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Monday, November 15, 2010

One Bag At A Time

I am very proud to say we have successfully made the switch over to reusable tote bags here at DPPL. We introduced our nifty blue $1.00 bags in September of 2008 and to date we have sold more than 5,000! While it was certainly a dream of mine to get away from the tens of thousands of disposable plastic bags we were handing out every year, it helped that we had your support, too. We would frequently get emails or suggestion box comments asking us for reusable bags. One concern our administration had was cost: they weren't convinced anyone would buy a $5.00-10.00, organic cotton canvas tote with a fancy handle and a silk-printed logo. Knowing that grocery and discount chains sell bags for $1.00 or less, I was given the task of finding that price point for our own bags.

As you know from your own shopping experiences, sometimes a lower price means lower quality and often the lowest priced items are made overseas. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with purchasing items made in other countries - trust me, if you've shopped at a big box retailer or dollar store, you've bought plenty of items not made in the USA - I had concerns about the fair treatment of workers in some of these other locations. Recently, you may have seen some alarming news reports - that some reusable shopping bags have been tested and found to contain unacceptable amounts of lead. Here's what I want you to know about our bags and their manufacturer, One Bag At A Time:
  • Yes, the bags are made in China. The reason we chose to work with One Bag At A Time and will continue to do so is that they are able to supply the bags we need at a cost right around $1.00 per bag and they guarantee the bags are made "with no child labor, no forced labor, and that all workers are paid at least minimum wage." Labor conditions in their Chinese factories are monitored by Verite an independent advocate for workers worldwide. One Bag At A Time's corporate offices are in California, so they provide jobs in the USA and they have really helpful customer support people. We are pretty small potatoes in terms of order size but I frequently talk directly to the company's owner - can't say that about too many businesses these days.

  • About lead: You will be pleased to know that One Bag At A Time's bags were recently tested and found safe. 100 ppm (parts per million) is the legal limit for lead in consumer products.  The bags our library sells have been found to have 5 ppm or less in recent testing. You may be interested in knowing that the study which claimed that reusable bags contained high amounts of lead was funded by the plastics industry, not exactly an objective source. 
Things you may not know: you can wash our bags in cold water and hang them to dry and they can even be recycled when they wear out. Here's an interesting blurb on their Web site about companies who claim to make bags out of recycled materials. In a few days I hope to share with you some information on our new "technotrash" recycling company, based right here in Chicago, IL, and the truly amazing things they are doing with your old soda bottles and car bumpers (and shared similar concerns with us about companies claiming to use "recycled" materials). I wanted you to know a little bit more about our bags so you can continue to feel safe using them for your library materials or anything else you want to tote around. Use our bags to be more "green," or to be more frugal (those "free" plastic bags we used to give out were not free, you know!) or simply because a clean, elegant tote bag looks a lot more attractive than a crinkly plastic bag.

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