As climate change and environmental issues take center stage in politics and culture, it’s no surprise that eco-friendly fashion is growing in popularity. More and more designers are placing sustainability and environmentalism at the fore of their brands, from top tier fashion houses like the all-vegan Stella McCartney to up-and-coming, earth-conscious labels like Miakoda and Vaute Couture. Here at Verge, sustainability has long been one of our core values — so last year, when New York debated a state law that would implement a mandatory, five cent charge on plastic bags, we decided to do our part for the good of the planet (and our closets).
Statistics about plastic bag usage are nothing to scoff at: Americans use 102 billion plastic bags a year, enough to circle the equator 1,330 times if laid end to end, according to environmentalist website Treehugger. That’s 319 plastic bags per person each year on average! Meanwhile, in countries that impose taxes on plastic bags, these numbers are much lower. Denmark, for example, averages about 4 plastic bags per year, and in Ireland, plastic bag usage has dropped 94% since a 2002 law imposed a 33 cent tax on plastic bags. And where plastic bags are banned, carrying them becomes a serious fashion faux-pas. Just ask Californians: single-use carryout plastic bags have been illegal in their state for years!
Determined to be part of the solution, we reached out to our clients to gauge interest in sustainability. The results were incredibly positive: 71% of respondents indicated interest in an on-trend, reusable tote bag to complement their wardrobe. Furthermore, 64% said they would be willing to spend up to $25 on a reusable tote bag — a worthy investment in their closets and the environment. Seeing a clear demand in the market, we decided to show our appreciation to our clients and signal our dedication to a worthy cause by designing a smart, sustainable bag that people would actually want to carry.
Thus, the #BYVERGE tote was born. With its chic, runway-inspired design and black patent go-with-everything finish, our new and reusable messenger bags were designed with our clients and their customers in mind — fashion and beauty trendsetters who are always one step ahead of the curve. Now used to send samples to our clients in the New York City area, the #BYVERGE bag serves double duty, from the gym to the farmer's market to the subway and back home — and it’s available in three sizes!
But although our #BYVERGE tote was a big success, the New York bag tax unfortunately failed: in February of this year, Governor Cuomo blocked the law before it could take effect, citing a flaw that allowed merchants to pocket the fees. Although the tax will almost definitely be debated again, we know this top-down approach isn’t the only (or even the best) way to enact real change. The more insidious problem lies in our convenience culture: at the end of the day, the convenience of plastic bags is why we use them over and over again, making for a completely avoidable environmentally disaster.
Grassroots solutions, like our #BYVERGE tote, are an important way we can shift this culture of convenience: if history has taught us anything, it’s that small, authentic changes that resonate with people are just as powerful as any law — if not more so. With its robust design and stylish practicality, look for the #BYVERGE tote on the streets of New York City, and consider making the switch to reusable bags like ours. After all, change can begin with one person (or one brand), but it’s up to all of us to make that change last.