S1E3 Boomerang Bags

Ginny is the force behind Boomerang Bags Castlemaine.  She and a group of dedicated volunteers have been following the Boomerang Bags model; sewing and offering upcycled cloth bags to the public of Castlemaine in the hopes of helping us all transition away from plastic bags and towards more sustainable options. 


This episode was created in 2018 as part of an eight part series called An Environment For Change. This series was supported by MAINfm and the Mount Alexander Shire Council.


Transcript:

Gen: Ooh, I like the dotty ones.

Ginny: The spot one. Yeah that’s cute. Yeah. 

General laughter

Gen: In a staged voice. We can just talk about bags all day!! Hahaha.

Ginny: You can see our enthusiasm can’t you?  That’s where it all actually starts!

Theme music for An Environment for Change plays.

Allie: You are listening to An Environment for Change, an eight-part series, looking at some of the many people in the Mount Alexander Shire who are working to combat climate change and promote sustainable living. These are local people who are working towards changing our habits so we can all move forward into a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable future.

In this series, we’ll hear from local farmers, Boomerang Bags, Repair Cafe, local environment groups, activists, and concerned citizens. You can hear it at 9:00 AM on Monday mornings on MAINfm 94.9 or listen anytime by jumping online to the MAINfm SoundCloud page. This series was made possible by a community grant from the Mount Alexander Shire council.

In today’s episode of An Environment for Change. I’m speaking with Ginny Thomas about the Castlemaine branch of Boomerang Bags. Boomerang Bags is now a global movement, but it started in 2013 in Burleigh Heads, Queensland. Two young women, Tania Potts, a permaculturalist and an airplane pilot and Jordyn De Bore, environmental scientist and keen surfer got together to think about how to eliminate plastic bags in their community.

They came up with a solution of free, easily accessible cloth bags made from repurposed fabric. The concept was that people would be able to borrow these bags from boxes held at local shops, use them instead of the plastic bags at the shops, and then bring them back and return them to the box so that other people can use them. Hence the name Boomerang Bags. 

As neither of them could sew, they did a call out for fabric and volunteers, and soon had an active community of bag makers. The idea spread and since 2013, when they started, there are now over 745 Boomerang Bag groups around the world. They’re across Australia, America, Europe, and in places like Dubai and Iceland. And in Castlemaine.

Ginny Thomas initiated a Castlemaine branch of Boomerang Bags in early 2017. You may have seen the wooden stands outside some shops in Castlemaine, with the cloth bags and their distinctive boomerang logo. I met up with Ginny at a shed in Campbell’s Creek that has been donated to Boomerang Bags so that they can have a permanent place to sew and store their fabrics and all of their bits and pieces.

Allie: So, what was the actual process like of starting the group and getting people involved? 

Ginny: So, we started looking at Boomerang Bags in January of 2017, and then we started sewing probably another three, four months after. So, how I got people involved was actually through Facebook—isn’t that powerful? Right at the start we had a meeting and we got about 20 people turn up at the meeting in the Botanical Gardens and a few people, you know, put up their hands to do different jobs.

Some people wanted it to be very structured, but I think it has worked this year so far on a very casual basis of a very horizontal type of structure where everybody just does everything. Castlemaine, I find is a very warm-hearted community and people care, so it wasn’t very hard and it actually took off faster than I thought.

There are people who started off with lots of donations of fabric ‘cause everybody’s saying “this is a great idea! I’ve got fabric sitting in my cupboards. Why would I want it sitting in the cupboard when I could make good use of it?” 

So, we start off with donations, then we start off with people saying that “I can cut fabric, I can house the fabric”. Fryerstown came up and said “look, you can come and make it your sewing hub, you know, we’ve got a school, Fryerstown School and it doesn’t get used, we’re going to put on solar panels”. So, you know, there would be enough power. So, it’s just a contribution of different ideas from different people and people wanting to do something with whatever skills they have.  But we still need money.

Then I thought, well, we need some money to buy, uh, the screen for printing the logo for the pockets. And so, I put on Facebook an auction of a few bags that I’ve sewn as a raffle to get funds to buy our first screen. Which was $75, but I think I got a hundred bucks from the raffle tickets and a few people got a bag from, you know, things that I’ve sewn up. So that was our first fundraising. 

