Friday, May 04, 2007

This is not a plastic bag

Following hot on the heels of Anya Hindmarch's highly-sought after designer bag and the announcement that Modbury in Devon has just become the first plastic bag free town in Europe, Lewisham town centre management team are about to launch a range of cotton bags, with the double aim of both promoting local shops and reducing waste.
The idea started out as a Green budget proposal. When we first discussed the idea with town centre managers, they liked it so much that they decided to spend a small amount of leftover cash from last year's budget on it straightaway. The first batch have just arrived back from the manufacturers and will be hitting shops soon. I believe the first bags are earmarked for the bigger shopping centres in Lewisham (ie Lewisham, Catford, Brockley), but as our budget proposal also went through, more bags (this time in fairtrade (and I think organic) cotton, as stipulated in our budget agreement) have been ordered, which I believe are going to be aimed at smaller shopping centres (I'm hoping this will include Ladywell, but I have no say over this).
The town centre managers will be offering the bags to shopkeepers at just above cost-price , who can then sell the bags onto customers at £2 each. This means that the scheme should be self-financing (ie sustainable in more ways than one!), as well as making the shops a small profit, and any profit made by the town centre managers will be ploughed back into buying more cloth bags or on other improvements to shopping areas.
So buy them quickly before they are snapped up and put on E-bay for extortionate prices. Could soon be the must have accessory for all shoppers in Lewisham!


leenewham said...

Why couldn't they make it look like something that people might actually want to be seen with, it looks horrible. Also cotton, even organic, is incredibly bad for the enviroment, it should have been made from hemp which is a much better material for this sort of thing. Shame, it could have got some great PR for Lewisham if they had given it more thought.

You wont see this on ebay!

One a brighter nite, at least its BETTER than a plastic bag. I personally always take by blue IKEA bag when I go shopping.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lee
I agree that hemp is a great plant that we should be growing much more of in this country. Back in the days of Henry VIII it was even compulsory for all landowners to sow 1/4 of an acre, or be fined, and hemp was a major crop. Even up to the 1920's 80% of clothing was apparently made from Hemp textiles.

It is incredibly versatile with a load of different uses, my personal favourite being the hemp ice cream van that is sometimes around at festivals (the only vegan mint choc chip ice cream I've come across). I've recently been reading about hempcrete - a greener alternative to concrete, which is incredibly energy-intensive in its production, which has great potential for reducing a good chunk of the carbon emissions of the construction industry.

I think this cotton bag scheme is a big step in the right direction, as was insisting on fairtrade, organic cotton, but UK grown hemp would be a good idea for a future batch of bags. However, do you know of a company that could supply hemp bags (either UK-grown or fairtrade) with a design printed on them for approx £1 each, as we want to keep them fairly cheap so that shopkeepers can both make a profit and persuade people to buy and use them. The cheapest I've been able to find online was £4.50 ( If you do know of such a company, let me know and I can raise it with the town centre managers.

Apparently the hemp industry is expanding in the UK, but it's only in very recent times that it has become worth while growing it, and that farmers aren't subject to excessive police checks etc to make sure what they are growing is legit. Interesting Guardian article on the UK hemp industry, btw:,,1881460,00.html

As far as the design is concerned, I suspect it was smthg the town centre management team already had, or smthg knocked up by our in-house people, to keep the costs down and get the bags ordered before the end of the last financial year. Perhaps an idea for a future batch might be a local competition to choose the design? Caro from Brockley Cross Action Group has also been in touch to find out about where the bags came from, as she is interested in printing some with her 'Brockley signs' design on it, which would be good. See for these.

Finally, a good website I came across while writing this:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, smthg went wrong with a couple of those links, should have been:,,1881460,00.html

I haven't quite sussed how to put links into comments so they are clickable yet, sorry!

leenewham said...

I haven't found any cheap hemp products at all! My fiance finished her Design MA at St martins and her final project was a green labelling scheme (which was very good actually, hopefully it will go further). She tried to course hemp but it was too expensive. It's a shame that 'green' and organic items are viewed as being 'premium' and are priced accordingly. I'm a designer too and get to see a lot of the marketing research before I design brands and packaging etc. Unfortunately if people didn't say they thought organic was premium, then supermarkets wouldn't price it as such! I wish I had more say over the packaging too, but alas this is driven by cost factors. I know this is a separate point o the blog, but if peopel pressure supermarkets they WILL change, you have no idea how much supermarkets listen and try to change without making everything more expensive. Consumers have a LOT of power. You just have to make your voice heard. Perhaps we should organize a 'dont use a plastic bag day' at a supermarket where they give out free long life bags. Tesco in Lewisham perhaps?

Nancy Poh said...

If using hemp is not cost effective, then consider making use of the plastic bags that are already in the environment.

Other than the plastic bags that you get from the grocery, think about the plastic bags that are used to protect electrical items in the packaging.

I came across Crafter's "Reusable Shopping Bag Challenge" and they got the idea from Morsbag. You can read about on my blog at the following link

and the subject is
I’m A Plastic Bag. Eco friendly? Make me!