Thursday, August 6, 2009

Banners to Bags

I love this project happening in Decatur, GA. One of my favorite tote bags is made from an old banner. It's super sturdy and waterproof. Too bad they didn't include any pictures:

Decatur to donate old banners for tote bag project

Leave it to Decatur to recycle with style.

The city agreed this week to donate its old banners — advertising city events and parties — to a Colombian refugee recently resettled in DeKalb County.

Maria Cristina Giraldo Echeverria will then use her Wal-Mart sewing machine to turn the fabric into tote and messenger bags to be sold at a Decatur fair trade shop.

“It’s a very wonderful, very Decatur thing to do,” said Ann VanSlyke, owner of the Mingei World Arts store, where the bags will be sold.

The totes are for bookworms as much as earnest environmentalists. That’s because the banners-to-bags idea is the brainchild of Daren Wang, executive director of the Decatur Book Festival.

He approached VanSlyke a few months ago to ask whether she knew any artisans who could take the festival’s vinyl banners and turn them into bags.

VanSlyke, whose shop imports items from all over the world, found her seamstress by calling the International Rescue Committee and discovering it had just placed Giraldo Echeverria.

She has already made 15 of the 30 bags that the festival plans to auction off as a fund-raiser during its Labor Day weekend event. Giraldo Echeverria will get half the money raised.

“Maria has been very creative in how she designs the bags. They’re such beautiful items,” Wang said. “It’s such an elegant solution for everyone involved.”

The Decatur banners that will become totes are the cherry-red pennants from the city’s 175th anniversary, the 1996 streamers for the Olympics and various flags from city events and concerts.

Prices will range from $25 for small totes to $50 for detailed messenger bags that include zippered pockets and a cellphone holder.

The deal guarantees Giraldo Echeverria, who could not be reached for comment, a living wage of at least $10 an hour.

And, like any good Decatur program, it requires she give back, too.

Ten percent of her sales at year’s end will go to the Decatur Youth Fund, which last year helped 120 kids participate in after-school programs and specialty camps.

“What else can you say?” Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd said. “It’s just a great idea.”

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