And after that we got a bit more ambitious and we went in for a grant—and MASG (Mount Alexander Sustainability Group) auspiced us for that—and we got a thousand dollars from Mount Alexander Shire council and then we felt really rich.  Laughter

And then we got a bit more clever and we approached the artist market—once  a month—and we managed to get a stall for free because it was for fundraising and we sell some more bags and we feel a bit richer. Laughter.

And therefore we got money to buy things like for the sewing machines. So, a lot of fabric was donated, so we didn’t need any fabric, but we need things to sew with. Yeah. And then the library donated, um, photocopying services and so did Lisa Chesters in Bendigo (Member of the Australian Labour Party, Federal Parliament). She donated quite a lot of photocopying as well. And then local businesses around town supported us.  Some help us to be drop-off points like The Shoe Connection from day go has been a drop-off point and a lot of other businesses as well have, you know, cheered us on. Yeah.

And Dale from Studio Antiques donated a lot of time and some screen printing, paying for us as well for the pockets – screen printed our first lot of pockets, because we didn’t know how to screen print them. So, from the money from the grant that we got from the Shire council we paid ADR Carpentry to build some boxes at cost price. So, for six months we worked really hard. I think I was just looking at us like taking one step at a time. So, I wasn’t looking to say in 12 months, this is what I want to achieve or whatever.  What I was focused on was actually just getting the message across to everybody, making sure that the bag does it’s work that it’s meant to do.

Allie: Did you have to approach them and say, “hey, we’d like to use your model. We want to be part of your movement.” Why didn’t you just start your own version here? 

Ginny: So, when I heard about this, I thought, yes, we could start with our own movement, but why do that when they’re already so well marketed. Because to have a project take off, you also have to involve marketing and have an established name. So, all the hard work is done. Why start from scratch something someone’s already done, you know, and this way too, we support a whole movement, bring it to the wall. So, you know, we tailor it to our local touch, but in the end, we want to be part of a big change. We don’t want to be changing just Castlemaine, we want to have a change that is much bigger than Castlemaine. 

Allie: What have you felt as an individual about the global situation and how did that lead to you initiating Boomerang Bags. 

Ginny: So, when I was living in the city, I don’t think I actually see anything—I know that climate change is happening and it’s an awful thing, but I don’t actually see with such clarity what is actually happening until I moved to the countryside. So, when I’m moving to the country, I see, uh, the land, I see the trees, and I’m thinking this is so beautiful. And then I realised that this would be gone, probably not in my lifetime, but it will be gone if we continue to live the way we are, because there’s no way we can sustain it.  

I become aware of how and where the food sources and how hard it is to plant some vegetables to eat without rainwater, without this, so I’ve become more aware. I’ve become aware of the source of food. I start keeping animals, which I’ve never done before, and I become connected to them. I see the intelligence, I see their responses, and so, they’re really not very far from where, what we are, you know, they are closer.  They’re more like us than what we think, because we like to distance ourselves from our food source and not think that, you know, the animals with ability to feel pain. And then therefore I change my way because of, you know, how beautiful it is. And I just went thinking how fast in such a short time we’ve destroyed all of these.

I look at the history of the mining in Castlemaine, and I see how quickly all the topsoil is destroyed. And, you know, for something metal called gold that some people put value on but really, it’s just really another metal. It’s what we put value on, you know? So, what do we value? So, it awakened me to think, what do you actually really value?

And I’ve got kids, you know, and my kids are growing up, running around the countryside. And I just look at them and I say, what do I want to leave for them? What do I want to teach them? And what do I want to teach them that it’s okay to be greedy and to use whoever you want? Or do I want to teach them to value life, you know what we’ve got. So, this is actually what motivates my change. I am very new to this, but I’m passionate about it because it hits a chord in me; it hits somewhere in me that you know, how ancient this land is and how we’ve abused it. 

Allie: So, how did all of this that you’ve been thinking and feeling about the environment and sustainability and climate change lead you to starting Boomerang Bags?

Ginny: I actually initially have this idea that I started repairing sewing machines. I learned how to sew with Julie (Proprietor of Julie Red Projects Sewing Salon, Castlemaine) and when I started learning how to sew, I was really frustrated because I thought, how can I sew if I don’t understand how that machine works?

