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“Bag Monsters” Descend on Ghirardelli Square, Demand End to Own Existence

A reusable bag company walks the line between altruism and self-interest in supporting a California bill to eliminate single-use bags.

Bag Monster on bike

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Today at noon, as many of a hundred of people dressed in “Bag Monster” costumes will descend on Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. Each costume is made out of 500 single-use bags, roughly the number the average American uses every year.

The roving pack of monsters will be advocating the passage of AB 1998, a California bill that would outlaw the use of such bags, many of which have swirled their way into a deadly zone of the Pacific Ocean now known ignominiously as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This is activism, but this is also business.

The monsters will be led by Andy Keller, founder and president of ChicoBag, a reusable bag company. Ghirardelli Square’s passersby today can log on to Keller’s site and consider buying a three-pack of hemp-cotton reusable bags ($11.99), or perhaps something from the polyester “Karma collection” ($8.99, and available in colors with puzzling names like “harmony” and “serenity”).

Some might dismiss the San Francisco rally, then, as a canny version of cause marketing. But, Keller says, it’s always been about the cause first, the product second. The company sprang from his mind after a visit to the local landfill in 2004 left him disgusted with the mounds and mounds of wasted bags. At trade shows and green festivals, he’d hide beneath a giant wad of bags he’d collected, near trash cans, and suddenly pop out as people passed. When he saw it got people talking and listening, the Bag Monster was born. “It was very organic in its creation,” he tells Fast Company. He now has a fleet of about 100 bag monsters that he sends out to various organizations intending to raise awareness about bag waste.

“I want [people] to buy a reusable bag that they like and they’re gonna use,” Keller says. Still, adds the entrepreneur (whose company is doing well, though he declines to put a number on just how well), “If they’re gonna use a ChicoBag, that’s awesome.”

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.

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