Saving our planet; one bag at a time

June 29, 2010

We design artwork too!

Being in the business of promotional bags, most of the inquiries we get are for your conventional promotional bags with prints that are either company logo’s and/or names and occasionally names of special events. Its not as if we don’t enjoy working with these; we love to… every new inquiry and every new prospective client comes in with a wave of excitement and eagerness to get their order no matter what… and as a whole that’s what keeps us at Norquest Bags going.

But every once in awhile we happen to meet customers who do a bit more than promotional work; they look for spreading the same message we hope to spread with each and every bag we make… a message to save our planet. We hope to do it one bag at a time, and they do it for us.

Recently, we got an inquiry for one such customer. After much deliberation and discussions, we finalized 3 of our best selling styles. 2 of the styles were supposed to carry prints given to us by our customer and the last one was without a print. At Norquest, we make sure that you get exactly what you’re looking for and that nobody dealing with us has to compromise at any stage.

So, as our process goes, the first printed bag is always photographed and a picture is sent to the customer for their approval. One of the bags, as expected looked very nice. The other one… not as much! The print was a pretty good one, but didn’t sit well on the bag… and this is where we decided to offer our help. The theme being green and for the environment, it was too close to home for us and there was no way we were going to miss an opportunity to design something.

It took a few tries to get a print finalized, but the final one ended up looking great on the screen and even better on the bag. We’re always very happy when we get a chance to come out of our normal work and try something different. Kudos to our customer, because it always takes a lot of willingness and wee bit of patience to try something new… and its because our customer was like that, we got an opportunity to do this.

We’ve seen the bag and even though our customer has seen a picture of it, we can’t wait till he gets it in his hand and feels as happy about it as we are right now. Should be any day now.

At Norquest, we make it our goal to make sure that all of our customers are as excited about seeing their bags as all of us here are, right from the time the order is finalized to the time each and every bag is stitched, finished and packed. We make bags not just to fulfil our customer’s needs but also to try and show the world the bigger picture to at least try and help us in our aim to save our planet, one bag at a time.

November 5, 2008

I welcome Obama’s victory for change

Filed under: Environment — Tags: , , , , — Kaajal @ 5:58 pm

This election in the US has been an eye opener to the world. The usually sleazy world of politicking appears to have given way to decency and hope.

Over the last 8 years, America had developed an image of an arrogant selfish nation completely oblivious to basic human values. Run by an old boys’ club devoted to serving the needs of the biggies.

I was one of the few who still insisted that the average American is a sincere, well meaning and progressive human being. But with Iraq and the shenanigans of Wall Street and the financial and oil companies, I was beginning to have doubts whether that good constituency had any say in what America was all about.

But this morning all my good feelings about America came back. To have elected a coloured man who is also an outsider to the Washington establishment as President has established Americans as easily the most progressive thinking people in the world.

I was thrilled to see Barrack Obama’s first speech after he was clearly the winner. America is going to have a leader who is a decent human being, a thinking man, open minded, mature and a man who seems to think calmly and with a humane dimension.

This will lead America to greater glory and allow it to lead the world out of the mess it was quickly getting into. I suspect the old boys’ network will have their influence substantially curtailed.

It was equally heartening to see McCain’s graceful concession speech. I wish our politicians would learn some grace instead of spewing venom all the time, expressing and causing hatred amongst our people.

Clearly we have a long way to go towards become a “civil” society. I’m glad America will now be able to set an example.

Barrack Obama also looks like a guy who takes environmental issues seriously and I suspect we will soon see some progress towards curtailing the use of the trillions of plastic bags Americans use and throw away.

What does your bag say about you?

Australian fashionista and media star Eisman Kathryn, who earlier wrote a bestseller titled how to tell a man by his shoes, has just released a witty sequel called How to Tell a Woman by her Handbag.

Here’s what the publisher’s website (Penguin Australia) says about it.

What does your bag say about you? Does your ‘it’ bag reveal you to be a style-obsessed fashionista who will do anything or anyone to get ahead? Are you the floral straw-bag girl with squeaky clean hair and a heart full of dirty secrets? Perhaps you’re the mink purse-carrying minx who has turned divorce into a profession, or the briefcase-wielding high-flyer whose favourite form of exercise is climbing the corporate ladder?

With forensic precision and cutting wit, Kathryn Eisman helps us to identify our own handbag personas and those of our family, friends and foes. From the ‘I don’t mind being daggy as long as I’m comfortable’ bum-bag lover to the Hermes-clutching-heiress, we are all bag ladies - now it’s time to discover exactly which one.

Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

But when you think about it, the shopping bag people use says a lot about them. With the growing awareness of the harm that plastic bags do, being seen with your shopping in a plastic bag could do serious harm to your public image.

November 4, 2008

The answer is jute shopping bags

Filed under: Environment — Tags: , , , — Kaajal @ 3:57 pm

In an article titled An Inconvenient Bag from the Wall Street Journal, author Ellen Gamerman speaks of how these supposedly ecological polypropylene bags could actually be harmful for the environment.

She’s right. Even though they are reusable, they aren’t as strong as people make them out to be. Any sharp edge and it will rip right apart.

And they will take as long if not longer than ordinary plastic bags to biodegrade. In theory they are recyclable, but hardly anyone actually recycles them (the prevailing rate is less than 1%).

Cotton, she says, is equally suspect because of the amount of chemicals and water required while growing cotton.

Given all this, the ideal answer is jute. Jute grows wild and doesn’t do any harm to the environment at all, and in the process of going from plant to bag, provides employment and a livelihood to thousands of poorer people in India.

Jute is also a very, very sturdy fabric and will last much longer than either polypropylene or cotton.

Earlier people would laminate jute with a layer of plastic to render it stiff and water-resistant and that was seen to compromise its ecological relevance, but now (thanks to a British company called D2W) we are able to laminate it with a plastic that will also biodegrade.

Jute bags could be the answer to this thoughtful debate, but my impression is that most Americans aren’t very familiar with this fabric. For them, it would be useful for me to point out that jute is a cousin of hemp and linen and shares many characteristics with those materials.

Here’s the original article I read.

An Inconvenient Bag
The Wall Street Journal/Associated Press - Published: November 3, 2008

The green giveaway of the moment - the reusable shopping bag - is a case study in how tricky it is to make products environmentally friendly.

It’s manufactured in China, shipped thousands of miles overseas, made with plastic and could take years to decompose.

The bags usually are printed with environmental slogans as well as corporate logos and pitched as earth-friendly substitutes for the billions of disposable plastic bags that wind up in landfills every year. Home Depot distributed 500,000 free reusable shopping bags last April on Earth Day, and Wal-Mart gave away one million. One line of bags features tags that read, “Saving the World One Bag at a Time.”

But well-meaning companies and consumers are finding that shopping bags, like biofuels, are another area where it’s complicated to go green.

“If you don’t reuse them, you’re actually worse off by taking one of them,” said Bob Lilienfeld, author of the Use Less Stuff Report, an online newsletter about waste prevention. And because many of the bags are made from heavier material, they’re also likely to sit longer in landfills than their thinner, disposable cousins, according to Ned Thomas, who heads the department of material science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Used as they were intended, the totes can be an environmental boon, vastly reducing the number of disposable bags that do wind up in landfills. If each bag is used multiple times - at least once a week - four or five reusable bags can replace 520 plastic bags a year, says Nick Sterling, research director at Natural Capitalism Solutions, a nonprofit focused on corporate sustainability issues.

Fueling the reusable-bag boom is the growing unpopularity of the ubiquitous throwaways known as T-shirt bags, so-called because the handles look like the top of a sleeveless T-shirt. An estimated 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. every year, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

Last year, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the bags from supermarkets and chain drug stores, and this month, the city of Westport, Conn., banned most kinds of plastic bags at retail checkout counters. Boston, Baltimore and Portland, Ore., are also considering bans.

Target has moved displays of its own 99-cent totes to the checkout lanes, to boost the bags’ sales. Rite Aid stocks its branded bags in all of its 4,930 stores. CVS expects to have three million of its own bags in the marketplace within the next year.

Finding a truly green bag is challenging. Plastic totes may be more eco-friendly to manufacture than ones made from cotton or canvas, which can require large amounts of water and energy to produce and may contain harsh chemical dyes. Paper bags, meanwhile, require the destruction of millions of trees and are made in factories that contribute to air and water pollution.

Many of the cheap, reusable bags that retailers favor are produced in Chinese factories and made from nonwoven polypropylene, a form of plastic that requires about 28 times as much energy to produce as the plastic used in standard disposable bags and eight times as much as a paper sack, according to Sterling, of Natural Capitalism Solutions.

