Carbon Crusaders

The “I’m not a plastic bag” bag by ddelcourt
July 21, 2007, 7:23 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Women’s accessory designer Anya Hindmarch has made a statement with her “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” totes, available throughout the globe in absurdly limited quantities. Offerings have been met with sell-out crowds and such high-interest that Anya’s website announced the cancellation of several east Asian offerings due to safety concerns.

What interests me most is not the bag itself (sorry, in the fashion vs function world I favor function), but rather the huge response her product got. These bags are not pricey. Normally Hindmarch’s tote bags fetch over $300, far out of most people’s range. However, these are $15 bags… that’s three lattes or one lunch. If this is the type of response we can expect from well designed products that promote sustainability, I’m all for it.

Let’s face it, most of the “green” products out there are too expensive for the regular consumer, and are designed to stand-out in the crowd. The Prius looks like a space age hatchback that carries a $5,000 premium (which you make back on gas savings of course!). Levi’s eco jeans line sell for over 100-150% of their traditional counterparts… I don’t believe for a second the markup is due to materials costs. Instead, these and so many other products, carry a green premium because those consumers interested in these products have been willing to pay the higher price tag for sustainability.

The laws of supply and demand have to be put to work in order for this movement to continue to grow. Prices for green products have to drop while green products themselves need to be made more widely appealing. Hindmarch’s bags are a perfect example of a fashionable, functional, affordable green product which has not only captured consumers but is spreading the awareness that is needed to drive this movement. I’m impressed. Now how can I get one of those bags?


7 Comments so far
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What I find amazing about these bags is that people are calling them “green.” Cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop on the planet, using a quarter of the world’s pesticides annually to cover only about 3% of arable land. It’s infuriating to me that she and Whole Foods did not use organic cotton to make this green statement.

My company, I’m Organic, works with Whole Foods. Their commitment has been impressive to the ingredients of their products. Why they let this one ‘slip’ past them is beyond me. We must educate people on the benefits of organic cotton! Being green is not just a message and it’s not just about not using plastic bags when even better eco-alternatives exist.


Comment by Jill Palermo

Jill, thanks for that info! I did not realize that the totes were not made from organic cotton. That is indeed very worrysome.

Comment by makemesustainable

a reusable bag is greener than a non reusable bag, even if is made out of PVC, just as an organic cotton is greener than a conventional cotton bag. the fact of the matter is that there is no boundary line you can cross and call yourself “green” – what exists are greener alternatives to less green ones.

a vendor that sells a bag that has a much smaller footprint than an organic cotton one, made out of a material that is 100% recyclable and/or compostable can come out and say “how amazing it is that they call these organic cotton bags green”. unless you’ve taken a cradle to cradle approach, and your production requires the smallest footprint, there will always be greener alternatives. organic cotton is definitely not the greenest of them.

Comment by eddie

It’s also worth noting that the “I’m not a plastic bag” bags were made in China, and then shipped to the UK.

Which goes to show – if marketers (or anyone really) are going to make ‘green’ claims about thier products, they need to make sure that they are environmentally bulletproof.

Comment by Ben Rowe

I agree a cradle to cradle approach is the only way to truly compare product’s ‘greenness.’ And yes, there are many shades of green and ways to be green- hence the whole local/organic debate.

There is organic cotton grown all over the world and some in the US, so to make a truly green statement (one of which the designer knew would be publicized) I really find it irresponsible that the designer didn’t take the time to source organically (or to make the bag out of recycled materials, like you’d mentioned Eddie).

To note, our organic totes are entirely made in the USA. The cotton is grown in Texas and sewn in San Francisco.

It’s tought to be environmentally bulletproof and I understand when some compromises are made. I just can’t give much room to this particular case when it’s not a small business, she already had distribution channels set up, and a track record of selling out in the UK, that she wouldn’t explore what material the bags were made out of. Organic, recycled, something!! 🙂

Comment by Jill Palermo

And, another note pertaining to the original post about price. Organic cotton is absolutely more expensive than conventional. We sell our organic totes for $20 and our organic tees for $25 and that’s the absolute best we can do. Truth be told, we’re undercutting ourselves in traditional retail margins by about 10-20% in order to be in an attainable range. Base materials of green products hands down cost more. Whether, in Levi’s case, they cost enough more to warrant a 100% – 150% markup? I’m not sure. But, my educated guess would say they’re not TOO far off. To market a product as organic, it’s not just the cotton that has to be grown a certain way. It’s the thread, the machines the product is made on, etc. It’s an entirely different supply chain and process, which is costly for any business to get into, even Levi’s.

Demand is growing, supply is having a hard time keeping up (which also raises the prices of base materials). My hope is that as supply grows, we’ll see prices come down a bit.

Comment by Jill Palermo

Until “green” is also AFFORDABLE, it will not be sustainable. I’m buying a Versa, because a Prius is $10,000 more expensive.

Comment by catinhat

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