Old material and brand new bags: sewing group looks at fabricated solutions

Students at Dr. Charles Best Secondary display their new fabric bags. photos supplied Joanne Morneau


The solution may be a hard one, but it might also be simple.

For Joanne Morneau, it’s about more-and-less.


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Doing more. Using less. More community connections. Less textile waste. More generosity. Less greed.

“If you really boil down the root of our problem of climate change . . . it’s driven by a common theme we all sometimes have a problem with: it’s greed,” Morneau says.

Morneau is one of the 25 very active members of Fabric Bag Solution, a volunteer sewing group dedicated to reducing the use of plastic bags and keeping fabric out of the landfill.

Consumers want more things and corporations want more profits. But there’s an antidote to that destructive cycle, Morneau explains.

“We’re showing people: you need to develop generosity,” she says.

The group has donated thousands of bags to the food bank and worked with several Coquitlam teachers to bring the initiative into the classroom.

“That’s where we feel we’re making the most impact is when we can get in the classroom,” Morneau says. “We make bags and then the teachers talk about how the bags were made. ‘What were they made of?’ ‘Why are we doing this?’”

It’s a chance for kids to learn about upcycling and about the environmental consequences of fast fashion before they’re hooked on the latest styles. According to the UN Environment Programme, consumers are buying more clothes and keeping them for shorter durations, which results in one truckload of abandoned textiles being dumped or incinerated every second.

Keeping the group together

Fabric Bag Solution was formed in 2019 and currently has about 50 members, Morneau says, estimating about 25 of those members are very active.

“It has to grow because there’s still such a need for this,” she says, noting the group is still awaiting more plastic bag bans.

The group is multi-generational, serving as a social hub for seniors, some of whom are in their 80s, and as a volunteering opportunity for teens. There are also those members join, disappear, and pop up with good news.

“Some people, you don’t hear from for months and then they call me up: ‘We have 45 bags to drop off,’” Morneau says with a laugh.

“I had no idea that this group would keep going.”

Stitch in time

New members are always welcome, Morneau says.

Besides the camaraderie of the group, there’s also a meditative quality to the work, she says.

“You forget all your worries when you sew because you have to concentrate.”

They want to give our more free bags but, just as importantly, they want people to understand everything that went into it, Morneau explains.

“It’s not wanting to be famous, it’s just wanting to make a real difference in the world and inspire people.”


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