Some plastic bags are, in fact, made with recycled materials. The polypropylene bags at Staples are made from 30 percent recycled content, according to company spokesman Mike Black. Target sells six types of bags and Wal-Mart, who pledged to reduce plastic bag waste by about 33 percent in every store world-wide in the next five years, sells a new blue reusable plastic bag for 50 cents, said spokeswoman Shannon Frederick.

Getting people to actually use the bags is another matter. Maximizing their benefits requires changing deeply ingrained behavior, like getting used to taking 30-second showers to lower one’s energy and water use. At present, many of the bags go unused - remaining stashed instead in consumers’ closets or in the trunks of their cars.

Phil Rozenski, director of environmental strategies at the plastic bag maker Hilex Poly Co., believes even fewer people remember to use them.

Dan Fosse, president of Cambridge, Minn.-based Innovative Packaging, produces a line of bags called SmarTote. Each one comes with a bar code that allows stores to track whether it is being reused. The idea, said Fosse, whose bags carry the slogan “Saving the World One Bag at a Time,” is that companies can offer prizes or other incentives to customers who can prove their bag isn’t just collecting dust at home.

Grocery stores are starting to report incremental results, said Fosse, who added the bar codes last spring. “It’s really hard to change customer behavior.”

Sarah De Belen, a 35-year-old mother of two from Hoboken, N.J., says she uses about 30 or 40 plastic bags at the grocery store every week. Late last year, she saw a woman at the supermarket with a popular canvas tote by London designer Anya Hindmarch and promptly purchased one online for about $45.

But De Belen said she soon realized she’d need 12 of them to accommodate an average grocery run. “It can hold, like, a head of lettuce,” she says. Besides, she adds, it’s too nice to load up with diapers or dripping chicken breasts.

November 3, 2008

How sassy can YOU get?

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Tags: , , , — Kaajal @ 6:01 pm

You’ve got to admit that the F word makes that bag interesting and noticeable. If you’d like your own sassy statement on a bag, talk to us today! We’ll enjoy making them for you.

In this article from the website Nin J.A.Castle, Creative Director appears to imply that bags imported from the East are inevitably made in sweatshops. I just sent him a mail saying this needn’t be so and that there are some right thinking folks who manufacture bags also and told him he might like to talk to us. My primary motive of course was to tell him how much I enjoyed looking at his sassy punchline on the bag.

Bags with Attitude

First, we overused plastic bags, and then we started using various forms of reusable carrier bags. Then there were designer reusable bags, bags with slogans and even bags with attitudes. English designer Anya Hindmarch, created a worldwide phenomena with her ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ bag - later it was revealed that the bag was not quite as green as people first thought, and there was some, well, bag backlash.

We caught up with Nin J.A. Castle, Creative Director at the award-winning fashion design company Goodone’s in the UK, to find out why the bag backlash and can bags really be cheeky and sustainable. Frankly it doesn’t get much sassier than their new reusable bag.

What is the concept behind the bag?

Well the idea came about because we were annoyed by the Anya Hindmarch ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ bag. It was promoted in the UK as being a really ethical bag and was such a big craze with people queuing from early in the morning to buy one. Most people thought the bag was made from organic fabric and in a non-sweat factory. This was not the case. So we decided to create our own bag in response, we came up with some really funny slogans like ‘This is not a publicity stunt’ but eventually settled on ‘Do I fucking look like a plastic bag?’ Also we change the handwriting on the bags with every batch we make, so each bag is a limited edition, and has a character all of its own.

It encourages a new consumer group to use less plastic, people who are not so concerned about the environment.

-Nin J.A. Castle

Is the cheeky slogan proving popular? With who?

Yes, the slogan is really popular and surprisingly with people from all age groups. We have had people who are disapproving, telling us off for using a swear word, etc. But at least we provoke a reaction. It’s mainly a younger customer aging from 16 - 35, but we also get a lot of older ladies who buy it for their grandchildren, they often find the bag hilarious and comment on how their daughter will tell them off for buying it.

How does it encourage reducing plastic use?

It encourages a new consumer group to use less plastic, people who are not so concerned about the environment. It is one of Goodone’s aims to not preach to the converted, but encourage the younger generation to think about the environment in a really tongue-in-cheek way.

Do you think the bag might offend people?

I hope not, I hope that people can see the funny side and when we do have complaints we just tell them it is made with organic cotton and manufactured by a charity. Sometimes this works sometimes it doesn’t. There is a lot worse on television, even with people walking down the street.

How does art/fashion encourage activism?

Fashion empowers people and gives them confidence. It reflects attitudes and hopefully gets the cultural ball rolling in the right direction.

