There seems to be an eco-friendly bag for everyone, from casual hipsters to dressed-up socialites. Lately we’ve noticed a trend to call any bag “green” simply because it can be used to replace the plastic options at the supermarket. As an alternative to a canvas tote that reads “this is not a plastic bag” several companies offer creative, well designed products that can carry just about anything you have to lug around. These are bags you can feel good about and still look cool.
Alchemy Goods is a Seattle-based company whose mission is “turning useless into useful.” Designer and founder Eli Reich created a collection of bags and accessories from landfill-bound materials including bicycle inner tubes, vinyl signs, and car seat belts. It all started when Reich’s favorite messenger bag was stolen and he couldn’t find a sturdy, waterproof replacement that fit his aesthetic. He crafted a prototype with a few bicycle inner tubes, and was soon inundated with sales requests from members of the local bike community. The collection, which is all constructed in the Seattle design studio, now includes totes, wallets, belts, and business card holders. The Alchemy Goods logo features a number in the top right corner which details the percentage (by weight) of recycled materials in each piece. In 2007, Alchemy Goods recycled over 5,000 auto seat belts, 2,500 lbs. of vinyl signage, and 35,000 bike inner tubes.
Vy & Elle, a Tuscon-based company with a great name, converts used billboard vinyl into fun, practical bags of every type. The bright graphics inherent from the digitally printed billboards add fun colorful accents to the stylish, wearable shapes designed by Nicola Freegard and Robin Janson. Each bag is distinctly one of a kind due to the reclaimed material. Vy & Elle partner with MMT, a global computer imaging company who specialize in outdoor advertising display. MMT provides an unlimited supply of used vinyl that previously might have ended up in a landfill while simultaneously giving Vy & Elle access to many well known business brands. In addition to their boutique designs, Vy & Elle offers a custom service to companies who want to make promotional accessories from their own billboards. Amazingly, 100% of the billboards are recycled – the scraps are turned into garden hoses and flooring by neighboring manufacturers.
For a more sophisticated look you can still feel good about, fashion-conscious women will gravitate toward Teich’s chic, elegant bags. These well-designed and crafted purses match the eco-luxury fashions of Bahar Shahpar and Linda Loudermilk. Designer Allison Teich creates classic pieces from hemp and vegetable-tanned leather that will last for years to come. Organic cotton and linen line the purses. Recently she has begun to work with recycled leather, and her 2008 collection features brightly-colored purses made from old jackets.