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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Limited Edition Environmentalism?

Anya_1.JPGA couple months ago, I came across an article in The Christian Science Monitor that went into great detail about Britain’s recent revolt against the plastic bag. It chronicled how concerned citizens across the pond have gone as far as encouraging small towns to ban plastic bags and as a result, large retailers have been experimenting with plastic-bag-free days and reusable totes.

Of particular interest to me was a section of the story describing a limited edition reusable cotton bag emblazoned with “I’m Not a Plastic Bag,” designed by London fashion house Anya Hindmarch. The reason it caught my attention was because my Thai sister-in-law had called me a month before, asking that I beg, borrow, or steal one of those very bags for her when they came to the US on July 20. At $10, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but then I found out how impossible they were to get.

It turns out that this bag is a major status symbol, not only in Asia, but around the globe. Sold in limited runs that didn’t come close to meeting their demand, the bags are virtually impossible to buy, unless you’re willing to shell out much higher prices (somewhere between $600-$1000) for originals that are being resold online.

All evidence points to the fact that people want to be seen as green, which is an interesting trend around the world, and not necessarily a bad thing in cases where positive change is the end result. But a trip to Anya Hindmarch’s website made me scratch my head. On the section of the site devoted to the bags, several disclaimers described why bags are so hard to get:

“Due to the unprecedented demand for I’m Not A Plastic Bag in South East Asia and our concerns for our customers safety we will be cancelling [sic] the launches at the following stores: Anya Hindmarch Beijing, On Pedder in Shanghai and On Pedder in Jakarta.”

“Please note all I’m Not A Plastic Bag bags have now sold out in the United States.”

This made me wonder why Hindmarch doesn’t simply make more of the bags (in more earth-friendly ways), allowing more people to use them, thereby reinforcing her mission to raise awareness of the message written on it. And, more importantly, if more people can actually buy and employ the bags everyday, less plastic bags will be produced that will eventually end up in our oceans… right?

7 Responses to “Limited Edition Environmentalism?”

  • August 22, 2007 at 8:08 pm | Tyler Cheung says

    whole foods has gone into the game as well it seems…for better or worse…

  • August 23, 2007 at 9:14 am | lawless says

    Or better yet, she could put a downloadable stencil on her site and encourage people to recycle tote-bags that are easily found anywhere throughout the world and spray/draw/paint the message onto their very own DIY totes. If it’s about getting the message and and not making a buck…

    With the seeming popularity of the bag, she could actually create a presence of alternatives to the plastic shopping bag.

    Hell, you could probably get someone to make you a 10x cooler bag on Etsy.com from half the price.

  • August 23, 2007 at 9:51 am | Nin Andrews says

    I think this could be the start of a new trend. We could have bottles that say, I’m not a plastic bottle. Or baby bottles that say: I feed Bisphenol A-free babies.
    Or there could be nylons that say: oil-free legs. Or maybe polymer-free legs. Hmm. Maybe I’ll have to think about that one a little more . . .

  • August 23, 2007 at 1:25 pm | Rick says

    Thanks for the comments. I also think it’s ironic that the bag is so easy to knock-off, so now there’s a gazillion of them on eBay that are fakes. It’s strange to consider that people may be using phony bags that are made in Asian sweatshops, but the message is actually still the same and the bags are probably still more environmentally friendly than plastic. All the hubbub is actually awareness-raising… and you know what they say about bad publicity… Also, Lawless’s comment reminded me of these parodies of the I’m Not A Plastic Bag I came across yesterday:


    Pretty cool.

  • August 28, 2007 at 1:54 pm | David says

    Another lesser known fact about the eco-bags are that they were made in China (shipped to the US and UK) from non-organic, non-sustainable material. I wrote a similar blog to this one at makemesustainable.wordpress.com . I’m glad people are picking up on the irony of this situation.

  • August 31, 2007 at 7:05 pm | Sass says

    Its ironic for me to read an article praising the Anya Hindmarch I’m not a Plastic Bag, bag. I was in London at the time the bag was launched and sold at Sainsbury’s supermarkets. People lined up to buy the bag from 3am the morning prior, with 20,000 bags sold in the first hour alone. The bag made the front page of the Evening Standard the following day, subtitled “Green carrier is made in China with cheap labour”. Sainsbury’s was accused of hypocrisy, with a supposed ‘green’ bag being produced in China, that was neither fair trade or organic, with a carbon footprint, offsetting any environmental saving. Ironically unlike the wording in the article, I think what it proves is that when corporations utilize green consciousnes as a marketing ploy, consumers need to look a lot deeper than just the sales pitch.

  • September 23, 2007 at 11:37 am | Tara says

    There is definitely a bigger issue at hand here. The trend to appear “eco-friendly” has developed a new kind of product hungry consumer. These are the people who are throwing out their old wardrobes for eco-friendly attire. Not stopping to think that it may be more earth-friendly to hang onto that polyester sweater from 1989 and pass it on for generations to come. It’s here, it will be here for the next gagillion years so you might as well wear it and make the commitment to not buy more and more stuff. Trends come and go, but the stuff already in your closet has the potential to be here for the rest of your lifetime and then some.

    Ugly sweater wearers unite!

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