Your company started in 1989 with the goal of offering reusable bags that would promote and encourage an eco-friendly lifestyle. What type of a reaction did you get from people at first? The concept of reusables wasn’t super popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
At first people were like, “huh?” And then they were like, “oooh.” And then they were like, “cool.” And then they started doing it and realized other people were doing it, and then people in line were the odd ones out. There was momentum there, but the momentum didn’t really happen or tip until 17 years in. We were just really persistent. We were in a lot of stores, and we were even international at that point, but it still hadn’t taken off as a concept until about 2007.
It’s kind of like a wave. The wave would come in and there would be a lot of interest, and then the wave would go out, and then the wave would come in and there would be more interest, and then it would go out. I think there is more interest now on a genuine level instead of it just being a fad. This is not a fad or a trend—it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a perspective. And then it becomes a practice and a way of being. What gets me about American culture is that we work really hard and then we throw it all away. It doesn’t make any sense.
We’d love to avoid plastic as well, but it’s just not currently possible when dealing with large products like mattresses and bedding items. These products are expensive and need to be protected. I’ve seen companies with small items, such as toothbrushes, use plant-based plastic, but it’s incredibly expensive and not sustainable when handling larger items. It’s unfortunate.
There’s a place for plastic in this culture, just not as much, and hopefully soon compostable plastic. The compostable plastics for awhile didn’t have the flexibility, and they’re getting better at that. And they also didn’t have longevity so they would crackle, but that’s getting way better. My thinking on it is we can break the market with compostable plastics in about five years. As soon as the demand goes up, the price goes down.
Tell me about the various types of bags you all offer.
We try to offer a durable option to replace any single-use item. We started with the string bags, our signature product that we brought over from Europe in the beginning because they were used in Europe for generations. They can be used for general shopping, going to the beach, produce, whatever.
And then we have the canvas bags that we can imprint, and we do a lot of imprinting for brands and events. And we have bread bags and produce bags. Our produce bags, which are very simple drawstring bags, you can get from us with a little design on them already so they’re pretty when you use them. We also get a lot of crafters buying those bags and using them for their craft supplies. It’s an organizational bag. It allows you to separate items and to keep plastic out of the picture as much as possible.
What’s key about all of our products is that we’ve had a clean supply chain since we started in 1989. What that means is we’ve always looked at the production of the goods and made sure it met fair wage and fair labor standards, and also we do a lot with certified organic cotton and recycled cotton for the least amount of impact on the environment. There’s a lot of companies coming out and saying how transparency is radical. We’ve been radical for 30 years.
I saw that the organic cotton that you use is GOTS-certified. Savvy Rest also carries GOTS-certified products as well. Can you tell me more about your organic products?
[GOTS] is for people who care about the whole supply chain, and I think it’s essential for mattresses and things like that. I’ve actually been to the cooperatives we use in India [for our organic cotton]. It’s a fantastic trip. And it’s interesting too because a lot of the [farms] that are doing organic didn’t have to transition. They just didn’t leave organic. When we started, GMO wasn’t on the scene, but so many farmers moved over to GMO, and now they’re trying to transition back. We work with a lot of farming cooperatives that stayed with how they’ve always [grown cotton], and then got all the certifications.
Some of your bags are made with recycled cotton. Can you tell me about that material?
The recycled cotton is post-industrial. It’s not like we’re getting textiles off the street, bringing them in, and then recycling them. What happens in fiber production is the shorter fibers are pulled out. I guess they’re of less value. They get pulled aside and that’s called “the recycled,” and then they’re woven together to make longer fibers.
What is your favorite bag in your store?
I like the string bags because that was our signature product. I just think they’re so cool. You can roll them up and take them anywhere. And they’re perfect for the beach because they have holes in them so you can’t bring all the sand. Also, you can only carry so much in them. There’s something about choosing the right things and bringing them home and having that sense of abundance as supposed to over-filling with more things that you don’t want, and then having a sense of waste.