Sunday, March 31, 2013

Different Way to Peel Easter Eggs

Use baking soda for easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs
Our food blogger couldn't figure out why her hard-boiled eggs, which she's cooked for years, were looking so beat up — until she learned this trick.
Fri, Jun 15 2012 at 2:41 PM

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Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr
Sometimes, I’m a little slow to pick up on cause and effect. Let me give you an example. My husband’s family loves deviled eggs, and for years, I’ve been making them by the dozens for different events. A few years ago, I noticed that I was having trouble peeling them. The shells were sticking to the insides, ripping the hard-boiled eggs apart and creating a not-so-attractive side dish for parties.
It never occurred to me that the problem was the type of eggs I was buying. The eggs I buy now are from free-range chickens, and they’re much fresher than the eggs I used to buy from the grocery store. It turns out, the fresher the egg, the more difficult it will be to peel when it’s hard-boiled.
Fine Cooking says this is because the albumen, or the egg white, will stick to the shell of a fresher egg, but as the egg ages, it doesn’t stick as much to the shell. When the water with baking soda passes through the eggshell, it helps the albumen to separate from the shell.   
I hadn’t heard this until someone mentioned it on Pinterest, but once I read about it, I decided to give it a try. I took two eggs from the same carton, marked one with an “X,” and put them in two separate pans of cold water. In the pan that held the egg with an "X” on it, I put one teaspoon of baking soda. I placed the pans on the stove, turned the flame up to high, and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer went off, I let the eggs sit for three more minutes in the water, and then I removed them and allowed them to cool.
When I went to peel them, the one that had been in the water with the baking soda peeled with no problem. The other one was difficult to peel smoothly, and it was missing several chunks before I was done. In the photo above, you can see the results: the one on the left, which was boiled in the baking soda water, will make for a better-looking deviled egg, and none of the egg has been wasted because it stuck to the shell.
I was pleased with the results of my experiment, and I’ll be adding baking soda to the water next time I boil eggs. Hopefully, I’ll get the same result.
Do you add baking soda to the water of boiled eggs to help them peel easily, or do you have another trick to share?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Color Eggs Naturally

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Schedule

Our Administrative offices will be closed today, March 29, 2013 for Good Friday.  The Tuscarora Landfill, Newport Transfer Station and Grantsboro Transfer Station will operate on their regular schedules.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Good Friday Schedule

Our Administrative offices will be closed tomorrow, March 29, 2013 for Good Friday.  The Tuscarora Landfill, Newport Transfer Station and Grantsboro Transfer Station will operate on their regular schedules.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Recycled Plastic Gloves

Recycled Gardening Gloves from West County Gardener

Durable gardening gloves made from recycled plastic bottles will be your best new gardening companion.
West County Gloves Landscape brick large Recycled Gardening Gloves from West County Gardener
West County Gardener’s Landscape gloves in Brick. Image via
Spring has arrived! But, every year at this time, I go through so many pairs of gardening gloves, I would be embarrassed to put a number to it. I save them all in a bucket and wear mismatched pairs until they are too worn out to use. Then I put them in the compost bin I reserve for weeds, only because I can’t bear the thought of all my gardening gloves going to a landfill.
But, this year I am contemplating something new: gardening gloves from West County Gardener. These gloves have an eco-friendly spin: Their mesh fabric is made from recycled plastic bottles. Each pair of West County garden gloves keeps an 8-oz. water bottle from going into a landfill.
The company’s founder, Beverly Schor, had the idea for the gloves in 2001, when she had a “light bulb moment” when she was gardening and noticed the sad condition of her month-old garden gloves. With a background as a cyclist and sports apparel designer, Schor noticed that many of the qualities she loved in her sport gloves were not evident in her garden gloves.
She went to work to create high-performance gloves for gardeners of all kinds. The result is a line of lightweight gloves that uses the best technical fabrics and design know-how that has traditionally been reserved for serious sports enthusiasts like cyclists and rock climbers.
Ms. Schor reported to that the “gloves took roughly 23 months of testing and that ultimately they use 75% less energy to make than standard virgin polyester gloves and produce 40% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Aside from gardening, landscaping and heavy construction, you can also use the gloves for skiing, driving, or anything else that you might need to protect your hands from.”
West County Gardener is “committed to developing high quality, innovative products that are less harmful to the environment.” Now, if they offered a take-back program, these gloves would be absolutely perfect.
Prices range from $10 to $36 per pair. To find out more information or to order West County Gardener gloves, call 1-800-475-0567 or go to

