The Breakdown – What’s in a Bag?

It is important to use a sustainable brand when shopping for bags, because the success of any brand relies on making people “buy again”. Just as consumers gravitate towards reusable bags made from hemp or recycled canvas, they do the same with disposable paper and cardboard products. Paper and cardboard are both commodities that are becoming ever more scarce and companies that make their money from these resources are therefore forced to produce sustainable goods – or risk going bust.

So what makes sustainable bags stand out from regular grocery store bags? Unlike plastic bags which have to remain un-closed and recycled bags which have to be folded up and disposed of in a landfill, sustainable bags can be reused repeatedly. They are not thrown away, and even “disposed” of in an average city on a normal basis only takes up less space than a single plastic bag. As such, sustainable bags tend to encourage a kind of active citizenship amongst their users. They also promote environmental responsibility among consumers, as it is often possible to buy products which are produced with recycled materials.

Now, it may seem a stretch to suggest that a reusable canvas bag is more environmentally friendly than paper and cardboard one, but there are several reasons why the two bags are distinctly different. Firstly, the manufacturing process for paper and cardboard products makes up a large proportion of the annual carbon emissions which are leading to climate change. Paper can take decades to form, meaning that it has a very large environmental impact upon users. By contrast, all it takes to manufacture a sustainable, biodegradable bag is sunflower oil or coconut oil.

As such, ethical, sustainable bags give a unique opportunity to businesses to create a major impact on the environment. While there are many brands that have chosen to invest in producing and marketing sustainable bags, few are able to claim to have done so on a scale that could match the scale of the Responsible Sourcing initiative being implemented by the likes of Paper Lantern and Ecover. In recent years, the developing world has come to realize how critical it is to switch to eco-friendly options and away from the traditional business practices that support the production of plastic goods. This has led companies like the South African giant Oranges to adopt an entirely green approach to their marketing, with their ‘Bridget Bag’ and ‘Moustache’ brands.

There is no doubt that there is a trend emerging in the manufacturing sector to ethically make, sustainable bags and purses. This is likely to continue to grow in line with the wider movement towards eco-friendly living. It is likely, furthermore, that eco-friendly bags and purses will become more popular than they currently are. The continued growth of the green sector will provide opportunities for companies to earn revenue from sustainable sources and thereby improve their ecological performance.

One company which has already seen the benefits of using sustainable bags and purses is the fashion label, Hozen. The German company has seen a rise in sales since switching to a more ecologically friendly approach to its production. The high street store, Hozen, began selling all its handbags and other clothing products made from organic materials, such as cork and bamboo, in 2021. Since then, it has grown to stock a range of sustainable bags and clothing, such as bamboo and cork, and also offers unique leather items.

One of the major problems with using cotton, jute or sheep wool as ingredients in making sustainable bags and shoes is the effect these materials will have on the environment. As well as causing soil erosion and rising air temperatures, these materials can also damage the ecosystem by polluting the air with their dyes. Another problem facing companies using sustainable bags is that, because the processing stage involves treating animals in very bad conditions, many of these bags will not pass safety standards for usage on public streets and highways. Some companies have turned to biodegradable alternatives, including paper and biodegradable cottons, but these may not be as good for public health as bags made using sustainable practices.

Sustainable products are also more durable than regular materials, meaning they last longer during use and may even have longer shelf lives than other, more standard materials. The advantages of using these types of bags for all kinds of purposes, from bags and shoes to luggage and shopping bags, mean that businesses and consumers can have greater confidence that they are making an environmentally friendly choice when buying products. Although there is still room for further improvement, bags made from sustainable materials are a step in the right direction, and continue to represent a possible future cost-effective way to make high quality products at a fair price.

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