So, I bought a $25 sewing machine from the op shop and I pull it apart, literally pull it apart, and I learned about that machine. I got fascinated at my machine and I just thought, “Hey, these machines are all going to the tip” What if I repair all these machines and get about five or six and get people that need a job. I got this idea that there are Karen refugees in Bendigo. A lot of them have skills because they are, they come from a culture that is very rich in creativity and making things and a lot of them because of the language barrier have to stay at home because they are, they don’t have the confidence to go out. So, I have this idea that I would like to have enterprise where people can just sew and let out their creativity and make things, and then we can sell this and then we have the money and we can put it back into the community or into them, you know, and create a big, big ripple effect.

So, my friend has seen these posts about Boomerang Bags on Castlemania (Facebook community site) thought that it would be a good idea because we could start doing this here in Castlemaine. So, I hadn’t been sewing that long; I’d probably only been sewing two or three years, but I care about plastic bags, so it seems, it just seems like something that falls into place.

Allie: How many people do you have volunteering to sew bags?

Ginny: Volunteering—we would probably have 20 people uh, pretty active, either cutting material or helping to sew bags or printing or be involved with events. And then probably another, uh, 20 that I could call on at any point in time. 

Allie: Can I ask what the gender ratio is of your volunteers? 

Ginny: Yes. I want to have more men involved! There’s not enough men involved! There is—so my husband is very supportive, so that’s what, and also we have ‘Wwoof-ers’ (workers through the Worldwide opportunities on Organic Farms program) coming through our hobby farm, and a lot of the ‘Wwoof-ers’ are from Europe, there are a few of the men learn how to sew and they are really excited and they love doing it.

So the Repair Café—also one guy that learned how to sew when we were running the sessions there, so I’m sure that men would find it really interesting and want to sew bags, you know, actually just to learn how to sew as a skill and things that they can do. So, men out there we want you!! Laughter

Allie: But really your answer is of your 20 regular volunteers and your 20 on top of that, who were occasional, who you could call on…

Ginny: Almost all are women and my ever-supportive husband is permanently there um, that’s it, there’s mostly women and I don’t know why.

Allie: I was able to speak to one of Ginny’s volunteer sewers, Gen, about her experience as a sewer for Boomerang Bags?

And I just want to ask you, Gen, first of all, how long have you been sewing with Boomerang Bags and then also what made you want to join in? 

Gen: Well, I’ve been sewing probably about two months now. I said to Ginny, can you just show me how it’s done? She goes ” Oh yeah. Okay. Some people like to do it this way….” And I’m like, “No, Ginny, just show me how you like it done” So that day I learned how to sew a boomerang bag.

Allie: Are you a sewer in your own time? Did you already know how to sew?

Gen: Yes, yes. I wouldn’t call myself an advanced or expert, sewer, but I know enough of the basics, uh, from when my mum taught me when I was a teenager and to just, you know, get on with it.

Allie: What made you want to contribute to Boomerang Bags? 

Gen: Well, I’ve been using my own bag in the supermarket. I’m not perfect, but I do have a bag that I’ve had in my handbag for six years, so I’m quite proud of that, I want to see how long that bag will last. I like to volunteer in the community. And I dunno, I guess I was looking for something, another cause that I can follow. And I have also been to a couple of meetings with Lucinda (Lucy Young) on her campaign for Plastic Bag Free Castlemaine, and yeah, I’m right behind it. 

And I think that, you know, it fulfills a few things for me in my creative—you know, making something that is going to be; going back into the community, but also good for the environment, but you know, and also it just gives me something to do with my hands. I’m sort of not one to sit still and just sort of be idle. So, if my partner’s cooking dinner and you know, that time of the night, I’ll usually just sort of put a record on, and sew and it’s a nice way to spend an evening. 

Allie: As an individual in a small town in central Victoria, looking at the state of the world with climate change and sustainability and, you know, the amount of waste that’s produced, but also the amount of pollution, all of the big picture stuff, sometimes it can feel really overwhelming. How do you feel about that stuff? And do you feel, like, sewing for Boomerang Bags is just a little bit that you can do to help? 