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yarn Made From Recycled Newspaper

SEE: Yarn Made From Recycled Newspaper

Ivano Vitali, newspaper yarn, newspaper, yarn, crochet, ball of yarn, knitting
Photo: Ivano Vitali/
The list of "trashy fashion" creations grows longer every day - shoes made from plastic bottles, underwear made from wood and even a gown made from Ford Focus parts. But when we saw Italian artist Ivano Vitali's crochet pieces made from recycled newspaper, we had to take a closer look.

Vitali tears recycled newsprint into strips and expertly twists into balls of yarn without adding glue, coloring or silicone, reports ecouterre. He then uses custom-made needles and hooks - some as long as 8 feet - to crochet the newspaper yarn into stylish and functional fashion
pieces, the site reported.

The artist, who has been dappling in the use of recycled materials for more than three decades, calls his creations "zero-impact global art," as it requires nothing but trash (and loads of man-hours).
poncho, yarn, crochet, knit, knitting, Ivano Vitali, newspaper, newspaper yarn
Photo: Ivano Vitali/

Vitali uses his innovative newspaper yarn to crochet everyday pieces like vests, socks and this stylish poncho, which was created using a giant crochet hook for a unique appearance. His work also includes tapestries, hats and even a wedding gown made from newsprint.
To get a closer look at Vitali's crochet collection made from newspaper, head to the artist's online portfolio - which includes current installations and exhibitions dating back to 1994.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Put Your Foot Down

Good for the Body and the Earth: kigo footwear

These lightweight athletic shoes utilize post-consumer PETE uppers and 100% recyclable high-compression foam.
kigo recycled footwear Good for the Body and the Earth: kigo footwear
kigo footwear’s “Drive” shoe in action. Photo courtesy of kigo footwear.

As spring fast approaches, so does the body’s desire to stop hibernating and get out and enjoy the outdoors. If you live in the frozen North, the desire to go outside without first putting on as many layers as possible and pulling on warm winter boats has to be satisfied, for now, with dreaming about the spring days ahead. If that dreaming includes a marathon or a quick walk around the block, then take a look at kigo footwear.
This minimalist footwear line worked with customers, doctors, biomechanics specialists and athletes to create chic shoes that are good for the body and for the earth.
As explained on the company’s site, all kigo shoes have a few key features:
  • All kigo shoes are constructed with a thin, flexible outsole, removable contoured insoles and lightweight breathable uppers. They feel as light and malleable as a second skin.
  • All kigo shoes are designed with versatile colors and wearable styles. They work just as well for everyday wear as they do for athletic pursuits.
  • All kigo shoes feature a thin outsole, feather-light weight and full flexibility. They are everything you need for activity and nothing you don’t need.
  • All kigo shoes are made with a unique combination of environmentally friendly materials and processes, including innovative recycled PLUSfoam HD Plus high-compression foam outsoles, post-consumer CYCLEPET uppers and certified nontoxic dyes, glues and water/stain resistance.
Recycled PLUSfoam HD Plus high-compression foam is a 100% recyclable alternative to traditional foams (ethylene-vinyl acetate and polyurethane), rubbers and plastics. According PLUSfoam’s website, many of the brand’s products yield zero manufacturing waste, while other products’ waste is greatly reduced. The outsoles can be made from various combinations of reclaimed consumer products, post-manufacturing scrap and virgin material, making them 100% recyclable.
CYCLEPET is an energy-conserving fabric made of post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.
You can find kigo footwear at a few retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. Visit to find locations, or purchase online at kigo’s online store.
You can also send your used kigo flit or drive shoes to their recycling center:
Attention: Product Recycling
1510 Cantera Ave.
Santa Barbara, CA 93110
Shoes that are sent in are recycled and reused, eliminating needless landfill waste and the need for virgin material.
Wherever you will celebrate the coming of spring, these smart shoes will be a great fit. For more information, visit
Wendy Gabriel

