Blog: Jeff Newsom

Paper and plastic bags, be gone! Plastic grocery sacks, now banned everywhere from China to South Africa to San Francisco, make eco-blogger Jeff Newsom's tank top shirt bags a viable choice. Proceeds from these fashion-cum-function totes support A-ShirtBag, his environmental education non-profit. This week, Jeff waxes eloquent on what it takes to start a non-profit in Detroit...

Jeff Newsom - Post 3: Products and Services at AShirtBag

How does one make a small difference in such a large world? That was the question I asked myself when developing the products and services at AShirtBag. The first idea, as you know, was the A-Shirt Bags made from recycled tank tops into reusable shopping totes. Great idea…but how to pull it off?

I purchased a used serger on Ebay, gathered some old tank tops from friends and family, and starting making the bags in my kitchen. I have never sewed a thing in my life. As a designer of clothing products for other companies, I had always used the tailors or seamstresses in the sewing rooms to get samples made. But I was determined to make those bags, so after hours of torture and broken thread via the serger I was skilled enough to tackle 30 of the new A-Shirtbags.

The first batch of bags was a big success. I stood outside a local grocery store in the parking lot and sold all of them within minutes for $1.00 each. Wow, was I surprised… people understood what this strange man standing outside a store was speaking of and loved the idea and product with out any marketing, advertising, or real knowledge of what the hell I was doing. Was this enough to make money to donate to a great cause? The answer is NO, but the idea launched the most important part of what A-ShirtBag does, our educational program for children.

"7 things you can do in 7 days to save the environment" is the name of our educational program offered to children in the Detroit public schools. This program is a project-based learning program focusing on recycling and the environment while also providing recycling bins for each classroom and school and a tree in a box kit for each child. The kids learn about recycling and earth friendly activities, and grow trees in the classroom to be later placed in the city.

Not a bad idea, developed from a bag that doesn't make much money. After the educational program came into my crazy head, other products followed using the idea of Simple Solutions for eco-friendly living, such as organic tote bags, light bulbs, tree in a box kits, water bottles, recycling bags for your home office or school, and organic teddy bears made from scraps remaining from our organic tote bags that will soon debut via an e-commerce site also benefiting environmental causes.

Remember, one great idea can lead to an even better one. Keep your mind open to everything it can handle and stock pile them 'cause you never know what comes next. I sure didn't.