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Stretching the Imagination: What Are Your Zero Waste Innovations?

It’s a new year, and that means it’s time to get creative for thinking up new ways to use less—it’s kind of our thing. At Zero Waste Communities, we love discovering simple innovations that anyone can do to cut down their consumption or use their castoffs. So naturally, as we are in the midst of our Reusable Bag Campaign we were thrilled to come across Artechnica Inc.’s Stretch Bag. At first glance it might just look like a simple tote bag, but it’s special for two reasons:

First, as much as we like canvas over plastic, these vinyl bags are actually made from discarded billboards. What we love about that is how it transforms a product that usually tells us to consume into something that helps us conserve.  Artechnica’s not alone in this trend; and you can find other companies making bags from old advertisements as well.
But the second interesting thing about this Stretch Bag is not about what it’s made of, but how it’s made. By using a cleaver series of cuts, a single piece of reused vinyl is molded into a handled pouch that can hold just over 30 lbs, no glues, stitching or other parts required. The cuts and stretching aren’t only functional, but they make the bag beautiful by turning old images into abstract colors and geometric shapes. It’s so snazzy, in fact, that it was featured in the Pasadena Museum of California Art’s recent Design Biennial show, Action/Reaction, which highlighted outstanding sustainable art and design in California.

As great as this bag is, we’d like to see if our readers can do better! Post pictures of your zero waste inventions to our Facebook page, and we’ll feature your creations in a photo album on our Facebook page!

4 Ways To Unwrap Your Holidays


Think reusable bags are only to be used at grocery stores? Think again! Zero Waste Communities is here to give you 4 simple tips to get the most out of your reusable bags this holiday season.

1.  Reusable bags aren’t just for the supermarket.
We all like to get the most value out of our purchases—especially during those holiday sales—but there’s one complimentary item that you shouldn’t feel cheated by turning down at the register: a shopping bag. Using your reusable bag collection for your general holiday shopping will help cut down on numerous wasted disposable bags from department stores. Not only will you produce less waste, as a bonus when you bring your treasures home your giftees won’t know what stores you’ve been to.


For those nervous about being the odd-shopper-out, for five years Heal the Bay has coordinated “A Day Without A Bag” on the third Thursday of December—the 15th this year—where holiday shoppers and retailers forgo single-use plastic shopping bags in favor of reusable bags.

2. Think outside the box; right outside the box.
A lot of effort goes into making our presents look like presents. All that colorful paper looks great, but did you know that wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the US?  Most of us probably know that with a little bit of extra effort and care, even the most delicate of wrapping papers can be saved or passed on to wrap again. While that’s fantastic, with a little creativity, resourcefulness and research you can blur the line between wrapping and wrapped. There are a lot of sites that offer some great ideas for good looking reusable packaging or how to make the packaging itself, a part of the gift.

3. That’s your bag, Baby.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to put anything inside of the bag. And why should you?  If you happen to find a really awesome bag that you think your friends and family would love to carry and use week after week for their shopping or personal needs, that’s definitely a gift worth giving. Just don’t try to say it’s the same thing as a purse. Even thought it kind of is, that could to get you into trouble.

4. Bags? We don’t need no stinking bags.
If you really want to get serious about using less, don’t wrap or bag your gifts at all. You’ll even get bonus points if the gift itself is made to be reusable or made from recycled or reused material. You can carry small purchases home in your hand, purse or pockets. Once you’re back home, if you want to get more festive than presenting your gift by saying, “Here you go,”  find places to hide them: under a pillow, in a tree or in the refrigerator. Be creative, but don’t forget the tried and true behind-your-back technique.

Mostly, we hope that you’ll join with Zero Waste Communities in committing to a simpler but no less magical holiday season. Do you have any gift-giving and material-saving ideas? Share them with us!

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