How much does it cost?

It only costs £8.

How can North Americans get one?

You can order one off the website - just go to the shop section.

Or you can order them from us in India - Infinitely lower priced of course. And not from a sweatshop.

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.

October 27, 2008

British villages show the way

Filed under: Environment, Happy customers — Tags: , , , — Kaajal @ 4:35 pm

Our “use and throw away” culture needs to change for real change to happen. What’s heartening is the kind of effort people are making.

Hopefully, plastic bags will soon be a thing of the past in a pair of Saddleworth villages.

Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents’ Association (GGRA) has persuaded local shopkeepers to ban free plastic carrier bags with the launch of a groundbreaking green-bag project.

Using funding from the National Lottery and Saddleworth and Lees Community Council, the group has produced 6,000 re-usable cotton bags which will now be sold in shops, schools and churches.

It is hoped the move will engage the 3,000 households in the area into changing from a ‘throwaway’ culture to one that is more aware of the harm plastic bags have on the environment and wildlife.

The money made from bag sales will feed back into the project to produce more bags and hopefully make the project fully sustainable.

If successful, Greenfield and Grasscroft will be the North West’s first plastic-bag-free community, and could inspire others to do the same.

GGRA has taken its lead from Modbury in Devon – Britain’s first plastic bag free town – which banned shopkeepers and traders from giving customers plastic bags.

The ‘Green Grass Bags’ feature artwork by children from primary schools at St Mary’s Greenfield, Greenfield School, Friezland and St Anne’s Lydgate.

On Friday, more than 100 residents packed Friezland Parish Hall to mark the launch.

MP Phil Woolas and Chris Davies MEP, both avid supporters of the project, both praised GGRA, saying campaigns such as the ‘Green Grass Bag’ could eliminate the menace of plastic pollution in coming decades.

There was also a presentation by 10 ‘eco reps’ from the four local primary schools involved in the scheme.

Secretary of GGRA, Mike Rooke, said it was hoped the project would serve as a pilot scheme for the rest of Oldham.

“Experience tells us that oaks grow out of acorns, and it’s best to start with a local project,” he said. “Our villages can help lead the way. We’re trail-blazing for an all-out borough attack on disposable plastic bags.”

October 25, 2008

Americans are thinking greener

I just read about a national survey commissioned by a leading American retail chain Plow & Hearth where they found that half of Americans plan to purchase an environmentally friendly gift this holiday season.

Even more heartening, 66% of them are willing to spend between 10 and 25% more on green gifts.

Women (55%) are more apt than men (45%) to purchase green products. Middle-aged (56%) and younger (54%) Americans are more likely than their older (40%) counterparts to purchase eco-friendly gifts. Those in the West (57%) are more likely than Americans in the South (51%), Northeast (49%) and the Midwest (42%) to buy green gifts.

How accurate is this finding? Pretty accurate it seems. A nationally representative sample of 1,001 Americans was interviewed by telephone via Ipsos’ U.S. Telephone Express omnibus. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire population of adults in the U.S. been polled.

Great news indeed. Indicating clearly that environmentally friendly behaviour is appreciated and respected by a very large number of American consumers.

Makes sense to consider reusable fabric promotion bags for your next branding or promotional activity. They are amazingly affordable (see and discover how affordable) and very attractive, and even more important, greatly appreciated by your consumers.

October 24, 2008

Promotional bags easily score over all other promotional devices

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Tags: , , , — Kaajal @ 2:49 pm
You can’t find a more intelligent promotional device than a reusable cloth promotional bag.

To start with Barrack Obama earns a lot of subliminal brownie points every time somebody sees his candidature being promoted on an eco-friendly reusable promotional bag. The message is: This candidate values the environment and is promoting himself tastefully.

Whether you’re promoting a Presidential candidate or a product or a service, you can’t find a more intelligent promotional device than a reusable cloth promotional bag.

It lasts and lasts and is reused hundreds of times and continues to act as a walking billboard for you every time it is reused. People use it to carry their shopping in and when they do hundreds of other shoppers and passers-by see them carrying it. Each one of them gets the message, that the candidate or the product or the service being promoted has good sense and good taste and is a caring member of the community.

What better message could you give out?

You’ll be happy to hear that these attractive bags cost less than you might think. Make a quick visit to to find out how affordable they are.

You’ll also be pleased to find that we don’t insist on any minimums and will customise and ship even 20 bags if you want.

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