Gen: Yeah. Well, here’s an example. I went into a, let’s say a large department store in Bendigo last week to buy my son some jeans, and when I went to the counter to make the purchase, they automatically gave me a plastic bag and I said, “Oh no, I don’t need a bag I’ll just carry them.” And he said, “Oh we’re never going to get rid of our plastic, we’ll never stop giving out plastic bags.” And I said, “well, look, if that’s the policy now, that’s their view now that’s okay, but I’m refusing a bag because it’s the customer’s behaviour that will ultimately change businesses behaviour.” And yeah. And I felt really good for saying that. And I’m saying that more to businesses. 

And then the other example is, you know, when I’m in a local supermarket, when I get to the counter and I say, “Oh no, I’ve got my bag.” You know ‘cause you’ve got to be quick and often, well, not all the time, but let’s say half the time, their reaction, their face lights up. And they say good on you, you know, they might not say good on you, but you can see that they’re pleased that this behaviour is starting to show more and more. And I think this is how change will happen.

And we’re sewing the bags. I feel like, Oh, can we keep up? Can we keep up? When I first started, I’d sew five bags in one week and I’m like, yeah, if I can keep sewing five bags a week. But I think on average, I can probably do 10 bags in three weeks. And, but I’ve heard that people do more than that. Yeah. So I’m here at Boomerang Bags today to pick up my next kit, so I’m really hoping that, I get some more pretty bags ‘cause that will motivate me to keep sewing 

Allie: I was curious just how many hours it took to make something like Boomerang Bags happen, given that everyone who worked for it was a volunteer.

Would you be able to estimate how many bags you’ve sewn? And also, how many hours of volunteer time have been given in the last year? 

Ginny: So, I would average, I say consistently at least two days a week and a hundred bags I’ve sewn.  I think my sewing skill is not my strongest forte. I’m probably good at organising and promoting and make the information that’s where my strength come in. But Boomerang Bags Castlemaine alone would have sewn 2000 bags within the year. So, we get about like 40, 50 bags sewn per week at that rate. And personally, for me, I only managed to sew three bags an hour and then there’s time for cutting as well and picking up the fabrics and distributing the kits to the people.

And there’s about three diehards, sewing constantly churning them out. They are amazing. They churn out 20 bags a week. So, these are our ones that constantly work really hard, just sewing, doing nothing just sewing. And then we’ve got a few layers of people doing different things. So, there’s always a very fluid movement of people. This, you know, sometimes we have people go on holiday and somebody else will step in, but I know that Maryanne will have put in consistently, at least a three to four hours a day, just cutting and matching the fabric, that’s why we’re getting such lovely bags because it’s, you know, somebody creative that likes quilting and for them, they’re able to do something that’s close to quilting, you know, but for a cause.

Allie: So, you and your volunteers worked really hard for six months, getting everything ready, sewing a lot of bags and getting the boxes ready to put out the front of the shops so that you could launch and actually have the bags on the streets. How did it feel at that time?

Ginny: For the launch was really exciting because it was like, you know, all of a sudden you thought this is actually happening, you know, this is becoming real. So, we got the Chat Warblers (Castlemaine Choir) involved.  Jane Thompson wrote the songs and the Chat Warblers performed it at the launch.

Chat Warblers choir sings a song about saving and reusing bags 

“… boomerang your bags…”

Applause

Allie: That was a song written by Jane Thompson for the Boomerang Bags launch in June last year (2017) it was sung by the Chat Warblers. You’re listening to An Environment for Change on main FM 94.9. Today, I’m talking to Ginny Thomas who has started the Castlemaine branch of Boomerang Bags and has been running it since the start of 2017.

Allie: So, tell me a year on what’s changed for you about Boomerang Bags. 

Ginny: So, we have, I think we produced almost 2000 bags now, and the thing has changed is probably that the plastic bag bans have come in. And a lot of people are more, much more aware and the supermarket is actually taking up the ban, even though Victoria has, you know, the legislation hasn’t come in yet.

So, what we would like to see now is—last year we were giving away, uh, when I say giving away, we were putting in lots of bags in the boxes and people were borrowing, but the borrowing never got returned.  Laughter. 

