A Tallahassee woman is determined to make the supermarket checkout question, “Paper or plastic?” a thing of the past.
Although officially “retired”, Susan Hansen has kept busy pursuing many interests.
“I’m mainly a gardener and a baker but when I’m not out there I like to sew. I have a big family and several years back we all gathered at the beach. We have 12 grandkids and they were little. And I sewed some beach bags. And maybe then when I got involved in environmental issues I decided to make shopping bags.”
Hansen says she’s probably made somewhere around a hundred bags since she began this project a few years back.
“I buy the scraps at thrift shops or yard sales, nothing expensive, like old sheets and shower curtains and bedspreads, whatever’s a good, sturdy fabric. And I take them with me when I go into Publix and give them to people I see reaching for the paper or plastic, or who don’t have a bag of their own.”
It’s something that Hansen now has down to a highly efficient process.
“If I have a king-size sheet, I spread it on my kitchen table. I have the pattern, I know exactly how to cut it out. That takes maybe 15 minutes and I get six or seven bags out of one good-sized sheet.”
All of which, she says, now takes her about half-an-hour. Hansen says she really applauds at least one of the big supermarkets for promoting sustainable bags. She just doesn’t think it goes far enough.
“Of course Publix has a sign on the door, ‘Bring your bag’. They offer them for sale, but for a lot of poor people, a dollar or even fifty- cents for a bag is hard for them.”
Which is why Hansen is simply giving her bags away. That idea recently won her a modest award from Sustainable Tallahassee.
“I took the Eco- team program. It’s a class taught under Sustainability. So they had a celebration dinner a week or so ago at the Extension for all Eco-team members and they asked if there were ideas for projects to bring them along and whomever won would get a hundred dollars. They’d vote on the projects. Well, I never thought I’d win.”
Hansen did win. And now she wants to see if anyone else might be interested in aiding her cause.
“I’d be happy to come and demonstrate; I can send you the pattern and bring you material samples and I’d be glad to get you started. I will speak to any group that wants to hear me. I don’t know any other ways; I’m not politically or socially skilled. But I’m learning and I want to do all I can. This is a drop in the bucket and I recognize that, but you have to start somewhere. You got to start where you can.”
Hansen is giving out her phone number so those who want to find out more or even join her environmentally friendly sewing circle, can do so.
Susan Hansen’s Phone Number: 850-386-7929
*Clarification: The original version of this story referred to an "ECHO" team. It is Eco-team.