A Creative Approach to Protecting the Environment

3 Feb 2020 | Articles

A Creative Approach to Protecting the Environment

In 2017, Catherine Patten and a group of friends were looking for a challenging and worthwhile project that they could tackle together. Catherine suggested that they consider establishing a branch of Boomerang Bags in their local community.

“I’d seen Boomerang Bags at Titirangi and I thought it was a great idea so I suggested it to the group. Everyone was pretty keen, so it went from there,” Catherine explains.

Boomerang Bags is a grassroots organisation that began in Australia in 2013 and now has branches throughout New Zealand. The organisation uses groups of volunteers to make bags from recycled fabrics that would otherwise end up in landfills. The bags are then distributed to local retailers, who pass them on to customers free of charge, reducing the number of plastic bags in circulation.

While a desire to protect the environment was the primary motivation for starting a local branch of Boomerang Bags, the organisation also appealed to Catherine and her friends for another reason.

“There’s a creative element to it that excited our group as well,” says Catherine. “We’re all quite keen on fabrics and a lot of us like sewing.”
Once the group was established, they set about attracting new members to join. Social media, word of mouth and the support of Volunteering Auckland all contributed to the growth in numbers.

Two years on, the Sandringham branch of Boomerang Bags is thriving. The group runs three sewing bees each month at their base in Gribblehirst Park. The volunteers, most of whom are female, come from many different cultural backgrounds and range in age from teenagers to retirees. Together, they have created almost 3,000 bags and distributed them to ten local retailers in Dominion Road.

Catherine, who acts as one of the group’s coordinators, dedicates approximately 10-12 hours per week to her volunteer work at Boomerang Bags. She facilitates sewing bees, helps to manage the group finances and liaises with the retailers who distribute the bags. Catherine says that helping to establish the group and seeing it grow and evolve has been a very satisfying experience and that the work is fun and rewarding.

“I get a lot out of it,” Catherine explains. “I enjoy sewing and I get together with friends and meet lots of new people.”
If you are interested in joining the team of volunteers at Boomerang Bags, you can apply via the Volunteering Auckland website.

©Leanne Comer, 2019.

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