Friends of Reusable Bags organizing workshops in wake of Greenfield plastic bag ban

  • Members of the Friends of Reusable Bags participate in their fifth bag-making workshop at 12 Federal St. in Greenfield on Jan. 17. The next workshop is scheduled for Saturday. Contributed photo/Emily Greene

  • Members of the Friends of Reusable Bags participated in their fifth bag-making workshop at 12 Federal St. in Greenfield on Jan. 17. The next workshop is scheduled for Saturday. Contributed photo/Emily Greene

Staff Writer
Published: 1/28/2020 5:45:48 PM

GREENFIELD — With the plastic bag ban in effect as of Jan. 16, a group of residents are banding together to ensure reusable bags aren’t hard to come by.

The Friends of Reusable Bags, which is sponsored by Greening Greenfield, has given away an estimated 1,800 reusable bags since forming about a year ago, when the plastic bag ban was approved by City Council. Now, its members are getting ready for their sixth bag-making workshop on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Discovery School at Four Corners. The event will be held concurrently with the Winter Farmers Market.

Efforts have been amping up, according to Friends of Reusable Bags member Louise Amyot, who said the fifth bag-making workshop was held the day after the ban took effect. She said the group is driven by the “Reduce, reuse, recycle” motto, noting that making the bags out of empty seed and grain bags helps keep the material out of landfills while providing a useful new creation.

“It’s creative and you have a fast result because it doesn’t take that long to make a bag, especially after you’ve made a few and you’ve gotten the hang of it,” she said. “And the bags are pretty. They tend to be very attractive.”

The group also makes bags from T-shirts using a sewing machine or by tying them in a series of knots.

The Friends of Reusable Bags was originally inspired by The BagShare Project, which taught the Greenfield group’s members how to transform the old seed and grain bags using grommet machines. Amyot said a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for up to $1,675 helped the group get its first two grommet machines and one eyelet machine, and she hopes to get another two or three grommet machines to expedite bag-making efforts.

The community has also provided plenty of support, Amyot said, with the Department of Public Works, Stop & Shop, Greenfield Savings Bank and Greenfield Cooperative Bank donating bags for the group to distribute. Additionally, she said Mary Pensak of The Textile Co. produced a pattern that she gives out to customers who are interested in sewing reusable bags from their leftover fabric, and the Greenfield Farmers Cooperative collects empty seed and grain bags for the Friends of Reusable Bags to repurpose.

“We now have too many,” Amyot said of the old seed and grain bags, noting that having only two grommet machines can hold up the process. “More than we can keep up with by a long shot.”

Additionally, Amyot said Charlotte Roberts, a junior at Four Rivers Charter Public School, is practicing making bags with the Friends to offer workshops with her classmates.

During the workshops, Amyot said Friends members — some of whom are also Greening Greenfield members — teach participants how to make the bags. Irrigation tubing is used for handles.

“It doesn’t sound like fun, but it is,” Amyot said of making the bags. “It really is.”

The first bag anyone makes during a workshop is theirs to keep. Additional bags are donated to the Center for Self-Reliance, the Community Action Family Center, Green Fields Market, the John Zon Community Center, housing complexes or community meals for distribution.

Amyot said anyone is encouraged to participate in a bag-making workshop, though children need to be supervised by an adult. Any monetary donations made to the Friends will be used to purchase more grommet machines and grommets for future workshops.

Reach Shelby Ashline at 413-772-0261, ext. 270 or sashline@recorder.com.


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