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Carrying Jasper to Bag End

Volunteers including Kirsty Boisvert (centre) have been getting together at Habitat for the Arts on Mondays at 7p.m. to upcycle donated clothes and other fabrics into reusable shopping bags. | C. Gilbert photo

by Craig Gilbert |
There’s a new movement coming to Jasper and it’s straight out of the Shire, or at least a tad inspired by it.

For a number of frosty Monday evenings now the Habitat for the Arts has played host to a group hoping to stitch together some support, alter the fabric of the town and cut the plastic shopping bags out of the park.

Welcome to Bag End.

At about 7 p.m. the sewing machines come out, standing at the ready as volunteers loosely led by Kirsty Boisvert sort through an unfathomable pile of donated fabric, most of it thrift store garments.

“I grew up in Germany in the 60s and we didn’t even have plastic back then,” she said Feb. 5. “It’s crazy that in just 50 years we’ve created all of this junk.”

The idea is to provide reusable bags at shops so that when people forget their reusable bags and/or don’t have any, they can choose to take a cloth bag for free. She said TGP has agreed to provide space for the bags and they’re in talks with Robinsons.

“We will encourage people to bring bags back and replace in the bin so that they can be used over and over again.”

A number of sewing machines have been donated, and the fabric is piling up. The Lions Club has helped with some cash and what the volunteers need now are more of each other.

“Some members of the Jasper High School Sustainability Club have come to help out and we are hoping to get the entire club on board,” Boisvert said. “We have had several people come out to help cut and sew bags, but we could use more help to increase production. We have made a good start and with a few more helping hands, we can make a huge impact. People with sewing skills are especially appreciated, but there are lots of important jobs and any and all help is welcomed.”

She added the project lends itself to art, and wondered if there are any high school students that could benefit from some volunteer time, or even having the work count toward a co-op credit. It would be a natural fit for seniors in the community, as well, or both even – imagine a group of sewing masters passing on their craft to a new generation, all the while working on a good cause.

It almost writes itself.

Attendance at the bee is a hoot but isn’t necessary; Boisvert said the volunteers are more than happy to take bags sewn at home. Just bring them on in to Habitat, upstairs from the library.

Old clothes like dresses and shirts make for fun designs, but linens including pillowcases make for quick bagetry.

Throwing out the plastic is catching on around Canada and the world. Montreal and Victoria have banned single use plastic bags, Nanaimo politicians voted to do so but are holding off as they find out whether they have the authority to do so, and Vancouver has incorporated phasing out takeout containers, plastic bags and coffee cups into its 2040 Zero Waste Goal.

“We live in a national park,” she said. “If Montreal can do it, surely a small town like ours can.”

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