Small Steps

Small Steps Reusable Carry Bags

Plastic carry bags, given and taken thoughtlessly at retail establishments around the world, are the purest of pure evil. The represent use of a non-renewable resource (petroleum) and energy to create an absolutely inessential, single-use product, with an active life-span of minutes, which become garbage almost as soon as it has seen the light of day. In India, where most people discard their trash wherever they happen to be standing at the moment, the problem is even worse, with littered bags proliferating in the streets, open-spaces, and waterways like weeds.

What can we do? Take one small step: carry a Small Steps reusable cloth bag for your groceries and other purchases.

Small Steps Reusable Carry Bags

Small Steps bags make it easy, and stylish, to be part of the solution. The strong, lightweight, colorful bags come in two ultra-cool designs – a backpack and a shoulder-bag. They clip to your belt or backpack with a small carabiner, so you can carry it all the time, hassle-free.

Small Steps is a project conceived and executed so beautifully, it is no surprise that it came from Uma Prajapati, Manoj Pavithran, and Upasana Design Studio. Their goal is to produce 10 million bags by hand, creating 1,000 jobs for 1,000 people for 1,000 days. In fact, because the tiny carabiners are not manufactured anywhere in India, Uma just launched a new cottage industry in a village near Pondicherry to make the ‘biners for the Small Steps bags.

Small Steps Reusable Carry Bags

Like Upasana’s remarkable tsunami commemoration/relief project, Tsunamika, the Small Steps bags are distributed in the gift economy. In other words, anyone may take a little bag, and it is up to them to pay what they wish or what they can. This, of course, has been quite baffling for people accustomed to the profiteering economy in which supply and demand operate to establish the price of goods and services. The gift economy is the ultimate “free market”, where each consumer directly decides the value of goods and services, on the spot. For products like Small Steps bags, the gift economy “pricing” assessment involves question like: What is the value of the bag to me? Does the Small Steps project have social benefits which I want to support? Do I want to give enough for my bag so that Upasana can afford to give away one or more additional bags to those who perhaps cannot afford to support the program?

Small Steps is, perhaps, ideally suited to the gift economy distribution model because it is not so much a product as an opportunity to participate in a movement of positive social change. Upasana puts it this way:

It is not only about making a better world,
It is also about changing ourselves,
Learning new values,
Taking responsibility,
Loving our mother earth.
…It is our love in action.

The program cost of each little bag is approximately Rs.75. Many bags are distributed without any donation made; many others result in hefty donations to keep the project operating. Uma half-acknowledges the risk of running an enterprise on such a precarious cash-flow situation, although she dismisses it as essentially theoretical. “You have to have faith that people will see the value of what you are attempting to do,” she says, “and that they will want to be a part of it.”

Small Steps Reusable Carry Bags

Do you want to join the Small Steps movement? There are any number of ways for you to participate, including carrying a little bag of your own. Contact Upasana if you have other ideas or questions.

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6 Responses to “Small Steps”


  1. 1 marianna68 10 January 2008 at 2:05 am

    I totally agree with the wastefulness of plastic bags. In a disposable society like where I live plastic bags are seen as a non-resuable resource. I tend to keep mine and reuse them as much as possible for various issues but I do know in the end it goes in the trash and that hurts the environment. I also don’t like paperbags because it uses trees, another precious resource. I know I frequent a grocery store chain called Aldi’s and you can buy their bags and reuse them as many times as you want or bring your own bags. Small steps can lead to even greater leaps…

  2. 2 aboyfromindia 14 January 2008 at 7:42 am

    Plastic bags are a big menace. They choke the environment..i agree with you. In India, they throw their garbage anywhere they wish to..and this compounds the problem as you point out in the post.

  3. 3 Dee 24 January 2008 at 6:51 am

    We live a few kilometers away from an area where the garbage of Bangalore is thrown and gets converted to bio-gas, compost etc and yet my neighbors prefer to dump their garbage on the empty plot next to our house. This down right shitty mentality gets to me.

  4. 4 Aishah Azad 17 February 2011 at 7:42 am

    Dear sir/madem

    I am a pupil of the piggot school and I want to ask for permission to use one of your images for my coursework in ICT and I need evidence that I have
    Permission for the image so could you please reply back and tell me if I can use one of your images in my course work and I need your permission to use it

    Thank you , Aishah Azad

  5. 5 Sammy rayner 28 June 2011 at 4:19 am

    Heeeey :’)

  6. 6 usha 7 November 2011 at 1:29 am

    i want to use the bags for gifting
    usha


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