Bags Across the Globe (BAG) is an interactive project that has reached out to friends and strangers across the globe, in an effort to bring attention to the environmental damage caused by plastic shopping bags and textile waste, and to promote the use of reusable cloth bags. It is part of my ongoing investigation of the environmental crisis that faces the world today.
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 cultures’ 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.