Comella’s Creations Re-Use Waste and Raise MoneyPosted on: February 2, 2011
Lisa Comella has always been a crafter. In do-it-yourself sessions with her equally artsy friends, she's made everything from beaded jewelry to quilts to candles. Recently, she and her crafting buddies decided to go a little "greener" with their work. The result: unique handcrafted shopping totes made from materials that were headed for the trash.
Comella, who began working at the University of Arizona Foundation as assistant director for annual giving just five months ago, is selling her one-of-a-kind reusable shopping bags, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the UA Foundation.
The totes, which range in price from $8 to $15, depending on size, are crafted from discarded plastic bags and other bits of unwanted plastic, from candy bar wrappers to frozen fruit and vegetable packaging. Souvenir bags from past vacations or special events can also be good fodder when it comes to creating bags adorned with memories.
Several layers of plastic are melded together using an iron, creating a durable material that's tough to rip and easy to wipe clean in the event of spills. The plastic's color and design can withstand the heat, so fashionable patterns and commemorative bags won't lose their luster.
Next step: Stitch two panels of the material together to create the bag, sew on some straps from the fabric store and, voilà, you've got a reusable tote unlike any other you'll see in line at the grocery store.
The finished bags are lightweight, water-resistant and strong enough they can serve a number of purposes, as a diaper bag, beach bag, pool tote, lunch sack, purse or eco-friendly reusable gift bag for Christmas presents. Comella carries her own – a collage of pink plastic, baby carrot packaging and bits of bags stamped with "Chopped" and "Barnes & Noble" – as a general tote.
"It's like an obsession," she said of her new hobby.
Comella said she has made more than 20 bags so far, and she's noticed her handmade creations capture a lot more attention from cashiers than the canvas bags she used to use at the grocery store.
And the trend may be catching on. Comella says her co-workers at the UA have started bringing her pieces of plastic and special requests for bags of their own. That led her to think about selling her creations and giving back to the foundation, where she works in the Annual Giving Office, which is charged with raising donor support for colleges, schools and health sciences centers of excellence at the UA.
You can contact Comella and check out her creations at www.carryontotes.com. She will consider special requests for projects, including size and color requests, and will accept donations of plastic bags.
By Alexis Blue, University Communications