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Reusable bags carry custom messages

Graphics | March 1, 2008 | By:

The canvas tote has been around forever, but convincing consumers to carry it anywhere but the beach has been a challenge. Until now. A worldwide movement to ban the plastic shopping bag is creating new opportunities for reusable shopping bags, in particular well-designed, custom-printed bags.

“I saw this trend probably seven or eight years ago but I think now people really are starting to wake up,” says Alex Lindsay, owner of Hudson, N.Y.-based Modern Arts, maker of the customizable E bag. “There is a whole new consciousness of the environment, so it’s obviously carrying through in packaging.”

The E bag (“E” for ecological, environmental, and earth) is the product of a partnership between Modern Arts and Dow Chemical to create “the perfect shopping bag.” Research involved two-and-a-half years of focus groups, meetings with retailers and environmentalists, and a study of how people carry bags. The result: a polypropylene bag that will last a year or more with daily use and is 100 percent recyclable at the end of its lifetime. It is 6-by-10-by-16 inches when open, about the size of a jumbo shopping bag, but it folds to 6-by-6 inches, so it is easy to store in a purse. Modern Arts offers customized printing on the bag through silkscreen, heat transfer, or gravure processes.

“You can carry it over the shoulder, you can carry it as a knapsack, you can carry it in your hand. A man or a woman would feel comfortable carrying it,” Lindsay says.

Doug Lober, sales manager of Redondo Beach, Calif.-based, says his company receives 30 to 50 requests a day from businesses for its customizable polypropylene reusable bag. It’s designed to carry up to 40 pounds and last for 600 uses or two years, whichever comes first. And while businesses are the obvious target market for a customizable product, ReuseThisBag also offers a fundraising option for schools and other organizations to sell a customized, earth-friendly shopping bag while earning money.

“Considering kids are running around selling candy bars, and eating the candy bars, I thought ‘what a great idea! A school could do a fundraiser’ [with the bags],” Lober says. “So I wrote an article about it and ever since then I’ve had people coming out of the woodwork who think it’s a great idea.”

Lindsay says that while a custom-printed reusable bag is a great promotional tool, there is a message beyond the advertising of a brand.

“You are saying to the customer you share the importance of this whole issue,” says Lindsay. “It builds goodwill.”

Jill C. Lafferty is a freelance writer based in Burnsville, Minn.

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