9 posts categorized "Tales of the Weird"

April 30, 2010

Earth Day Recap of Crap - Our Top 10 List

Earth-day Last week marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day - a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for our environment. Judging by our observations, however, it looks like 2010 also marks the year when Earth Day went full-blown commercial. Rather than press coverage of this international landmark day, we saw ads suggesting that we celebrate Earth Day with some decidedly non-environmentally friendly products and marketing schemes. There was so much stuff out there it was overwhelming - so here is our top 10 round up of the Earth Day promotions and events that completely missed the point:

1. Target gives away 1.5 million cheap reusable bags - We've said it before and we'll say it again: You get what you pay for -- low-quality freebie bags quickly end up in the waste basket or sitting in a closet, contributing to more wasteful consumption.

2. Lowe's celebrates Earth Day with toxic chemicals - A great find by one of our Ambassadors, Lowe's offered big Earth Day savings on non-Earth friendly products Spectracide (killing plants with toxic chemicals)!

3. Procter and Gamble's "Future Friendly" campaign - Another Ambassador find, P&G's efforts at greenwashing their chemical and paper products were not convincing."...we created Charmin MegaRoll, which features four times as many sheets per roll than a regular roll of Charmin. ... the product requires the use and disposal of fewer cardboard cores..."

4. CVS pushes its Green Bag Tag - Spend $1 on this plastic tag & have it scanned every time you BYO bag to CVS. After 4 scans, you get a coupon (printed on your already too-long receipt) for $1 your next purchase. Why not just knock a few cents off your purchase when you  BYO bag? Green gimmick.

5. Free totes and genetically-modified foods! - Rather than giving away low-quality free tote bags (emblazoned with their logo, of course) we'd like to see this cereal company vow to no longer use genetically-modified foods in their products - a truly eco-friendly move.

6. Disney's "Friends for Change" nonsense - We're all for teaching out kids about conservation. Unfortunately Disney's efforts seem misguided. Trade in six disposable water bottles and get a free hat? What's the point?

7. Pepsi's "Dream Machine" - A big, ugly robot that eats your empty Pepsi bottles and rewards you with points to, presumably, use to purchase new bottles of Pepsi. Great.

8. Walmart's "Earth-friendly products" - Walmart isn't going anywhere anytime soon - so we'll ignore the fact that their commitment to low-low prices takes it toll not only on the environment but also on the human beings making these products for next to nothing. Let's talk about some of these goofy Earth-friendly products they're hawking in honor of Earth Day. First, wtf is an "Earth Pan"? Secondly, a host of reusables so inexpensive, you have to ask what corners were cut to produce something that cheap? How much does the quality suffer? How long will it last?

9. McDonald's introduces the Earth Shake - OK, this one was just an April Fool's joke - but how many of you saw this Associate Press practical joke and thought, "Oh cool, McDonald's is going to start making their shakes out of real milk and ice cream...wait, what the heck are they made out of now?" It just goes to show you how prominent these lame "green" efforts are.

10. The Earth Day freebie extravaganza - while scouring the net for events actually celebrating the 40th anniversary of this important day we were astounded to see most major news sources focusing on the free crap you could get from stores rather than environmental news, stories about the legacy of Earth Day or even guides for "going green." Giveaways ranged from cheap non-woven polypropylene bags to cheap-o baseball caps to plush dolls commemorating the holiday - a bunch of plastic commemorative junk.

Campbells_tomato But it ain't all bad...

Picking on companies falsely profiting from the green movement is like shooting fish in a barrel - but we felt compelled to point them out because for the most part, their messaging goes against the very core of our mission: to reduce consumption of use and toss items. 

But for every 10 or so campaigns or press releases that made us exclaim "you've gotta be kidding!" we did see organizations that seemed to really "get" the real purpose of Earth Day. Here are a few:

Green America's 10 Ways to Shift to Green - Smart, straight forward tips for using the economy to support business and products that are good for people and the planet.

Yahoo! Lists 5 things to Avoid this Earth Day - A great article that points out the flaws in our tendency to rush out and buy the latest eco-friendly gadgets. 

Care2's Top 5 Household Tips for Earth Day - Easy tips anyone could put into action right now, no purchase necessary.

Earth Day for Cynics - An even shorter list of only three things anyone could do and should do to cut back on consumption.

10 Simple Ways to Cut Down on Disposables - Our own list of the top ten disposables you can easily replace with reusables to waste less on Earth Day and every day. 

Did you spot any really great (or really terrible) Earth Day actions? Tell us about it in the comments section!

April 27, 2010

Shopping Bag Bra (maybe NWS)

it may not be entirely practical, but this shopping bag bra from Japanese lingerie company Triumph is certainly a great way to get people talking about reusable bags!