So, I think we have to change the way we’re doing things. So, we are now probably looking at stocking the supermarket with some bags and actually putting a cost to the bag. A few reasons why we do this: One is because whoever has the bag now feels that they own the bag. They can wash, they can keep it, they can do whatever they want. And our volunteers would actually know where it is, so they feel that they are not just sewing bags then seeing the bags disappear. So that was one of the concerns. 

The other concern was that we clean, this way we don’t have to worry about who’s going to wash the bag. Whoever owns the bag will then just wash it and keep it however they want it. But we’re going to put a price on it for a few reasons.

One of the reasons is there is a cost involved in that production. And when someone goes to the supermarket and buys a bag for $1, someone else is bearing a cost because it obviously takes longer. It takes about an hour to cut the bag, sew up the bag, this is, you know, through volunteers. So surely it, you know, you can be paid just a dollar for your labour for an hour’s work.  

Allie: So, what you’re saying is that somewhere along the line, there are people really not getting paid enough when you buy that $1 bag? 

Ginny: Correct. Correct, and also then you look at water that’s needed to produce the cotton, the chemicals to bleach them and everything. So, there’s environmental costs. Whereas the bags that we use are actually recycled material, so when we reuse it we’re keeping all this out of the tip or rubbish dump, whatever it’s called, so there’s a few purposes involved. 

Allie: Well, let’s go back a little bit, back to when you first started. We were talking just before, and you said that one of the differences is that now that the State governments and everyone seems to be all about getting rid of the plastic bags, but when you first started that wasn’t the case.  So, what were your goals back then? 

Ginny: The goal was to encourage people to use those bags so that they know that using cloth bags are actually not, you know—there was a fear to change from plastic bags to cloth bags. And then, so now that there’s a sample that a cloth bag is actually very, very good for use and, uh, we still, we always constantly wanting people to use a boomerang bag because then it provokes somebody to talk about why you’re using a boomerang bag and therefore opens up conversations about sustainability, environmental damage. And this is one of the key things to do. 

Allie: So, when you started, it was very much about changing the culture. And, and it was all about—you had volunteers and you had donated fabric—and it was all about trying to raise people’s awareness and change the culture. Whereas now you’re seeing it slightly differently and potentially building in sustainability for you guys in how you’re producing them so that you could go on for a few years. 

Ginny: Yes. So, there is an added layer involved as well. And this is a very good community project because it brings people together, you know, come have a chat, up-skill themselves on sewing, you know, and feel good that they can do something. So, to keep that motivation going, we do have to change our way we distribute the packs. 

Allie: Yeah, yeah.

Ginny: And also, the good thing is it’s an added layer because once there’s money, we firstly, first criteria is we use it for whatever’s needed to keep Boomerang Bags going, and any excess goes into community projects. Like the recent project that we did, which was that we invited kids and family on a school holiday project, and they don’t have to pay a lot of money to have, you know, the kids entertained and actually having fun with fabric and some, a bit of paint.

We had a lot of white pillow cases that we saved from landfill, donated to us by the Geelong hospital. So, these kids come in, they’re given paint or tie dye or fabric dye and they just have fun with natural things like leaves, or potato printing, all kinds of things that they have. We had fun, you know, teaching them different ways to decorate a white piece of fabric. And now we’ve got, instead of just white pillowcases, we’ve got really decorative pieces of art that we can sew into boomerang bags. So win-win. 

Allie: And did the kids get to keep a bag or a, did they get to take home something from their day? 

Ginny: Yes. So, they have a choice. They can take whatever they decorate home with them, or they can leave it for us to sew up a bag. So, some kids are really excited because, yeah, they’re going to be on the lookout on the streets to see who is going to be using their bag. Laughter.

There’s going to be a festival in Daylesford, a big festival, uh, about, you know, living well. And they’ve ordered 200 bags from Boomerang Bags at $5 each, which means that out of these bags, you know, our volunteers have sewn and people have donated, we would have a fund. 

So out of these funds we probably wouldn’t use a lot of that money because we are quite good with what we’ve got now. So, we probably toss an idea for someone to suggest what, how the community can benefit from this money that we would be receiving. And so, we constantly use it for that kind of purpose or either towards school to run speakers or films for school so that they can be more, continuously teach the kids about a sustainable way of living and protecting our environment.

