Banner Bags – A small concept to a nationwide Project

It started off with a simple mission, to teach young adults the benefits of being environmentally friendly.

No, not with a workshop – but with practical action.

I had heard of an idea of turning street Banners into Bags, but how would I adopt it for our mission? Would we have to sew banners into bags ourselves? Would we need to source banners and give them to sewing groups? What would happen to the banners after they were sewed?

Then one day in March 2009, it clicked. We decided to source these street banners, bring the banners to high school sewing classes, deliver a workshop on environmental sustainability, and the students would turn turn these banners into beautiful tote bags. After the bags are done, they could either use, sell or donate the bags. The SIFE Banner Bags program was born.

The first few months were tough. It was a concept that had not been proven, anywhere. No one else was doing this. Sourcing the Banners proved to be a difficult task – where and how would I get these banners? We knew we had to get partners.

Our first partner was the Big Bold Beautiful Banner company – they would clean the banners they take down from streets, and donate them to us at no charge. In turn, we would show them photos of how they’re being used. We got our first 100 banners, and were on our way to booking our first sewing class.

Sewing teachers helped us out a ton as well. They created the sewing patterns for the banners, and even spread the word around to other teachers.

After securing the banners, we booked our first few classes and we proved, that the Banner Bags concept was valid. Students were having fun creating the bags, and they were actually learning about how to practice environmental sustainability. Teachers loved it because they were saving on material costs.

Our very first class

At this point, I was no longer hands-on with the project. I passed on the reigns to other project managers, while I watched how they were able to turn this small concept, into a project that impacts thousands.

The team was able to receive some media attention, and expanded to even more schools. My fear of not having enough banners to supply the classes was completely gone. The program received so much support from other organizations with banners, that their offices were overfilled with banners. Till today, the Banner Bags program continues to receive banners from a number of organizations, and continues to have long lasting impact on the youth and the environment.

In April 2010, Banner Bags reached organizations and classes in Ottawa.The team developed a package with workshop material and instructions to make the bags. They secured a partnership with the National Capital Commission and received banners to expand to Ottawa schools. The partnerships, and the package, allowed teachers in regions outside vancouver to run the program.

The banner bags team

A jacket, made out of a Banner

Today, the team has grown to 10 talented individuals with strong passion and pride for the program. They’ve created a culture within the team that makes them unstoppable. Banner bags have been in 3 schools in ottawa, one in vernon and 20 in Metro Vancouver – all just in the last year. They’ve supported 700 students to save over 1,000 pounds of nylon from the landfill.

Kudos to the project managers of Banner Bags and their team. They’ve done a great job over the past two years and I’m super proud of what they’ve achieved. Every project manager pushed the ball further and brought the program to new levels. They were able to take a concept, apply the right strategies, and turned it into a project with real impact.

I am now an Advisor/Mentor of the project and I’m looking forward to helping expand and grow the program. The program is currently looking for funding and/or partnership support to continue its expansion outside of BC. Please e-mail me at hello@ashishgurung.ca if you’re interested in getting involved.

You can read more about the program at their blog: http://bannerbags.wordpress.com/

The organization that started it all: SIFE Simon Fraser

Banner Bags Twitter: @sifebannerbags

Project Managers of the Program till date: Steffi Chua, Vicky Truong, Josephine Gunawan & Sonam Swarup

  • http://bannerbags.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/a-story-of-innovation-and-passion-a-reflection-on-how-our-banner-bag-program-was-founded/ A story of innovation and passion: A reflection on how our Banner Bag program was founded. « Bannerbags Blog

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About Ashish

Ashish is an instructor at the SFU Beedie School of Business. He frequently helps companies get started or improve their current social media activities. He is the Co-Founder of QuikPiq, a web and iPhone application. He loves film and photography, and he is always involved in non-profit work.