Shopping Bag Bra

Diagonal View | MySpace Video

February 18, 2010

Toxic: Garbage Island

We've all read about Garbage Island, the floating landfill in the Pacific Ocean - we've seen the pictures. But this series of video reports from VICE is the most shocking and compelling evidence we've seen yet that our plastic waste has gotten out of control.

The clip here, and those found on VICE's site contain some adult language - for a toned-down version you can check out CNN's recent post about the series.

February 15, 2010

Running the Numbers by Chris Jordan

1242247972 Take a look at our plastic bag counter on the right. Can you even come close to comprehending a number so huge? Photographer Chris Jordan doesn't think so, but with his new series of photographs Running the Numbers he's trying to put it into perspective for all of us.

In a statement on Seed Magazine's website, Jordan says, "I’m trying to translate these numbers from the deadening language of statistics into a visual language that allows some kind of comprehension." 

The work is beautiful and staggering - hundreds of thousands of disposable items ranging from aluminum cans to cell phones artfully arranged and easily digestible. 

Jordan's 112 page book, including 60 color illustrations, is available for purchase on his website: http://www.chrisjordan.com

January 26, 2010

Street Art: Joshua Allen Harris' Inflatable Bag Monsters

Our friend Dave S. first turned us on to Joshua Allen Harris' hauntingly cool artwork back in 2008 and we were reminded by another friend recently of the artists' interesting take on garbage.

Using garbage bags, tape and subway exhaust, he constructs inflatable animals that seems to come to life on the streets of New York. Check out this video of the artist's work by Jonah Green.

November 03, 2009

Say No to Faux - Cheap Reusables are Everywhere

Ripoff If you've been keeping up with our blog the past few months you're already well aware that cheap reusables are becoming just as big of a waste issue as disposable items. We've talked about cheap promotional giveaways, poorly made $1 bags, cheap bottles... and every day there's more of them to talk about.

The bottom line is, cheap reusables won't last long enough to accomplish the #1 goal of reusables - cutting back on waste. They tear, they break - in some cases they're made from unsafe materials or in factories that do not enforce Fair Trade practices. Over all, a poorly-made items won't save you money and they won't cut back on waste - so what's the point?

The issue hit a little closer to home this past week end when our company founder discovered a cheap knock off of one of our own products being used as a member perk at the Lincoln Park Zoo! There's nothing wrong with a little fair competition, but these ultra-compact bags were clearly a direct copy of our best-selling ACME Bags Workhorse. The worst part though is that they're made from a cheap version of rip-stop nylon that can only be described as "crunchy". Loose threads are exposed, it doesn't feel as nice as the original and we're guessing once we test it out, it's not going to replace 1500 plastic bags like the Workhorse does.  

And it's not the first time. Our customer service representative Belinda actually had a similar knock off from Chicago Public Radio with her the day she interviewed for the job here. We shudder to think about how many people received one of these giveaways, perhaps thinking they were getting one of our bags, and had it fail on them.

ACME Bags, unlike cheap knock offs, are 100% guaranteed against defects in materials or construction for life. Our practical, stylish, durable, innovative, "logo free" designs are made from the most sustainable / high-performance materials available. We pledge 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment and our products are produced in accordance with fair labor/ Fair Trade practice. Take that, cheap reusables. 

You can read more about ACME Bags in our FAQ and check out our growing line of award-winning reusables in our store.

October 16, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Burrito

Natalie's burrito trials When I first started at this company, about a year and a half ago, one of my first responsibilities was to answer our customer's product questions. It's smart training - we have over 700 reusables and answering upwards of 50 questions about them per day is the best way to learn about each and every one of them.

For the most part, I was helping people find the right size lunch bag or troubleshooting a squeaky sport cap - until one day when I received a long, thoughtful inquiry about what reusable we would recommend to transport and re-heat burritos.

I thought about it for a few minutes, consulted with my co-workers, and opted to recommend wrapping the burrito in a hemp or cotton napkin, and then microwaving it in that same napkin.

The next day the person responded and stated that his burritos tended to be messy and he needed something that would keep his bag from getting all messy. Would a Wrap-N-Mat work? Well, a Wrap-N-Mat would work, but you can't microwave them. (We'd already established that his workplace did not provide plates or a place to wash them.) I finally ended up suggested a microwave-safe plastic container and I believe he was happy with his new burrito containment unit.

A few months later, I got another question asking for burrito wrap/heating suggestions. With the previous experience under my belt, I sent a few ideas - some for messy burritos and others for neater burritos. I believe that person ended up using organic cotton napkins, which are great because you can use them as a wrap, heat the burrito up inside them, and then clean up with them when you're done.

