When we set out to design a reusable leather bag, sustainable production and waste reduction were our top priorities. We are very proud of the result — The Swagga Bag — a strong, stylish, 100% organic New Zealand leather bag that collapses as thin as a placemat when not in use.
Although we were confident in the Swagga Bag’s environmental cred, we always appreciate getting new insights and feedback from wise voices in the zero-waste movement. Last week, we had the privilege of hearing Bea Johnson speak about waste reduction during her New Zealand tour.
If the name Bea Johnson doesn’t sound familiar, her blog/social media empire/epic movement ‘Zero Waste Home’ might. She has legions of followers from all over the world, and her book, ‘Zero Waste Home’ has been published in 20 languages.
Bea’s family of four creates one 500ml jar of landfill rubbish per year. Per year! Bea explains the secret to their low-waste lifestyle is following the 5 R’s.
Most of us are familiar with the three R’s: reduce; reuse; recycle. But Bea Johnson says that in her experience, there is too much emphasis on the recycle part of the equation and not enough on the all-important reduce one. And with China’s recent move to stop taking on the world’s recycling, it’s apparent that our waste problems don’t leave when the recycling truck does.
Bea Johson’s 5 R’s:
1. Refuse what you don’t need;
2. Reduce what you do need;
3. Reuse what you consume;
4. Recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse;
5. Rot (i.e. compost) the rest.
When Bea was offered a souvenir T-shirt and certificate after her bungy jump here in Auckland, she (of course) refused. The bungy jump assistant, completely taken aback, kept repeating, “but it’s free!” It’s difficult to make the mind-shift that even if something’s free, we don’t need to accept it. That goes for plastic bags at the supermarket too. When we accept those ‘free gifts,’ our environment pays the price.
When we thought about how the Swagga Bag connects with Bea Johnson’s 5 R’s, we were happy to see it stacks up perfectly.
Swagga Bag’s 5 R’s:
1. Refuse. By having a few Swagga Bags ready in the boot, you’ll be able to refuse the single-use plastic bags at the supermarket. You’ll also be able to refuse the ‘eco-friendlier’ (but still plasticky and non-biodegradable) reusable bag options, like polypropylene.
2. Reduce. Because our Swagga Bags last for years, you’ll be able to reduce the number of lower-quality, weaker reusable bags you buy.
3. Reuse. The Swagga Bag is made from strong, New Zealand leather. If cared for properly, you can reuse your Swagga Bags hundreds and hundreds of times.
4. Recycle. If a Swagga Bag needs to be retired from your collection, recycle it via one of the charity clothing bins you find around shopping centres. The leather can be repurposed by textile recyclers.
5. Rot. If there are no clothing bins in your area, another option is to just cut up your retired Swagga Bag, bury it in the earth, and let it return to nature. Because Swagga Bags are made from 100% organic New Zealand leather, they will break down naturally over time. You can speed up the process by feeding your Swagga Bag to your compost bin or worm bin.