It’s not such a strange sight anymore: people shopping and carrying out their purchases in their own fabric bags. And if Emilie Rider has anything to say about it, the trend will continue.
Rider owns the Brown to Earth Bag Co., a bootstrapped, entrepreneurial endeavor operated out of her Edmond home. Rider creates fabric shopping bags – sturdy, reusable and long-lasting alternatives to plastic shopping bags. The ubiquitous plastic bag is often used only once before being discarded – and then languishes and decomposes over a period of 450 years.
“The overwhelming response is that people like the bags because the fabric is sturdy and the design is functional,” says Rider, who began Brown to Earth Bag Co. about a year ago. “And businesses have embraced it and been willing to load the bags.”
The idea for Brown to Earth began when Rider’s sister returned to the United States after a year in Australia. There, she became accustomed to taking her own bags to stores because that’s what’s expected.
“In Australia, they’re a little more advanced in being ‘green.’ They’re trying to cut down on all that unnecessary waste and they expect you to use your own bags,” says Rider. “When my sister came back, she couldn’t find the bags here, so she used the ones she brought with her. People came up to her and asked where she got her bags, so we began researching how to get the bags to people in the U.S.”
After doing her homework, Rider fixed on a fabric and style. The bags are made of 100 percent non-woven polypropylene, which ranks fifth on the recyclable scale. The handles are reinforced and the bottom is flat for easier transport of groceries and other items.
The average person goes through 350 plastic bags in a year, Rider says. With her bags, people can wash and reuse them up to 600 times.
Rider first marketed her bags to grocers. They liked the idea. Her first big customer was Crest Foods, a business that now orders Brown to Earth bags with its own logo. Grocers love the bags because they can save the cost of buying plastic bags – and be environmentally friendly.
“It’s good for the environment and good for the grocery store. Everybody wins,” says Rider.
Rider initially created brown bags with her logo, which are available on her web site and at several Edmond stores. The company’s name came as the answer to a simple question: Is brown the new green?
“We first thought of a brown paper bag, but we wanted to create a better brown paper bag,” says Rider. “We also thought of this being down to earth. It’s real.”
Brown to Earth Bag Co. has since grown to custom-designed bags. Rider offers the bags in a variety of colors and featuring any logo. Many businesses, organizations and entire cities have discovered that the bags make good marketing and fundraising tools.
Rider’s success with the initial bags has given her the elbow room to branch out. She recently added a new bag to her line, a smaller bag that folds and can be kept in a purse. She created it after hearing feedback from users saying they love the bags but had trouble remembering to take them into the store.
“The thing I hear from people is that they forget them. That’s because it hasn’t become a habit, yet,” Rider says. “But even if they only remember the bags every other time, they’re still making an impact. I tell them, ‘Don’t give up.’ We’ll get there eventually and it’s still better for everybody if we use them some of the time.”
Rider’s familiar with the sobering statistics about material that won’t recycle, but she’s optimistic about her bags and the future of recycling.
“It’s sometimes overwhelming to think about because there’s so much we could do better and differently to impact our community right here,” she says. “If everyone stopped using plastic bags here, think of what a huge impact that would have on Edmond alone. I have a lot of hope for the future.”
For more information about Brown to Earth Bag Co. or to order bags, visit www.browntoearthbagco.com.