About a month after that I got two more burrito questions in one week. At this point, my co-worker Belinda and I renamed our department ReusableBurritos.com and came up with an array of imaginary products including reusable tortilla chips (why waste chips?) and reusable taco shells (made from BPA-free, food-safe silicone.) 

I made it my mission to find a burrito solution for our customers. I started sketching up ideas for a burrito wrap with a pocket on one side to hold one end of the burrito, and then built-in ties so you could wrap the whole thing up and tie it neatly. I called it the Burrito Kimono.

After another inquiry from a cab driver who wanted something that would keep his breakfast burrito warm while he drove around I realized this thing was way too big for me to tackle by myself.

I felt encouraged by a recent sample we received - an reusable cloth bag meant for heating up frozen items in the microwave. In fact, I just finished eating a vegetarian black bean burrito that I heated up in this bag. I have yet to compile my report for our next new product meeting, but at least there are other people out there considering the current frozen burrito crisis we have on our hands. 

I think the best advice I got was from our company founder's wife, Marni, who said, "Burritos are better out of the toaster oven anyway."

In closing, I still recommend using a napkin and a dash of water to heat a frozen burrito but that doesn't mean I'm not still looking for another solution. If you have an idea, please leave a comment and let us know! As you can see, we take all of our customer's concerns seriously - even if it means 18 months of burrito-related research and development.

October 06, 2009

Da Bears, Da Bags, Da Waste

IMG_0574

Greenwashing Meets Pinkwashing

As a Chicago company, we're big Bears fans - and we all try to get out to as many home games as we can. Last year we were pretty disappointed to see cheap, non-woven polypropylene bags given away to everyone in attendance.

This past Sunday, another 40,000 more cheap reusable bags were distributed among fans. This year's sponsor, another huge corporation like last year's, used this marketing gimmick to tie their name to two good causes - environmental conservation and breast cancer awareness.  People who took these bags were instant walking advertisements for that corporation. And the bags were cheap, so the likelihood that they'll be used again is slim. In fact, we saw hundreds of these bags shoved into garbage cans all over Soldier Field as we left the game - what a waste! (We recommend you read our post about dollar store reusable bags for more on non-woven polypropylene bags.)

We actually overheard some Bears fans say, "No thanks, I'll never use it." This prompted the people giving the bags away to say, "C'mon, they're free! And it's for breast cancer awareness!" Of course we support breast cancer awareness - but how does shoving a crappy reusable bag with a pink ribbon screened on it in the hands of someone who admits they will never use it help the cause?

Here are a few other comments we overheard:

"You can have mine - I just want it to hold my stuff right now. I'm going to throw it away after the game."

 "You don't want one? They're free!!" (Guy giving them away trying to convinceIMG_0576 a women to take one after she initially refused.) 

 "I hate free junk" (That woman's reason for refusing.)

It's so absurd that even the Chicago Sun-Times weighed in on the issue.(Unfortunately this article is no longer available online.)

We posted an article exposing the hidden costs of cheap reusable bags at our site, but in a nutshell - there are a few questions you have to ask yourself whenever you're faced with free junk: Will I ever use it? Will it last? Under what working conditions are these things being made?


By avoiding cheap giveaways and focusing on high-quality reusables you're actually reducing consumption, not contributing to it.

September 03, 2009

The wrong kind of bag ban

We recently received this unbelievable email from a customer:

I was writing you to share with you a story. I was recently at a Boscov's department store in Lebanon, PA.  I was told that I could not use my reusable bag, I had to use a plastic bag with their logo on it to prevent shoplifting. The store manager told me that I could recycle the plastic bag. I told her she could keep her bag and her items and I was not going to shop a store that was not trying to protect the environment. I have been using reusable bags for years now and I was hoping we were moving forward. I hope your store continues to remind people of the importance of using reusable products, we have a long way to go. Thank you for continuing to increase awareness.

-Liz

REI-10 Thanks for emailing us, Liz, and unfortunately this is something we've heard about from other concerned shoppers as well. Our company founder's wife, Marni, actually had a similar experience at a local department store - you can imagine her reaction!

Obviously our first recommendation is to speak to the store manager, and if that doesn't work (like in this case) go over the manager's head by contacting the company's headquarters. Express your concerns as a customer that their company is not concerned about the environment. We even have a form letter you can use on our site. If shop lifting is a concern, you can suggest that they allow mesh bags like the ACME bags Workhorse, Mesh or Walker Bags.  Finally, it's your money, and you can decide where to spend it. Stop shopping in stores that do not allow reusable bags.

Have you had an unusual experience trying to use your reusable bags at stores? Tell us about it at [email protected]!