Hiya! After our first Make Your Own Reusable Produce Bag Pop Up event we were SO energized by the positive response - so many folks reached out asking for details so they could replicate it in their own communities.
Below is a detailed outline of the reusable produce bag pop up event, with anecdotes on how it worked for us and thoughts on how it might be done better.
We feel the project could make a big impact if the purpose is multifold:
1. To hand out free reusable produce bags to folks who may not have buying power to buy them
2. To show how easy (and cheap!) these bags are to make and teach folks how to do it.
3. To raise awareness about plastic pollution and how to reduce plastic in our shopping/lives.
Here are the steps you can take to make this project happen where you are:
Coordinate with an event or existing organization - contact someone that seems like they’d be most receptive to the idea: an outreach coordinator or sustainability manager, to see if they have an event coming up that you could plug into: a farmers market, community block party/festival, Earth Day event.
After our little event at the Portland Farmers Market we thought it’d be awesome to bring the idea to New Seasons Market (a HUGE supermarket chain in Portland)…perhaps they’d be open to hosting us in a store, near the bulk section, making and giving away produce bags to raise awareness about shopping with less plastic? We totally could have sent an email to their general “contact” email and hoped it would reach the right person, but luckily Nina happened to meet a New Seasons employee at a #plasticfree Meetup and he floated the idea to New Seasons’ management, who initially liked the idea! We’ll keep ya’ll posted as that unfolds!!
Make your needs for the event clear: the organization/event may be able to provide you with a table, maybe even a few if you are expecting lots of sewing machines & volunteers (!), and hopefully provide access to electricity.
Source fabric to make the bags!! And string for the drawstrings! If you have a way to make the call out on social media or email, let people know you are looking for natural fiber (cotton, hemp, linen - these are healthier for something that is holding our food!) fabric donations. You may be surprised - we always are! - by how many people have a fabric stash they don’t want any longer, but it is still hanging around the house just waiting for the perfect opportunity to be donated….
another option is to contact local sewing/quilting clubs, fabric stores, small businesses that use fabric to see if they have any surplus off-cuttings that they’d like to donate to you….just be clear that you’d like larger pieces, bigger than 20” x 20”, so that you don’t end up with a ton of tiny scraps that would be useless for this project. Also be clear you’d like natural fabrics instead of synthetics - they should be able to tell you what they have available before you make the trip to pick up.
For drawstrings we dug through our junk drawer and tool shed to find string we could use - and you could ask others to do the same when you make your call out for fabric. We also have an incredible resource here in Portland: SCRAP - where the community can donate almost anything and it’s resold for practically pennies, encouraging creative reuse. They always have LOTS of cheap string (: BUT, this next idea is brilliant:
Make string from old t-shirts!! (aka t-shirt yarn!) *Possibility for great colors making drawstring this way.
Make a call out to anyone you know who likes to sew! See if they’d be interested in joining you to make bags (and t-shirt yarn!) before the event and/or at the event. Especially if they have a sewing machine they can bring.
Make a bunch of bags beforehand, maybe host a sewing party at your house a few days before the event?! These finished bags are to give away to people at the event that don’t want to wait around to watch you make their bag or for if you get slammed at the beginning of the event before you’ve had a chance to make many!
Get the word out about the event! People will be excited about what you’re doing, but they’ve got to know it’s happening! Jump on social media, email, flyers — ask that the organization you are teaming up with shouts it out too. On the day of the event make sure you have signage around (at your table, nearby on free-standing sandwich board…) explaining what is going on — it’s important for people to know the bags are free and plastic free, and why!!
Here is a downloadable PDF to print out and make available at the event (we printed 75!) or post elsewhere to share!
This was our set-up:
Visitors to our booth would start at the cutting station, where they were encouraged to pick out a fabric they liked and Ashley would quickly cut it into the correct size and shape using a cardboard template.
Then visitors woulds bring their cut fabric to a a volunteer sitting at a sewing machine, who would ask “would you like to sew your own or would you like me to sew it?” Most people opted for the volunteer to sew it, but a few brave souls sat down for the first time ever at the machine and we gently guided them through the simple process of using the machine to sew their own bag. When we did the sewing, we left the last, most exciting step — turning it inside out — for the visitor. Many smiles bc of this (:
Last stop was the drawstring table - here visitors were greeted by another volunteer who could help them thread their own drawstring using a handy tool: either a large safety pin or a tool made specifically for threading drawstrings (literally, and ironically, a long, thin piece of plastic with a slit at one end for holding onto the end of the string. You can probably find these at Joann Fabrics if you must…) On this table we also had our How to Make a Reusable Produce Bag handouts available for folks to take and try this project at home. It would have also been nice here to have more info on reducing plastic in our daily lives.
THAT’S IT! It was so much fun. Really.
One more note: this is such an easy entry point for folks to learn about the plastic crisis and/or how to reduce plastic in their lives that creating this event whenever, wherever is super awesome in our opinion. However — it seems that if it could be a reoccurring event, something folks could tell others about, create a little buzz, this could reach more people and be even more impactful.
OH and one more note: this is totally something someone could consider applying for a grant to accomplish - just sayin (:
If you have questions, or we left something out here, please don’t hesitate to email us!!