About the author

Wendy Gabriel is a freelance eco-writer based in Fargo, ND. She is the founder of and tweets at @MyGreenSide.…

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Herman Miller Develops New Returnable Package Solution

Herman Miller Develops New Returnable Package Solution

Herman Miller, Sayle office chair, reusable packaging
Furniture company Herman Miller is saving labor and costs by switching to reusable packaging in the production of one of their most popular products, the SAYLE office chair. Photo: Herman Miller

Office furniture company Herman Miller has developed a reusable and returnable packaging system that could represent a combined material and labor savings of $46,000 a year, the company says.

The Zealand, Mich. manufacturer, known for its classic industrial style and ergonomic, earth-friendly products, put together a team in 2012 to develop a new returnable package design for a component of one of their most popular products, the SAYL office chair.
A team of production supervisors, facilitators, conveyance operators, material handlers, the part supplier and the packaging engineer worked together to come up with system that reduces waste and streamlines the production process.

“We have a strong commitment to our environment and are always looking for ways to reduce waste; whether it is packaging material or extra labor needed to repack parts for efficient presentation to our assembly lines,” says Herman Miller packaging engineer Cindy Doman in an interview with Packing World.

Previously, the Y-shaped plastic component, know as a "spine," had been shipped to Herman Miller in corrugated boxes, often bundled or wrapped with additional film.
The new packaging design uses a galvanized steel rack that holds 180 spines on a returnable filler that uses crosslink polyethylene foam to package each spine. According to the company, the new reusable system allows them to use 4,300 fewer boxes and saves over an hour a day in handling of parts.

As a result, Herman Miller was recently awarded the 2012 Excellence in Reusable Packaging Award by the Reusable Packaging Association.

“This project alone eliminated 24,645 pounds of corrugated per year,” says Doman. “It might not sound like a lot, but this is only one case study of one part. There are hundreds of other case studies like this at Herman Miller that have produced similar results. We will continue to be stewards of the environment for years to come.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Alcoa, KAB, Coalition Partner on College Recycling Bin Program

Alcoa, KAB, Coalition Partner on College Recycling Bin Program

The Alcoa Foundation, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and the College & University Recycling Coalition are partnering to provide more than 11,500 recycling bins to 35 colleges and universities in the United States.

The New York-based Alcoa Foundation said in a news release the recycling bins will help expand on-campus recycling programs and raise awareness about recycling’s environmental impact.

The bins are being distributed through the Alcoa Foundation Recycling Bin Grant Program, which was created to help schools boost their recycling results during the RecycleMania tournament and improve their recycling efforts by reaching more than 300,000 students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors throughout the year.

Alcoa is working with the Stamford, Conn.-based KAB and the Washington-based College & University Recycling Coalition to execute the program.

Each designated college will receive between 100 and 1,500 recycling bins in different on-campus settings - student housing and academic buildings, athletic facilities, administrative offices and outdoor public spaces.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Holy Cardboard Batman!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Operation Medicine Drop is Saturday

Operation Medicine Drop is Saturday

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 20:33 PM.
Anyone looking to empty their medicine cabinet of unused drugs safely has an easy opportunity on Saturday.

Craven County Sheriff’s deputies will be stationed Saturday morning from 8 a.m. until noon at each of five Food Lion grocery stores parking lots — James City, Bridgeton, Vanceboro and two locations in Havelock — to accept prescription drugs from people looking to dispose of them properly. There also will be a drop off location at the Realo Drug Store on Commerce Drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Bring any unused prescribed or over-the-counter drugs to the deputies and hand them over,” said Capt Joe Heckman of Craven County Sheriff’s Office. “No questions asked, the deputies will take control of the meds and we’ll dispose of them safely.”

