I came back from a summer program at Brown University regarding sustainable development and immediately recalled the huge banner I obtained from the dance competition held at my school a few months ago.
As president of the HKIS chapter of Roots & Shoots, I wanted to use this idea of using old banners to make environmentally friendly tote bags to motivate other club members to pursue their interests. Because the many clubs at our school often had banners printed to promote various events and many of them end up in the dumpster.
With no access to sewing machines, I tried to cut pieces of the huge banner and sew a sample bag myself but failed miserably in attempts to cut two pieces of fabric the same size. In September, by chance, I was introduced by a club member to another club member’s mother Mrs Van Kirk who had a passion for bags and had her own label.
I contacted her, set up a meeting and showed her the fabric. She was very helpful and quickly taught me many simple ways of making durable bags such as French seams. She took in the banners after deeming them suitable materials, and mixed and matched patterns on the banners to create unique bags. They were one in a kind, and no single bag was the same.
I was fortunate to have met her and am eternally grateful for her help in this dream of mine. With these bags and about 40 pots of organically grown herbs grown in our school garden by volunteers, I entered Roots & Shoots in the October celebration called Pumpkin Festival and started selling. With the help of a teacher with connections to Care, we donated all the proceeds to the various water projects Care managed in Myanmar.
Over at Brown University, I did some research on other designs individuals in the United States have made and created a simple model using newspaper, cereal boxes and masking tape. I presented this idea of mine and exhibited my flimsy model on the last day of the camp to parents of my friends attending the session.
I brought this back home and was dismayed when I failed to follow my timeline.
My school had disposed of the sewing machines I had hoped to be able to use to tailor the bags, and the project was stalled for a month. When school started, I briefly introduced my idea of making bags out of recycled materials to my club members and caught the attention of two girls. One of the girls’ mothers Mrs Van Kirk had her own brand of bags and offered to help me tailor and design these bags.
From September, the start of my project to November, the Earth Champions celebration, I managed to produce three batches of bags (with more to come) with the help of Mrs Van Kirk. These bags were made from a large banner for decoration left over from a dance competition held at our school last year.
This idea of producing environmentally friendly tote bags is not new, and many individuals have succeeded in making their own brand of bags. I am not trying to take credit for their work and pursued this project because I wanted to show other people in Hong Kong (and mainly students at my school) that individual initiative and effort can be recognised and is possible. I want others to know that everyone can make a difference if they want to.