It all started last Thanksgiving as an idea without a plan. We had a bunch of random reusable bags around the office and we didn’t have a way to distribute them. It wasn’t like we had hundreds to give away but we had a bunch. About that time I received an email from our local food bank, asking for donations of bags that they could use to distribute their holiday dinners.

Bingo! We could donate our bags to the food bank and encourage others to do so. Great idea, right? Unfortunately our local folks were in the midst of moving so it didn’t come together. The idea still remained, though, waiting for the right opportunity.

Washington, DC passed its bag tax earlier this year. At five cents per bag the city has seen an 85% reduction in plastic bag consumption, which is phenomenal.The bag tax is tied to cleaning up the Anaconda River and is widely regarded as a success; it’s reducing plastic consumption, the fees are going to a definable project and the amount isn’t onerous. Score one for the environment, right?

The challenge for the city’s poor though, is that five cents per bag adds up. Shortly after the DC tax was enacted I was contacted by Jeffrey Wankel at Bread for the City, a DC food pantry. He was seeking a donation of reusable bags with a goal of giving a set to each food pantry client. “Aha,” I thought, “here’s the place to try that idea.”

If you’ve gone to conferences or trade shows or gotten to the register and purchased cheap bags at the checkout, you may have a surplus of reusable bags. I do. The question is how many inexpensive trade show & grocery bags do you need? They’re sturdy, they’re brand new and they accumulate in closets and attics; too good to throw away, not able to be recycled and not really needed.

What if your local food pantry asked YOU to go into your attic and send clean, extra reusable bags to them? Would it feel awesome to do it? You betcha. It’s like Freecycle for reusable bags with end-users in mind. As we say, “It’s all good.”

Will you lead a bag collection in your office? Remember, this isn’t about buying bags to donate (although that’s fine, too). It’s about going into your attic, closets, basements and cars and paring down your reusable bag collection to the ones you really use. And donating the rest.

You can contact your local food pantry to see if they want them. Jeffrey and the folks at Bread for the City will happily accept your donations (they have a goal of collecting another 3,000 this year) but if you want to keep it local, that’s great, too.

We’re going to collect ours this week and get them to Jeffrey in DC. Based on the number of events coming up, I’m sure we’ll have more soon. Stay tuned for photos.

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