Tanya Roberts, project coordinator for North Carolina Operation Medicine Cabinet initiative for safe disposal of unwanted drugs, spoke to Craven County Board of Commissioners this week about the effort.

“We work with Operation Medicine Drop,” she said.
“It is the second year that the Craven County Sheriffs Office has participated in this effort,” Heckman said. “There’s no telling how many have been helped by the drugs simple and safe removal.”

Roberts said, “The numbers of dosage units turned in has consistently grown to a total of 7.7 million dosage unites collected last spring.” Safe disposal of medication decreases the risk of abuse, misuse and overdose.

“There is a dramatic increased risk of overdose and death in young people 14 and under from prescription drugs because the majority of teenagers think if they take a prescription drug it is safer than street drugs,” she said.
Heckman said, “For a while, we have had quite a few overdoses. Prescription pills are becoming more of a choice drug than some of the illicit drugs we dealt with.”
Roberts told commissioners that the drop is part of a larger collaborative effort among people from across the state working together for proper and safe medicine disposal.
“Currently, there is no statewide police to hold individuals, organizations and corporations responsible for how pharmaceuticals are disposed of,” Roberts said. “We operate on the premise that most people want to keep all our kids, communities and waters safe and many simply need responsible guidelines.”

They said that tossing pharmaceuticals in the garbage or flushing them down the drain isn’t a safe way to dispose of them. And keeping them in the cabinet, especially pain medications, creates a safety concern for potential theft, particularly for older people.
“People don’t realize it but we take a lot of calls for stolen medications, probably three to five a week,” Heckman said. “Sometimes grandparents won’t realize how it happened but the only way they can get another prescription is to report the theft.”

“You don’t want things in your medicine cabinet that can harm your kid or get them in trouble,” he said. “Bring them in Saturday and reduce all temptation.”
Roberts suggests that people taking new medications ask for a small dose initially, until they know it is tolerable and effective, so they have less unused drugs collecting.
Both urge people to make use of this Saturday attempt to help safe disposal of unused drugs.

Craven County Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab can be reached at 636-6625 or 636-6626.

Sue Book can be reached at 252-635-5665 or Follow her on Twitter@SueJBook.

Turn your TV into an old-school fish tank

Green Blogger Jennifer Buggica: Four Creative and Useful Ways to Recycle Electronics

What do you do with your old electronics without destroying the planet?
Keeping up with the latest technology usually means buying new gear. That creates a big problem for today’s consumers: What do you do with your old electronics without destroying the planet?

Turn your TV into an old-school fish tank

5272362588 2dc3571bf5 Green Blogger Jennifer Buggica: Four Creative and Useful Ways to Recycle Electronics
Image via Flickr by sergejf
What will people do when their flat-screens start to wear out? We will leave that problem for creative minds of the future. For now, though, we are stuck dealing with old-school televisions and monitors that take up a ton of room.
If you have an old TV or monitor (“old” meaning anything thicker than 6 inches), try:
  • Turning it into a fish tank holder;
  • donating it to a science class that needs an example of vacuum tube tech; or
  • sending it to a nursing home where the residents can still appreciate its grainy picture quality.

Create the coolest multiple-screen workstation ever

4701506445 7fa61c48a6 Green Blogger Jennifer Buggica: Four Creative and Useful Ways to Recycle Electronics
Image via Flickr by Techhie
Don’t feel bad about pitching your old computer or tablet just because you found an improved model while browsing affordable laptops. Add or build a brand-new monitor from the scraps. Connecting an old monitor is easy, and when an old tablet, all you need is an app that transforms your unwanted device into a much-needed second (or third, or fourth, or whatever) monitor for your desktop.
Some apps worth checking out include:
Having a second monitor can make you more productive. Or you can use it to stream movies while you work. Your call.