Allie: That’s great. So, any money that comes in, you still remain a volunteer organisation but you will just create projects that can help the community understand the need for reusable bags and anything linked to Boomerang Bags, really, if you do get paid for the bags.

Ginny: Yes. Boomerang Bags or anything that’s you know, to do with education or environmental issues. Yes, so, it is trying to create a bigger ripple effect than just replacing plastic bags. So, the purpose is to make sure that the ripple effect from what we do as a non-profit group, that we have the biggest ripple effect we can have and not just replace plastic bags. 

Allie: How many single use plastic bags can a single boomerang bag replace.

Ginny: New figures say that this is up to 700 and I know that I have been using bags for two years now, and they still look as new as the day I first started using them. So, I would say I would get another, at least three more years’ life out of those bags. And if you would count how many shopping bags you use in a week, which is amazing, like using at least five to 10, you know, it depends on how frequently you shop. And there’s a lot of bags that you’re replacing, so, 700 I would say would be quite realistic too. So, one boomerang bag replaces 700 single-use plastic bags easily. And so far, we’ve distributed about, coming close to 2000 bags. So, say just assuming 10 plastic bags a week, and we’ve distributed close to 2000 bags. So, we are talking in Castlemaine alone, replacing over a million bags in this one year alone. So that is a lot of bags. 

Allie: That is a lot of bags. I’m quite impressed by those figures. Um, so for people who struggle to remember their bags, Ginny and Gen, both of you, can you tell me what your personal methods are for always remembering to have your bag on hand? 

Ginny: So, the trick to remembering the bag is actually putting the bags in the car as part of the unpacking process of your grocery. Not saying before I go out the door, I’ll grab the bag. So that’s my trick is basically when I finished unpacking all the grocery, I grab the bags and I chuck in the car. And then I say, that’s my unpacking done. 

Allie: And how many bags do you keep in your car? 

Ginny: So, I have about at least 10 bags in each car, and I use those bags for fruits and vegetables as well. The reason why is because some of those bags are made from recycled linen, the linen ones are pretty thin. So that carries no weight at all. So, I don’t have to use a mesh bag, I just put the fruits and vegetables in that bag. When I go to the counter, I would weigh each of them differently and pop it into that same bag. 

So, I have a bag for vegetables and I have a bag for fruits, and the one for vegetables I just pop it straight into the fridge and it keeps the vegetables fresh because there’s no sweating. So, it’s actually better than a plastic bag. And it stays there and after I use it, once I finish using all the vegetables, I take the boomerang out and I chuck it into the washing machine with all my linen tea towels and all the other bags, and it comes out nice, fresh, and clean. It smells good. And then I repeat the process of going shopping with those boomerang bags again.

So, I don’t have issue of any sweaty vegetable that goes off really quickly. I don’t have dirty smelly plastic bags. I have fresh bags that I can use for the life of vegetables and keeps it fresher. 

Gen: I have been in the habit of when I unload my groceries, I put my, well, I call it recycle bag, which sort of folds up really neatly, and put it into my handbag straight away so that I am in that habit of, um, not sort of grabbing bags at the last minute, but I do also do that as much as I can when I run out the door, I do grab a couple of boomerang bags, that are sort of hanging on the door knobs. So, they are front of mind, I guess, because I’m also sewing them! But I have my own stash and I could improve on that though. I could have a stash in the car, and I’ll give them out to my partner if he’s heading out too.

You mentioned the smaller, like fruit and veggie bags, I’ve just had some mesh ones made by Kirralee, she’s a Boomerang Bag-ger and they are fantastic. They’ve got little drawstring and are so light and compact that I just, I’ve got about five of them in my bag. And, um, if I do forget my Boomerang Bag, I’ve got those as well. And they, I can carry things in those, it doesn’t have to be fruit and veggies and then I’ll carry them in my hand if I go shopping with my family, we all take a few items each if we’ve forgotten our bags. So, I’d so much rather do that than take a plastic bag. 

