Re-Bag
The Positive Impact of Reusable Totes

Back in 2007 Progress were celebrating their tenth anniversary in business. By way of marking the occasion and identifying an opportunity to give something back to the industry in which we make our living, we created an event and a range of packaging products that highlighted and promoted the use of reusable tote bags in the UK.

Text by Vicki Walmsley
Photography by Guy Farrow and Lindsay Broadley

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One thing to change drastically in the last decade is the general awareness of our carbon footprint and the impact we all have on the environment. Following years of study and monitoring, the world has paid particular attention to the damaging effects caused by single-use carrier bags around the globe.

Due to the increased media exposure, as well as the changes made to UK legislation regarding the packaging practices of large retail organisations, recycling and reusability are now, rightly, at the forefront of all our everyday lives. However, it hasn’t always been this way. Rewind back to 2007 when single-use plastic bags were still freely accessible to millions of shoppers on a daily basis, there was limited awareness of the damaging effects these had on our environment. The world’s landfill sites were overflowing and our oceans were becoming polluted beyond recoverability. Something had to change.

Unnecessary packaging waste has always been an issue at the forefront of Progress’ mind, and it was around the time of our tenth anniversary, a decade ago, when we decided to make the most of a great opportunity to combine our own celebrations with a campaign that would raise awareness in the UK. The project also came about at a time when reusable bags were just starting to emerge in the fashion industry through designers such as Anya Hindmarch, giving further reason for us to believe that it would be a great platform to push our environmentally beneficial ideas and beliefs forward.

Tote bags from the Re-Bag collection displayed at SEA Gallery, London.

We teamed up with fifteen leading design agencies to bring a collection of tote bags to life, which was launched and exhibited at SEA gallery, London. The agencies included Airside, BB/Saunders, Browns, MadeThought., Mutlistorey, NB: Studio, Non-Format, ODD, Saturday, SEA, Spin, Supermundane, The Designers Republic, Winkreative, and Design Project who also created the exhibition branding, collateral, and campaign name, Re-Bag.

‘In 2007, single-use plastic bags were still freely accessible to millions of shoppers and there was limited awareness of the damaging effects these had on our environment...’

Each bag was displayed in the gallery in a custom-made recycled greyboard clamshell box, with the name of the designer highlighted on the inside lid.

Each designer was given the brief to create an image for a tote bag on the theme of sustainability and reusability. All bags were manufactured using the same 12 oz custom-dyed, dark grey canvas, which was screen-printed one colour for each design and produced in a limited run of 250 units. During the gallery exhibition, each bag was displayed in a custom-made recycled greyboard clamshell box, with the name of the featured designer highlighted on the inside lid.

The exhibition catalogue incorporated a photo of the promotional tote bag on the cover and in the spirit of ‘production economy’ of the project it was hand-stitched and left untrimmed – meaning the inner pages had to be individually separated in order to be read.

Promotional items for the Re-Bag campaign included a fold-out poster which ‘re-used’ the graphic image of the tote bag as the central motif.

The response to the event was incredible, with hundreds of people turning out to support the project, giving our first real promotional event the success we’d hoped for, whilst also highlighting the ever-growing support for more environmentally friendly solutions in the packaging industry. For the people who couldn’t attend the London event, the bags were made available to purchase online. These were mailed out in a two-play Kraft potato sack.

Two-sided design by Non-Format. Manufactured from 12 oz custom-dyed canvas, screen printed in one colour and machine stitched.

Two-sided design by Saturday. Manufactured from 12 oz custom-dyed canvas, screen printed in one colour and machine stitched.

Two-sided design by MadeThought. Manufactured from 12 oz custom-dyed canvas, screen printed in one colour and machine stitched.

Two-sided design by Multistorey. Manufactured from 12 oz custom-dyed canvas, screen printed in one colour and machine stitched.

‘Hundreds of people turned out... highlighting the growing support for more environmentally friendly solutions in the packaging industry’

A lot has changed since 2007. Reusability is now a huge factor when considering packaging design or production, even in the luxury industries. The use of tote bags in our everyday lives has gone from strength to strength, and you only have to glance down any UK high street to see the way in which society has now taken this unlikely form of packaging to their hearts.

The response to Re-Bag both at the event and afterwards was incredible, with hundreds of people supporting the project.

See more on Re-Bag by viewing the packaging project here.

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