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Students hand-craft reusable “Boomerang Bags” for village shoppers

photo of fabric shopping bags
Boomerang Bags handsewn by Marcellus students
and community volunteers.
March 7, 2018 -- A collaborative sustainability project undertaken by Marcellus students in grades 7-12 culminated this week with the presentation of a “Boomerang Bags” box at Nojaim Brothers Supermarket in the village of Marcellus.

The wooden box, constructed and painted by Marcellus faculty and students, is filled with reusable, fabric shopping bags that were hand-stitched by student and community volunteers. The sacks are free for Nojaim’s customers to use – with the hope they either return them to the store or continue using them in lieu of single-use, disposable plastic bags.

The first seeds for the project were planted last spring when Marcellus High School science teacher Ellen Spencer saw a video on the Facebook group #PlasticFreeFridays. The video highlighted some of the devastation visited on the environment by single-use plastic bags. It also discussed the large amount of textile waste that piles up in U.S. landfills. A grassroots Australian group called Boomerang Bags produced the video to raise awareness of the effects and discourage the use of disposable plastic shopping bags.

Spencer soon enlisted the help of Driver Middle School family and consumer sciences teacher Elizabeth Milliken. Last September, the pair applied for and won a Mustang Mini-Grant from the school district that provided seed money to get a Boomerang Bags project on its feet in Marcellus. Next, they recruited an army of student and community volunteers. They spent the month of November collecting donations of fabric and began having sewing bees after Thanksgiving.

“Throughout this project we have had the most incredible group of student volunteers,” Milliken said. “Coming with a range of different skills from both the middle school and high school, a wonderful group of hard-working kids met each week to cut, iron and sew. We were lucky enough to also have the aid of some community volunteers and support of the other staff in the district.”

At last count, the volunteer stitchers had crafted about 50 bags, with plans for another 50.

“The hard work of all of these people got this project started,” Spencer said. “But this needs to be a living project. … It is our hope the community of Marcellus will contribute to this project by donating reusable bags to the box. We also hope to have students continue to make Boomerang Bags to refill the box at Nojaim’s. The box should serve as a constant reminder to us that we need to change and improve; there is nowhere better to start making these changes than right here in Marcellus.”

Watch the video below to learn more about the project.

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