The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that worldwide we use 500 million to one trillion plastic shopping bags annually; some estimates are as high as four or five trillion for all types of plastic bags. The average plastic shopping bag is used for just twelve minutes! Where do plastic bags end up? . Less than 1% of these are recycled. Most end up in our streets, rural areas, and waterways and make their way to the oceans, where they are ingested by animals who mistake them for food, which usually proves fatal. Or the bags break down into small floating particles consumed by animals up and down the food chain, from plankton to birds, turtles, fish and whales. In addition, there is an estimated 2.5 billion pounds of textile waste created annually in the U.S. alone. BAG is part of a global effort to reduce, reuse and recycle. This project takes a stand against the excesses of consumer culture and the glorification of high-priced luxury items such as designer bags. BAG proclaims that stylish, one of-a-kind bags are accessible to anyone, regardless of income. These bags will be exchanged as free gifts, reflecting traditional culturesâ€™ practice of exchanging gifts to cement relationships. BAG is more than exchange of objects: it is about an exchange of energy and information, and the bags function as vehicles for this exchange. BAG will encourage other people to take up this effort and create their own bags out of local waste materials, and to share them with others. We hope that Bag spin-offs pop up all over the globe!
The BAG Team is headed up by artist/designer Prof. Ann Savageau of University of California Davis Design Program. I have been assisted by Design students who have sewn the bags and helped to design the installation and the website, blog and installation materials. See "BAG Team" for details and photos of the team.
Each bag contained the following: a) a letter explaining the BAG project; b) a postcard made out of recycled paper with the BAG logo; c) a sheet with facts about the environmental damage caused by plastic bags and textile waste. Beginning in summer 2008 we began making the bags. During the summer of 2009 I mailed two shopping bags each to people in 60 countries across the globe. Recipients were asked to use one bag for shopping. They gave the second bag to a friend, to do the same, so the bag project has spread across the world. Recipients mailed me their postcards with a message, and a photo of themselves holding the bag. The photos and messages that recipients have sent are displayed on the interactive map (see "Travel Record").
The BAG project will be shown as an installation in the University of California Davis Design Museum, from January 23 to March 11, 2011. I am planning for the installation to travel to several countries and involve local people in workshops to create shopping bags out of locally available materials.
On September 21, 2009, I visited about 130 students in two elementary schools in London, Furzedown and Sellincourt. I told the students about the damage caused by plastic shopping bags, and explained Bags Across the Globe and how they could join in the effort by making their own shopping bags. Students drew designs for their shopping bags, and shortly afterwards, they reported the results. Below are the delightful e-mails they sent me. Students in Furzedown plan to hold a fashion show that features their bags. They also decided to ban plastic bags in their school! Way to go, Furzedown! Now if grownups will only follow the children's example...
Thank you for your visit we're really grateful. Today we started to make our bags out of old clothes. They're really good so far and we'll be finishing this afternoon. We can't wait to use them. We will be doing a fashion show so we can show everyone our bags. We're also going to take pictures of them and send them to a school in Uganda. We are also trying to ban plastic bags in our school because of your visit. We're going to spread the message of what plastic bags do to the environment and the wildlife to as many people as we can.
From Max Wood and Sam Clancy
Dear Ann Savageau,
We have made two different bags. One of them was made out of a tutu and a old pair of jeans the tutu was blue and the jeans were also blue the handle was a flower paten .The other bag was made out of a old t-shirt and a black ribbon the t-shirt was turquoise.
From Mirit and Hannah
Dear Miss Ann Savageau,
Thank you for coming all the way from California. It was a great pleasure meeting you. You gave us fantastic information on plastic bags which really shocked us. At school we are making cloth bags that we can use again and again and again. We have really enjoyed designing our bags. Now we know lots of information such as that we can save 3-12 plastic bag a week. We were so interested in your information we made information leaflets for the school to know about it. We are now a plastic free zone.
