Posted by: Alison Gilbert | March 21, 2010

The Original Recyclable Shopping Bag

Today I would like to tell you a story about the original recyclable shopping bag. It starts with two places about as different as any can be; the garbage dumps of America and a poverty stricken country, Bolgatanga, Ghana in Africa. View YouTube Video.

It has to do with our need for recycling, producing less garbage and using more recyclable items, the imperative for overcoming world poverty and a solution to these problems. But who would think that the problems of an overly developed country, depleting its natural resources and polluting the earth with materials that are not biodegradable could have a solution that comes from the other side of the globe, where it is ‘under-developed’ and poverty stricken.

For me the story came together yesterday when I attended the Long Island Quilters’ Society “Asian Inspired” 2010 Show. There I found a vendors’ booth filled with brightly colored, elegantly woven, baskets. I was immediately drawn to them. I approached the vendor, Caroline Kearney, owner of STUDIO 55, to ask her about these baskets.

I am a huge fan of crafts, a crafts artisan, and one of the founders of West End Arts Visual Arts Guild, Inc. a non-profit crafts/fine arts organization. But even with my years of experience both creating crafts and attending shows, I had not heard a crafts story as unique and inspiring as the one she told me. If you would like to learn more about my crafts, go to Alison*s Art Heirloom Project.

The baskets displayed and for sale at her booth are not made by American crafts artisans but by rural woman cooperatives in Bolgatanga, Ghana. They are hand-made with “Elephant Grass” (Vita Vera) produced and sold guided by fair trade policies. Most thrilling to me of all was that the entire endeavor was funded by a micro loan like the ones offered by The World Vision Micro Loan Organization.

I was blissfully astounded and very excited; my dreams about business not only made sense but had a place in the world and could be a solution to poverty. Everything she said was music to my ears: rural woman cooperatives, fair trade policies, and micro loans.
The combination of the three can be a recipe for self-sufficiency and a solution to the poverty that still blankets much of this planet. And it all echoed the voice of a business owner whose thinking I respect greatly, Anita Roddick.

Business can indeed be low tech, non-polluting, ethical, sustainable, practical and result in something beautiful, usable and recyclable.
The end of yesterday’s story for me was that, of course, I bought a basket. You can too by contacting STUDIO 55, to find out the next crafts’ show where they will be sold.

To learn more about my business philosophy, go to MARKETING BYTES Business Issues, The Newsletter to read the year of published topics related to business that are the predecessor to this blog. I humbly thank and acknowledge all those whose existence and inspiration is the foundation for this blog as they are noted throughout.


  1. great blog Alison – you go!

    • Thank you so much. You have been both my muse and my inspiration. I am delighted to finally have proof of that for you and all to see!

  2. Hi Alison,
    I could not wait to look at your blog until Monday, so I got up a little earlier to spend a few moments on the computer, Great Article!

  3. love the business model. the blog is the essence of your vision…. rebirth after rebirth… a golden wash!

    • Jasmine,
      Thank you so much. I really felt like I poured my heart and soul into this one. I hope there will be many more that touch other people’s lives the way this one has yours!

  4. Hi Alison,
    I Too love to walk craft shows. If I would have been with you we probably would have needed a truck to get all the baskets home. Your detail about the craft I found very interesting.

  5. Hi Alison! Paul with Constant Contact here! :)

    Again, it was a pleasure speaking with you this evening. You are truly an exemplary visionary! I very much enjoyed watching the Bolgatanga, Ghana video.

    If you want to me to find out if the original founders of Constant Contact are still with the company , I certainly can. Just let me know. Maybe you’ll be able to interview them. They had a vision and a dream, which certainly came true. Can I vote for you on your web site?



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