Co-founder Emma Saunders says herself and Rylee Pettersson were inspired to create the reusable produce bags after discovering a gap in the New Zealand market.
Having a store at Nelson’s Saturday Market also helped, she says, as they could converse with customers and hear their thoughts on food packaging.
“There is a feeling of people having reached saturation point,” Saunders says.
“Plastic Free July was an eye opener to many, with large supermarket chains targeted in particular for wrapping up one piece of fruit on a tray and then Glad Wrapped, for example.
“Habitually people have grabbed plastic bags for years now with very little thought as to the process of production.”
She says often, people aren’t motivated to change their shopping habits until they’re challenged about what they buy, do or see.
“It often helps if an alternative option is available, and The Green Collective is aiming to provide choice for consumers. Through our branding and colours we want this experience to be fun, proving you don't have to be beige to be eco [friendly].”
The Green Collective’s ‘Goodie’ bags are designed first and foremost to put produce in, but can also be used for other purposes.
People have been known to use them to wash delicates, make DIY loofahs, use them as a nappy totes and even make cheeses and nut milks.
There is also the recent addition of ‘Loot’ bags, which are made of 100 percent organic cotton and can be used to hold bulk items like flour, grains and seeds.
Over 2000 bags have been sold so far in stores the bags are stocked in, which include supermarkets, like Fresh Choice Richmond, to gift stores like Ecomoon Boutique.
Sales are especially strong at Fresh Choice, with over half of the bags delivered already sold in under two weeks.
Saunders says small to medium sized stores can be niche enough to be flexible to offer local, alternative choices they know their customers want, which sets them apart from larger chains.
Staff also are fans of the eco-bags, she says.
“The checkout operators love them as they are strong, easy to see through and the drawstring means no items roll off the counter,” Saunders says.
“They are often excited to see them and comment to customers. This in turn provides the 'feel good' factor and encourages people in line to see what the fuss is about.”
There is a growing consumer group within New Zealand that opposes plastic bag use by retailers.
A petition to phase out single-use plastic bags in New Zealand has over 16,000 signatures, just over halfway from its goal of 25,000.
Meanwhile, public place recycling scheme manager Lyn Mayes says New Zealanders use more than 1.6 billion plastic bags in their home every year.