Making Sustainability Stylish
"When you love things, you do them without thinking about it," said Holly Tienken.
"People change out of love, not out of fear," agreed her business partner Liz Long. "It's not about hating plastic, it's about loving your reusable bag," she added.
Holly and Liz are the founders of Bag the Habit, a small New Jersey firm that makes reusable shopping bags. The pair say they set out to produce stylish sustainable bags that are a pleasure to use, rather than a chore.
Liz and Holly met in a Jersey City tea shop in 2006. Holly had just launched her own graphic design firm after years in the industry, and Liz was just out of college. Liz said she had seen the rise of sustainable culture in other parts of the world, and wanted to bring it home, and she shared the idea with Holly.
"We didn't want to just design another tote bag," said Holly, 35. "It was really important to us that people loved to carry the bag, and [had] a genuine desire to have it with them all the time."
So they made the bags compact so they were easy to carry around, and they added padded handles to make carrying a basket-full of groceries in one bag comfortable. "It's not a little bag that can hold a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, these really are substantial bags," said Liz, 27. Their 'luxe tote' bag holds 45 pounds.
They produced their first line in 2007, and as the number of bags they sold picked up, they realized they could go further into sustainability, spending a year custom designing their fabric so it is 100 percent recycled.
Holly added that looks were important. "We wanted to be a compliment to someone's personal style, we wanted people to feel like they could integrate them into the everyday," she said.
The material is made from plastic bottles and manufacturing waste, like leftover fabric from factories. The waste is melted down and turned into a yarn that is woven into the fabric. Most of the bags are actually produced in a small factory just outside Shanghai, China.
The pair are now looking towards expansion and working on getting their bags into big retailers.