How to reduce waste at shopping malls

Recycled%20banner%20shopping%20bags.jpgWalking through some trendy shopping district, with seasonal banners/flags above, do you ever wonder where they go after they’ve been switched out? In most cases, they get disposed of, adding to the waste stream. While it could be argued that these districts could find other creative, less resource intensive ways to promote themselves, one area, Commercial Drive in Vancouver, has taken another path:
They take previously used banners and make them into attractive shopping bags, 10 colors in all, in two sizes. This is brilliant for multiple reasons: It takes the current burgeoning popularity of eco friendly shopping bags, and gives people the option to get a visually unique choice. And it’s a conversation piece that will likely result in additional person to person promotion of the shopping district it came from, and the store that they purchased it at.
Aware that re-purposed billboards have long been around doing this same trick, the Commercial Drive district bag initiative also donates proceeds from these bags to the creation of new green spaces in the area.
What sort of impact does this have?

According to their site, it avoids 3.53 tons of CO2 emissions, 281.6 pounds of nylon being landfilled, and enough energy to power an average Vancouver home for 10 months.
However, the thought crosses my mind, these savings are based on making the equivalent number of new nylon bags. What if people didn’t make them in the first place? They of course can reduce the number of disposable bags used, but it is a context to be aware of. Don’t let yourself be bowled over by statistics merely because they’re large. Look into what the larger context might be.
They are definitely to be commended for their innovation and initiative here, and to further improve it, I would suggest that they, and anybody else in similar banner using shopping districts investigate the company The Sign Shop USA.
Though it’s low profile now, they have a green line that is quite impressive. It incorporates Evergreen Fabrics, which use 50% less raw material, have 80% energy savings in production, and if landfilled, take up 65% less volume. Bioflex is a biodegradable banner material that turns into sodium dust. And there are many other options there. I’ve been telling them that once they go above ground with these products on their site, I’d write about them. Tell them I sent you, and let’s get the green seen!
Readers: How else can shopping, and the experience around it be made greener?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing. || ==> For more, see

6 responses

  1. Very interesting.
    If the economics don’t work, recycling efforts won’t either.
    Check, a blog about the innovative people and companies that make money selling recycled or reused items, provide green services or help us reduce our dependency on non renewable resources.

  2. Kudos. the bottom line is that consumers have to practice the best way to reduce – buy less (even if there’s a good cause involved or if you get satisfaction talking to you friends about your latest re-usable one-of-a-kind fashion bag). business is about making money and growth so no wonder everyone is offering a reusable bag but as consumers try to get smarter about choices they make supporting the business the shop/buy from the most important one it to buy less. how many people actually NEED any kind of bag for their average purchases anyway?

  3. Thanks for the Livepath resources, will check those out. And KM, I agree, it is also a smart path to follow, shifting people away from a purely consumer oriented path. And yet, we are where we are now, and to make shifts, big and small, in how people think of the world around them, all add up.
    And in terms of needing a bag, it would depend on what’s sold there, and where they use it. At a farmer’s market? The supermarket? Carrying your books around for a walk in the park? Lots more uses then for the latest chic boutique, yes?

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