about two-thirds of us would by now be actively engaged in recycling? Major shifts in public behaviour can certainly occur.

So what would be needed to make such a change?

Above all, a general change in consumer attitudes, towards the “re-use habit” – employing reusable shopping bags. Older people will remember how this was entirely the norm before the late 1960s; households, and in particular, housewives – as they then were – had a “shopping bag”, a sturdy receptacle which was used to carry items bought in the daily shopping expedition. But that was the very different pattern of household shopping then – the purchase of a much smaller number of items, on a daily basis, after a walk to small shops – which were local. Today the housewife is largely a vanished species, and many of us tend to drive to the supermarket once a week and fill up the boot with seven days’ worth of provisions, for which plastic bags, of course, are fantastically useful. It’s a hard habit to break.

Why have we seen such a dramatic drop in plastic bag use this year?

Because the leading supermarkets and other retailers are making a major effort to wean us from the habit, with a whole host of initiatives, ranging from “bags for life” schemes to bag-free checkouts. It is clear that habits are starting to change; reusable bags are more visible than they were even two years ago. Wrap’s Dr Richard Swannell said yesterday: “When you go into supermarkets or go down the High Street, there is a real plethora of people with reusable bags.”

Should the Government be putting a tax on plastic bags?

The Government is considering the idea, and Gordon Brown has said that if actions by the retailers do not achieve the desired result, then direct intervention is a possibility. What people have in mind is the example of Ireland, where in 2002 a levy of €0.22 – the PlasTax – was introduced on all plastic bags, the first of its kind in the world. This quickly prompted a quite astonishing reduction of 90 per cent, from 1.2 billion bags a year to fewer than 200,000, and an enormous uptake in the use of cloth bags – with the revenue from the tax ring-fenced for environmental clean-up schemes.

What is the Government going to do next?

In the Climate Change Act, which was introduced late last year, the Government gave itself the power to bring in a plastic bag levy. You might well think that it wouldn’t give itself a power it wasn’t eventually going to use. Certainly, kicking the habit completely may well require stronger action. To get a sense of the scale of the problem, check out the website Reusablebags.com, which has a “clock” showing how many plastic bags have been produced so far in 2009. At 6pm last night, the figure was 76.37 billion.

Will Britain soon be a plastic bag-free nation?

Yes…

* The trend in plastic bag use is definitely falling, which suggests we are moving in the right direction

* The Government intends to drive bag use down even further

* Ministers may bring in a tax, which in Ireland has reduced usage by 94 per cent, which will help further

No…

* We are now too attached to the weekly supermarket shop, which plastic bags facilitate

* It is unrealistic to expect everyone to return to the habits of the 1960s

* Plastic bags are simply too convenient for people to give up altogether, and they certainly hold heavy shopping better than paper ones

Yes, but the arguement against paper bags isn’t even relevant as using paper bags is also very, very wasteful. The only answer is reusable cloth bags.

See how attractive and well priced they can be at www.badlani.com/bags.

Legislation needs tweaking to make people realise reusable cloth bags are the only answer

This article from the Denver Post points out how important it is to get legislation right when addressing the problem of plastic bags.

Encouraging people to move toward reusable shopping bags is a good idea.

We get that, and support it.

However, the bag-banning measure blowing through the state legislature has morphed into something that will be counterproductive to its laudable aims.

Originally, Senate Bill 156 would have charged shoppers at big stores 6 cents for every plastic bag they used to pack up their purchases.

The idea was to give people an economic incentive to bring their own, reusable bags to a store. Good enough.

But the measure left paper bags out of the equation. Stores could provide those to customers without charge. Paper bags aren’t exactly enviro-friendly. Their creation uses energy and causes pollution, and they don’t biodegrade all that fast in modern landfills.

It’s logical to assume people would just start using paper bags, which are more expensive for stores to provide, instead of plastic.

In a committee meeting last week, Sen. Jennifer Veiga, the bill’s sponsor, said she planned to strip out the 6 cent per plastic bag charge since it was causing controversy.

So, we’re left with a bill that bans plastic but leaves paper free? What do you think is going to happen?

The bill is a project being pursued by a group of students from the Kent Denver School. We admire their pluck.

But the truth is, the only way this is going to work is to prohibit stores from giving out either paper or plastic bags for free. If you give stores the option to charge customers a reasonable fee for plastic or paper, they’ll gradually begin to re-use their bags or move entirely to the cloth bags.

Cutting down on the world’s plastic bag consumption is a worthy goal and one we support. But any legislation that swaps one set of environmental problems for another is not a step forward.

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