What’s Good is thrilled to introduce you to ECOBAGS and their founder, Sharon Rowe. We love all our makers, but this woman-led business shares so many of our values, and have been living them since they opened their doors in more than 30 years ago, that they have inspired us from our earliest days.
Recently Sharon shared her eco worries and challenges with us in a short Q & A. Before we share it with you, here's a brief introduction to Sharon and to how ECOBAGS started.
Sharon Rowe is the CEO and Founder ofEco-Bags Products, Inc. ECOBAGS is the original reusable bag brand, sold worldwide, recognized as “Best for The World” byBcorporation for social and environmental commitments and standards.
Sharon is recognized as a thought leader in social innovation, sustainable and responsible production since 1989. She speaks regularly on building profitable, mission & value aligned businesses, believing that business can be a force for good, a currency for ideas that shape culture. Learn more by visiting Sharon's website.
ECOBAGS opened for business in 1989 with a simple goal; to produce responsibly made and sourced bags at great prices, so that reusable becomes a way of life. They started with the ECOBAGS Classic String Bag, a simple lightweight, expandable cotton net bag used in Europe for generations, long before paper and plastic bags. They introduced their bags at the 1990 Earth Day celebration on Sixth Avenue in New York City. The bags were a hit and sold out in four hours!
Sharon understood that single-use plastic bags were wasteful and costly to the environment and hoped that by bringing their own cloth bags—BYOB—they could ignite conversations and inspire others to embrace the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Sharon and her team were part of the first plastic bag bans in the UK (Modbury) and Ireland, they were called "social change agents" and "pioneers" for bringing an untested and unknown concept to market. They started by reaching out to retailers in the natural products industry pre-Whole Foods Market! They believed then, as they do today, that bringing your own bags to the store is the first step of many toward creating a world with less waste. Today, there are movements all over world, banning and taxing single-use plastic bags, creating a "reusable-revolution." We are thrilled!
Thanks to Sharon’s leadership and risk-taking spirit, there’s now a greater understanding that when you "throw away" a single-use plastic bag, there is no "away." If you want to live in a clean environment that means you need to participate in keeping it clean. Local and state governments are crafting legislation. Documentary films like "BagIt" are reaching communities and schools. There’s so much accessible information to support the importance of bringing your own bag and practicing source reduction, now!
ECOBAGS is a role model and inspiration for more than just their reusable bags.
Since ECOBAGS began, all their products have been made in socially responsible environments. Their primary production partners in India have always shared their vision of an engaged and sustainable work environment. They offer competitive compensation, extended health coverage, retirement benefits, pension plans (under government programs), vacations and holidays— going well beyond local labor requirements.
Sharon travels to India regularly and, over the past 25+ years, she has created lifelong relationships that help us at What’s Good feel confident that we are bringing the best possible product, made with strict adherence to ethical standards, to our customers.
Again, ahead of their time and following their conscious, ECOBAGS introduced certified organic cotton (1996) and recycled cotton (2004) to their line long before there was awareness or a market for them. Their recycled fibers are post-industrial, keeping waste out of landfills. All fabric dyes and screen-print inks are non-toxic to both humans and the environment and they are actively working to transition all their products to organic and recycled fibers.
And, like What’s Good, ECOBAGS supports causes they care about: the Sierra Club, Hudson River ClearWater, Riverkeeper, and Algalita.
What’s Good:What does being eco-friendly mean to you?
Sharon Rowe, ECOBAGS:Eco-friendly is a big topic. In a way we can all relate to, in our homes and how we live day to day it means waking up and seeing how much unnecessary waste and harm is created in our lives. From overpackaged (or unnecessarily packaged) goods to toxic cleaning products to simply wasting water or not turning off the lights when you leave a room – seeing the wastefulness is step one. Taking actions to reduce or eliminate the waste is the next step and not always the easiest. Do you purchase the cauliflower wrapped in plastic or drive five miles to where you can get it "unwrapped"? Or do you forgo cooking with cauliflower that week? What I suggest is create an intention to be less wasteful and then pick one area of your life and look at all you can have without creating waste. Keep a journal and don't blame yourself for not being perfect. Then go deeper and learn about the costs of all this waste from health to environment to taxes for clean-up, etc. Look at every aspect of your life: your food, your housing, your clothes. There's an abundance of resources to simplify and live more lightly on the earth. Another thing is to simply stop using all single-use plastics and use real utensils, plates, and cups...even when you have parties. As you go on this zero or reduce waste journey be assured that your friends and family will notice, and you may have an additional impact on their choices. This is all part of step one.
What’s Good:What’s your biggest climate change fear/concern?
Sharon Rowe:I believe that clean air and water is a human right. My biggest fears surround the pollution and privatization of natural resources.
What’s Good: If our readers could only do one green thing, what would it be and why?
Sharon Rowe:Well, I am a reusable bag brand so I will come from that perspective...always bring your own bags (preferably reusable, durable cloth bags not non-woven polypropylene, which are made from oil) and don't fill those bags with packaged goods. Shop for ingredients, not pre-made.
What’s Good:What’s the biggest ‘bad habit' YOU have as it relates to eco/sustainable lifestyle that is a challenge for you? (Flying, eating meat, Ziplock baggies, take-out food, etc.)
Sharon Rowe:Wine. I like imported wine. Think about that carbon footprint!
What’s Good:What started you on your eco-journey?
Sharon Rowe:About 35 years ago, I was in Europe, and I saw people using "filet" string bags when they went to the market. I thought, how great is it to come home, unpack purchases and not throw out a plastic bag? Simple. Elegant.
What’s Good:What is your favorite product you make?
Sharon Rowe:The classic Filet string bag that we started ECOBAGS with.
Our thanks to Sharon for taking the time to speak with us, but especially for her work as an activist, social entrepreneur, author, business leader, and eco pioneer.