Allie: I personally keep a bag full of bags in the boot of the car. And then as I unpack my shopping, I have a basket in the kitchen where I put all of the boomerang bags once I finished with them or the reusable bags. And then once that’s looking full, I’m like, I bet the car’s low, so I fill one of those bags with bags and then take it out to the car next time I go shopping. 

Ginny: And another thing, you know, is we’ve been selling Boomerang Bags as well. And when we get a fund, one of the things that I would like to do is have a door reminder, to print out door reminders as well. So, you know, like when you go to a hotel and you’ve got this thing that hangs on the doorknob that says ‘Please make up my room’ and so we thought we would print some that would say, ‘Please remember to take the bag’!

You know, it’s like little drops of water, eventually it storms down, so we all collectively have to change our minds and say that it’s not just one person, but it’s one person making up the mess that would push the force for change. And that’s how I started and same with Boomerang. But it’s the same kind of ethos that, you know it’s just one that we, you know—everybody thinks that when they’re checking out one plastic bag “Oh it’s just one single plastic bag” you know, and it’s gone, but in a week just remember and then multiply that by how many people are doing it in the whole world. So, it’s significant. So, if we can do that much damage by just thinking it’s one plastic bag, we can reverse by saying that we are going to save that material from going to landfill. We are going to change that one day at a time.

Allie: The head office of IGA is making everyone get rid of the single use plastic bags. So is Woolies (Woolworths) and Coles, like there’s this big movement now to get rid of single use plastic bags, but what they’re replacing them with is a thicker plastic bag. And then other options that people have are kind of the square bottomed reusable bags that are also often made out of a type of plastic. What are your feelings about those things?

Ginny: I don’t feel good about it because I don’t think so. The cost involved is actually a lot, they are more costly than a thin plastic bag. So, for a person to use those bags, they really have to make a big use of it and use it more than 50 times to come up to comparable to a very thin single plastic bag. So, people have to be aware, but if someone’s just going to use it and then it gets dirty after a certain time and throw it out, it’s actually a much bigger problem.

So, I think the cost for those bags should actually be much higher than what they’re charging now. It is a bigger problem.  I don’t see it being a less problem. It just breaks my heart. Laughter. 

You know, it’s just we are too greedy with the resources we use all the time; we have the problems that we have now because we’re too greedy. We don’t make use of what we already have and we just want more and more and we’re taking out more and more from the environment; we’re damaging the environment and that’s—you know, in my lifetime, I wouldn’t ever get to see the damage that we’ve done, but I’m not doing for me, I’m doing it because, you know, if you walk into any place, you don’t leave rubbish behind. Even if you walk into McDonald’s you have to take your rubbish and put it in a bin. Why wouldn’t you do that on this earth that we live in, it’s so beautiful. Can’t understand it.

Theme music for An Environment for Change plays.

This has been Environment for Change on MainFm 94.9. Today. I’ve been speaking with Ginny Thomas who has been facilitating the Castlemaine branch of Boomerang Bags with guest appearances from Gen, one of Ginny’s sewers. Now Ginny tells me that they’re always looking for more sewers. So, no matter what level of experience you’ve got, you’re very welcome.

They have sewing machines you can use, and they have people who can show you how to use sewing machines if you don’t know how to use one, which would probably be my situation. They are also happy to accept people who would like to come and cut fabric, or even just bake a cake and chat while everyone else does some sewing, so get involved, Boomerang Bags would love to see you. You can contact Ginny via the Boomerang Bag Facebook page. 

This series has been made possible by a community grant from the Mount Alexander Shire Council. You can listen to this and other episodes of this series on the MAINfm SoundCloud page. 

My name is Alison Hanly. Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon.

Transcription by Robyn Walton

Note: Saltgrass is produced to be heard. Some elements of the podcast may not translate easily to the written word. We have also chosen readability over strict fidelity to the actual words spoken. Human speech relies on tonality, rhythm and emphasis to give meaning to phrases that may seem fragmented on the page. Some mannerisms of speech are also perfectly acceptable to hear, but awkward on the page, eg. repeated words, filler words such as ‘um’ and ‘you know’. As such, we have not transcribed every word and have sometimes altered the text to keep the meaning true, but also be as readable as possible. Our transcripts are created using both speech recognition software and human transcribers, and though we do our best to avoid errors they may occur. Please check the audio before quoting in print.

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