Making bags from malt bags at the Source to Sea Connecticut River Clean-up, September 2019
Friends of Reusable Bags/Greening Greenfield: Our goal is to help citizens make the transition from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags. Greenfield's plastic bag ban began January 16, 2020, and after a Covid-induced pause, is back in effect. Click for the ordinance enforced by the Greenfield Health Department. We have organized efforts to collect, make, and donate a variety of reusable bags from existing materials such as scrap fabric, t-shirts, feed bags and malt bags. You are welcome to use the information below to get involved by making bags, donating bags, and using reusable bags. Don't be fooled by marketing campaigns! Changing from plastic bags to paper bags is not the answer. See why here. . . and here.
We collaborate with many partners. We are affiliated with The Bagshare Project. We work regularly with organizations including People's Pint, The Farmers Cooperative Exchange, Franklin Community Co-op, the John Zon Center and Connecticut River Conservancy. We are grateful for donations from Swag Cycle, numerous local banks, stores, and individuals. We are eager to continue and expand our work with local schools, Community Action, various community meal programs, faith communities, organizations, and neighborhood groups.
Here is a 10-minute overview of what we've done, from a presentation that Peg Hall did with MassDEP about the program and our ReUse grant at the (virtual) Minnesota ReUse conference, Vision for a Circular Economy, in July 2020. Presentation starts at about 39:27, in case link does not start there.
Not using disposable plastic is only the beginning. What should we use instead? Paper is compostable and recyclable. But the lifecycle environmental footprint of a paper grocery bag is worse than that of a plastic bag, if one looks at the fossil fuel used in everything from harvesting the trees through transporting the bulky paper. In fact, as we looked at water usage for organic cotton, or thicker plastics intended for multiple re-use, Friends of Reusable Bags concluded that while reuse is critical, the best material from which to make reusable bags, is any material that already exists.
We therefore hold and sponsor bag-making workshops using a variety of existing materials. Bags can be sewn, cut and tied from t-shirts, or fastened with grommets. We have purchased grommet machines to lend out and hope to work with organizations that can make bag-making a regular endeavor. This project is funded in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
All patterns here are free to be used and shared. Some can be made at home!
Types of Bags to Make
Sewn, lined bags Sewn, t-shirt bag Box bottom on sewn, t-shirt bag
Grommeted feed bags Grommeted malt/grain bags
No-sew, tied t-shirt bag No-sew, tied t-shirt bag with fringed bottom
Funded in part by a MassDEP 2020 Reduce, Reuse Repair Micro-Grant, Friends of Reusable Bags now owns a fleet of equipment that may be borrowed to make bags, or to do other projects, such as adding grommets to banners. Be creative! (Sign-out sheet coming soon.) We currently own:
3 Hiker brand standard grommet machines. These are used, generally with feed or malt bags, in the structural applications of forming the bottom of the bag and attaching handles to the bag. Modified from how they come from the factory, these machines have had the metal of the front end narrowed to allow them to fit in tighter spaces (compare to how a sleeve board works instead of a full sized ironing board), they are adjustable to match the thickness of material, and they are mounted on a wooden base that gets secured to a work table.
1 Giraffe grommet machine. As the name implies, this machine has a very long "neck", which allows the user to get a grommet into the center of the bottom of a bag without bunching up the bag more than is possible with a standard unit. One of only 5 in existence, this endangered giraffe was constructed by The BagShare Project. Currently yellow, we dream of painting it with proper brown splotches.
2 Bates brand eyelet machines. Eyelets are like tiny grommets. They are used for non-structural applications, especially holding the folded rim of a bag together. They free up the other equipment and allow more people to make bags without waiting in line.
4 Wooden forms. We currently have 2 "tombstones" and 2 "pushers" made in house. (Thank you Bob!!) The tall tombstones are used to help turn the stiff bags inside out, though one can use the back of a chair if it is the right shape. The pushers look like a little rectangular-top stool, and serve a couple purposes, including making a shape against which to fold the bottom of the bags like one would wrap a present (short ends in first, farther than you'd think, then long sides, clip, then grommet.) We hope to add more and smaller sizes of forms for some of the narrower feed bags.
Upcoming Events: Click here to see what is coming up.
What we have accomplished to date
(a sampling of what we've done; we know things are a little slow now)
In a nutshell, plastics are made from oil (well, OK, really natural gas); oil is made from dinosaurs; we aren't making any new dinosaurs. That's what we call a non-renewable resource. Also, they essentially never go away. From resource extraction to marine litter, the problems are well documented, and we aren't going to try to write our own summaries of the issues here, but we will share some of our favorite resources. Check these out, and feel free to let us know of other links you think we should add.
Past Events: These can be found in Archived Past Events (bottom of the page). Click here.