Anu and Tharanya
Thank you for coming and giving us a talk about plastic bags it was a shock to the whole class we learnt a lot. Also it really made a difference we thought we could try and ban plastic bags in the school!
We have designed bags out of old clothes and fabrics; we have just started to make them,Maya made a brown bag out of one of her top and sewed the sleeves together and sewed the bottom together! Isabella made a bag out her old scarf and her old, pink-spotty skirt. You really inspired us!!!!!
Thank you from Isabella and Maya
To Anne Savageau,
Thank you for inspiring us to make recycled bags. Your power point was really exiting but sad. We took your interesting power point and made our own recycled bags. We learnt that over 50 million fish die every year by people throwing plastic bags we made our own bags by recycling our clothing.
From Omar and Darren
Thank you for telling us about the plastic bags. We have designed and started making our own bags from recyled clothes. I enjoyed your talk about plastic bags I learnt a lot. We have deesside to ban plastic bags in the school.
Thank you from Ziyad and Josh
Dear Professor Ann Savageau,
We, Amaal and Madhvee would like to thank you for coming and for telling us about plastic bags. It has been a pleasure meeting you. ON MONDAY In class time in Art we have been making bags out of any material but not plastic and it all went well and we've done it out of recycled stuff that we found in our homes. My bag was made out of an old dress and I've cut it and made it into the shape I wanted then it was sowed and then I added a handle to it, I enjoyed doing it. Madhvee's bag was made out of an old skirt and jeans it all went really well, we all enjoyed doing it. ON LAST THURSDAY WE HAD A HEADTEACHER FrOM A SCHOOL IN UGANDA VISITTING US. HER NAME WAS MONICA KEIZA, MRS KEIZA. SHE TOLD US ABOUT UGANDA INCLUDINDING AFRICA. SHE SAID THAT THERE ARE SO MANY PLSTIC BAGS EVERYWHERE IN AFRICA ESPEICILY IN LOVELY BEACHES. they were full of them in nice beaches AND WE LEARNT A LOT FOM MRS KEIZA AND YOU.
WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU AGAIN for coming and telling us a lot it has made a diffrence in our school because we banned them!!
FROM Amaal and Madhvee!!
Dear Ann Savageau,
We really enjoyed your lesson and we have learnt alot in it!!
You have inspired us to make our school a non plastic bag free school and we have made some bags out of old cloths the look really good we have also told a Ugandan school not using plastic bags and now there school has banned plastic bags.
Thank you for coming to are school.
From Carter and Tyler
Dear Ann Savageau,
Since you have shared your knowledge with us I have been thinking about the world so much more now, I always tell my mum and dad about plastic bags and how they are destroying the world, because I really want to help the school, the community the country and some day even the world.
There are so many alternatives to plastic bags like woven ones, fabric ones and so many more. It's just such a shame that not a lot of people know about this world problem. When my class and I saw those photos of the plastic bags it made me really sad, shocked and worried about the world.
I was also thinking about what plastic bags are made out of and my teacher Mrs Wilson said that they were made out of oil. So then I thought, the world has been lacking in oil and if we reduced the use of plastic bags we would have so much more oil.
When I grow up I really want to be like you and tell people about world problems and I really want to intellectual like you.
Thank you very much for teaching me about your project.
Dear Ann Savageau,
Kareemah and Izzy would like to thank you for coming to our school and warning us about plastic bags destroying our envoirment. We made our own bags on Monday in art. Kareemah made hers out of her little brother's jeans and Izzy made her out of her old mini dress. We have banned plastic bags in our school and a head teacher from a school in Uganda in Africa came and told us that she was going to ban plastic in her school. She also told us that there were lots and lots of plastic flying around in Uganda and they were millions of them in lovely beaches. Kareemah's bag has pink flowers all over it and for the straps she has used old curtain straps and Izzy has used a dress and will add little bit and bobs on to it. We would like to thank you again for all of you're worked it has made a change to our school.
From Izzy and Kareemah