Make a remote that never needs new batteries

recycled cellphone remote1 Green Blogger Jennifer Buggica: Four Creative and Useful Ways to Recycle Electronics
Image via Flickr by mah_japan
No, sir, that is not a worthless old cellphone that does not even connect to modern networks. What you have in your hand is a remote control that never needs new batteries.
Instead of tossing your old cellphones (not that you would do that, considering that there are plenty of charities looking for donations), you can turn it into a universal remote. Apps like Mobilewitch can transform an old phone into a PC controller for just a few dollars.
If you are an engineering wiz, then you can even retool your Bluetooth cellphone to operate practically any device.
Why don’t you need batteries anymore? Because you just plug it in when the charge gets low. That also helps you keep tabs of the remote so you don’t lose it in the couch.

Create avant garde art projects galore

computer art project Green Blogger Jennifer Buggica: Four Creative and Useful Ways to Recycle Electronics
Image via Flickr by J.BC
Any old technology can become a fancy art project. It does not matter if you have a busted typewriter or a TV that you just do not want anymore. You can always find a creative way to turn trash into treasure.
Jennifer Buggica Green Blogger Jennifer Buggica: Four Creative and Useful Ways to Recycle Electronics
Green blogger Jennifer Buggica
Some fun ideas include:
  • Making sculpture out of dead computer parts
  • Turning microchips into earrings
  • Video art that plays images on several monitors
What other fun uses can you imagine for old electronics? Once you get those creative juices flowing, ideas start pouring out faster than you can type “blue screen of death.”
Jennifer Buggica is a food blogger and freelance writer from Tampa, FL. She spends her free time dining out at local restaurants and doing what she can to save the world.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Medicine Drop Today in Havelock

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Weyerhaeuser Cool Springs Environmental Education Center

Cool Springs Environmental Education Center

Our Cool Springs Environmental Education Center provides a real-world, hands-on learning opportunity of forestry, ecology and environmental issues. This outdoor classroom is located on 1,700 acres of forestland along the Neuse River, about six miles from New Bern, North Carolina.

Weyerhaeuser began operating in North Carolina in 1957 and we continue to play an active part in the area’s economy and environment. In addition to Cool Springs, we operate cellulose fiber and wood products mills and manage more than 500,000 acres of timberland in North Carolina. Cool Springs is actively managed as a working forest to demonstrate forestry practices, while maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitat, air quality, water quality, as well as aesthetic, recreational and historical values.
With virtually every forest ecotype of eastern North Carolina represented, we offer many activities and programs as well as workshops and special events to learn how the environment and forestry work together.

If you are interested in plants, animals, and their habitats, we encourage you to plan a trip to Cool Springs soon!

Contact us:
Find us on FACEBOOK!
945 Cool Springs Road, Ernul, NC 28527

Monday, March 18, 2013

Medicine Drop Wednesday in Havelock

The North Face Launches Clothing Recycling Program

The North Face Launches Clothing Recycling Program

Photo: The North Face
The North Face, the world’s largest outdoor clothing company, has partnered with I:CO and The Conservation Alliance to launch a new recycling program designed to keep clothing out of landfills.
The Clothes The Loop program allows consumers to drop off worn out or unwanted clothing at participating The North Face stores, regardless of condition or brand. Specially marked collection bins have been placed in ten of the company’s retail stores, including Chicago, New York and San Francisco locations.
Consumers who drop off items will receive a voucher that can be redeemed for $10 off a purchase from one of the company’s stores.
The Clothes The Loop program will be carried out in collaboration with I:CO, a company that collects, sorts and recycles used textiles and shoes. I:CO has previously partnered with PUMA, Foot Locker, adidas, Carhartt, Volcom and H&M.
Items deposited into the bins will be sent to a recycling center where they are sorted, reused or recycled into raw materials, including fibers for new clothing, carpet padding, stuffing for toys and carpet padding, according to The North Face on its website.
"Our partnership with I:CO takes our commitment to reducing waste even further by providing our customers with an alternative end for products they no longer want or need, keeping these items from landfills and protecting our natural playgrounds," said Adam Mott, The North Face corporate sustainability manager.
Approximately 22 billion pounds of textile waste ended up in landfills in 2010, according to the U.S. EPA. The production of a single T-shirt consumes between 10,000 and 30,000 liters of water and produces almost eight pounds of C02 emissions, says I:CO on its website. Only five to ten percent of these quantities are used or produced during the recycling process, the company says.
All proceeds from the program will benefit The Conservation Alliance, which helps fund community-based campaigns to protect wilderness and recreation areas.
Learn more about the Clothes The Loop program and find participating locations at The North Face website.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Think Green Today!

