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Students design and sell reusable shopping bags

one_bagWhen a group of Year 8 students from Ross Intermediate identified a problem in their local community, they came up with an ecological and economical solution, as they explain.

In Term 1, our class learnt about something we called ‘community media’. This is where you see a problem or an issue in the community and then make a change.

We started by looking at all of the environmental issues and decided that we wanted to do something that was connected with Manawatu. There’s a massive problem with plastic bags, not just in the community but in the world, so we decided to change this by launching our own line of recycled, reusable bags.

Our project was actually started by two different groups that were investigating two separate solutions around the same issue. One was looking at local businesses and getting them to pledge to remove plastic bags from their store and, in return, we would look to promote them. The other was exploring the creation of a reusable bag. As both groups progressed, it was obvious we had a lot in common, so we decided to join forces under the campaign ‘ONE BAG @ a time’.

The problem with plastic

Before we even started as one big group, we needed to find out what was actually wrong with plastic bags. We found out shocking facts and articles about what they’re doing to the planet and why we need to stop using them. People don’t realise that plastic bags are as much of a threat to us, as they are to the ecosystem. When plastic bags get dumped in the water, due to their exposure to sun, water and wind, they break up into microscopic pieces that absorb poison. Then the fish mistake these micro pieces of plastic for food and eat them. Then guess what, we eat the fish.

Documenting achievements

Our ultimate goal is to have all of Manawatu free from plastic bags. We have focused on documenting what we’ve achieved, so that other groups could look to recreate that, in their local area.

We decided the business model to use was to bulk sell directly to businesses in Palmerston North. We thought that selling individual bags would be time consuming and would limit our ability to spread the message. Two companies, iSite and Organic Healthy Living, have already agreed to be stockists. We’re currently negotiating with three others, including a nationwide chain.

Accessing experts

An important aspect of what we have done is accessing experts. As we have been selling our bags, we’ve learnt a lot about the business world and product development. We’ve worked with local graphic designers to get support for the design elements. The local printer has helped us with pricing (and developing an understanding of GST) and The Warehouse has been helpful in talking through the implications of having a recommended retail price.

We have been contacted by many people locally to wish us luck, including musician Jennifer Moss, who is helping to set up a project in Palmerston North to becoming plastic bag free. She’s been very supportive in helping us to promote our bags.

Use of technology

Access to technology has been vital in the research and creation of this project. We’ve used Google Apps to collaborate, both within our group and also with experts. Google Draw has been great for the creation of our logo and flyers. It’s been vital that everyone has had up-to-date files, as we have worked through many different versions.

At the moment, our next step is to create a website for local businesses to be able to buy our bags online and for individuals to buy them as well. We’re also trying to get other people in different town and cities to support this idea and do it for themselves.  

By Sam Newsome, Kuramaiki Whana, Ardyn Stokes, Quinn Burton-Brown, Kenya Tripp-Larkins, and Aroha Nepia, from Ross Intermediate School in Palmerston North.

Thanks to teachers Liam Rutherford and Nick Wilson.

You can win one of these amazing bags by entering this months competition.

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