Think Green

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Operation Medical Drop


Friday, March 15, 2013

State Environmental Stewardship Initiative

State Environmental Stewardship Initiative to Recognize New Members at March 12 Meeting in Raleigh

 RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will recognize the newest members of its Environmental Stewardship Initiative during a meeting tomorrow in the William G. Ross Environmental Conference Center in the Nature Research Center wing of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones St., Raleigh.

ESI member facilities from across the state will gather at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to hear presentations from the state’s most recent facilities to achieve Environmental Steward, the highest level of ESI – Daimler Trucks North America, LLC – Cleveland Truck Plant, and Firestone Fibers and Textiles – Kings Mountain Plant. These facilities are being recognized for their superior environmental performance, commitment to continued reduction of environmental impact and demonstrated commitment to exceed compliance.

The ESI program has 132 member sites in 56 counties statewide, representing a broad array of industry sectors including pharmaceutical; manufacturers; agribusiness; local, state and federal government agencies; schools and universities. The program consists of three levels: Partners, Rising Stewards and Stewards, the highest level of achievement. This year, the program has grown to 18 Stewards, 15 Rising Stewards and 99 Partner sites.

John E. Skvarla, III, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, will recognize the following new members for their commitment to environmental improvement: five new Environmental Partners – RedViking Group, LLC; Leggett & Platt 0N64 High Point Furniture; Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Knotts Grove Campus; Keihin Carolina System Technology, LLC; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at Research Triangle Park. This year’s three new Rising Stewards – Daimler Trucks North America – Gastonia Components & Logistics; Eaton Corporation – Raleigh Plant Operations; and Eaton Corporation – Youngsville Plant Operations – will be acknowledged for their commitment to compliance, environmental performance goals and development of an environmental management system.

ESI members make a formal public commitment to environmental performance goals when they join the program. From 2004-2011, members of this DENR-sponsored initiative saved more than 3 billion gallons of water; almost 42 million BTUs of energy; more than 237 million gallons of wastewater; more than 366,000 tons of landfill waste; more than 1,200 tons of air emissions; and 780 tons of hazardous waste. Total financial savings at the facilities based on environmental reductions were reported at more than $50 million.

For more detailed information or to see a complete list of members and a map of facility sites, please visit the Environmental Stewardship Initiative website at You may also contact Julie Woosley at 919-707-8113 or; Scott Fister at 919-707-8131 or; or Angela Barger at 919-707-8126 or

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Groovy Garbage

Trash to Treasure --> Fashionably upcycled tech bracelet by Groovy Garbage []

Reuse for you & the environment:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Room Service Includes Composting

Hotel First to Offer In-Room Compost Collection

Photo: Flickr/rdmey

A five-star luxury hotel in Texas will soon offer in-room organic material collection for composting to eco-minded guests.

The Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, working with waste processor Texas Disposal Systems, is launching a program to encourage guests to recycle food scraps and other organic waste.
Hotel guests will have the option of separate containers for compost and recycling in their rooms.

“The program gives guests an active role in the hotel's sustainability project that aims to divert 90 percent of its waste from the landfill,” says Texas Disposal Systems in a press release.

The company will combine food waste from the hotel with tree trimmings and other organic material to make high grade compost, which is sold under their Garden-Ville brand. The compost will also be used to fertilize the hotel’s landscaping.

"It all comes full circle when we get that Garden-Ville compost made from food waste we contributed," says Four Seasons General Manager Rob Hagelberg in a press release. "Then our efforts are fully realized in the environment around us."

The hospitality industry has taken steps to be more green in recent years, including adopting towel and linen reuse programs and offering guests eco-friendly bath amenities. The Four Seasons Hotel in Austin is the first major brand hotel to offer in-room composting in the United States.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's in the Bag

Totem Bags Turns Trash Into Street-Chic Style

Founded by Toronto mom Melissa Richardson, Totem Bags features street-chic purses, messenger bags and carry-alls made from upcycled materials, including truck tarps, promotional banners, seatbelts and bike tires. Earth911 sat down with Richardson to learn more about her compelling story, her design inspiration and how she took truckers' trash and transformed it into seriously awesome upcycled fashion.
totem, bags, woman, girl, shopping, reusable, bag, purse, messenger, recycled, upcycled, banners
Each Totem Bags design is made from upcycled materials, such as trashed promotional banners, truck tarps, seatbelts and bicycle inner tubes. Photo: Totem Bags

An inside look at Totem Bags

When she was expecting her first daughter, young mom Melissa Richardson found herself hesitant to return to her job in the corporate world. Inspired by a successful Swiss brand that repurposed old truck tarps into bags and accessories, Richardson decided to modify the idea to fit the urban-hip fashions of her hometown of Toronto, Canada.
Totem Bags founder Melissa Richardson shows off some of her creations. Photo: Totem Bags

With the support of her husband, the budding entrepreneur started Totem Bags in 2009 from the basement of her Toronto home. Created to repurpose durable waste materials, Totem Bags emerged as a creative marriage of style and sustainability.

The young brand got its first big break when the National Ballet of Canada signed on to hand over a stockpile of promotional banners to be repurposed into new products for its gift shop. Not knowing how to use a sewing machine, Richardson sat down and created the very first Totem Bag, which later became the T2 market tote design that is still one of the brand's biggest sellers.

Since that fateful day, Totem Bags has expanded its list of clients to include top names like Chevrolet, Audi, Honda, IMAX and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Most companies send over their old banners to be remade into bags for giveaways and in-house promotions. But the eye-catching bags made from National Ballet of Canada banners, featuring productions such as Romeo & Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, are some of the retail line's most popular designs.

Other bags in the Totem Bags retail line incorporate non-branded promotional banners, truck tarps, seatbelts and bicycle inner tubes sourced from across Canada.

"It's kind of like the Johnny Cash song 'I've Been Everywhere,'" Richardson tells Earth911. "That seatbelt, it saved somebody's life, potentially. The truck tarp has traveled across Canada and in some cases into the states as well. Every single bag has a history."
Bet You'll Love: Recycled Purses Will Benefit Haitian School
The Alice Messenger Bag is made from upcycled promotional banners from the National Ballet of Canada's presentation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and is one of Totem Bags' top sellers. Photo: Ethical Ocean

As a mom and stepmom to four kids, age one to nine, you would think Richardson has adopted a more hands-off approach to her brand over the years, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Each bag in the line is handmade at a manufacturing facility about five minutes from Richardson's home, and the Totem Bags founder gives every piece her stamp of approval before it heads out the door.

"I want to make sure that when the bags come off the line, I'm the last one who sees them," Richardson says. "Everybody should know that I have actually touched every single bag. I continue to do that, and I will continue to do that... because I don't want to send anything out that has any type of imperfection."

In addition to lending a personal touch to each bag, Richardson says she is now a well-known upcycler in Toronto and receives calls daily about new shipments of waste materials waiting to be repurposed - jokingly referring to herself as "the crazy bag lady."
"Every single bag is a win," Richardson says. "One bag is a little less in the landfill, and that's what I do this for."

For more information on Totem Bags, head to the brand's website, or pick up a bag of your own from the company's web store or one of our favorite online sellers, Ethical Ocean

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