Grandmothers hoping to raise money while reducing plastic waste

Diana Dixon, left, and Bea Fisher show off some of the produce bags and reusable food wrap they stitched together to sell at a fundraiser this fall. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

A group of local grandmothers is looking to raise money for a good cause while also doing their part to reduce plastic waste in the city.

The local Grandmothers 4 Grandmothers (G4G) chapter held a work bee Wednesday to stitch fabric bags that can be used in place of plastic produce bags, bulk bags and grocery bags. They also created reusable substitutes for food wrap as well as little loonie purses and wraps to hold headphone or phone charging cables.

The reusable, machine-washable plastic alternatives will be for sale as part of the annual G4G fall tea.

“Since our job is to raise money to help support grandmothers in Africa, we have the tea,” explained Bea Fisher.

“As a part of the tea, we have a merchandise table and a baking table so people can come and enjoy the tea for $10 a ticket and spend a little bit of money. The trick has been to come up with merchandise that’s different every year.”

G4G is an initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. They raise money to support grandmothers in African nations who are raising their grandkids who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.

In addition to the fall tea, the local organization hosts the Arioso concert as an annual fundraiser.

This year’s merchandise idea came out of news coverage about potential bans of plastic bags. A ban on single-use plastics is part of the Liberals’ campaign platform. Manitoba Premier Brad Pallister has also announced plans for a plastic bag ban. The policies are intended to help reduce plastic waste.

Fisher said her group saw an opportunity.

‘With the looming advent of cancelling plastic bags, I said ‘Why don’t we focus on the environment this year?’” Fisher said.

“Everyone jumped up and said, ‘let’s get rid of plastic bags. We started brainstorming what sorts of things we could make that would replace the plastic.”

Several of the designs were dreamed up by Diana Dixon.

“I started fiddling around and coming up with sizes and different (designs), and asking people to come and help.”

Over two days in the St. Alban’s Cathedral Hall, the volunteers made just under 100 packages of produce bags, as well as dozens of other projects. Many of the materials used to make the bags were supplied by club members, who spent their own money and donated the materials to the club.

Dixon said that even for herself, the reusable produce bags will make a big difference.

‘There’s just my husband and me, we’re a small family,” she said.

“I figure I go through a minimum of 200 plastic bags a year with the two of from the groceries I buy, just putting produce into plastic bags. If there’s 100 of us, that’s 2,000 bags,” she said.

“It doesn’t take very long to see how quickly you can get a pile of plastic that’s going to be there for 50 to 100 years. That opened my eyes u a bit to the real danger, and I’m talking as a small family. This was purely the bags for shopping for produce at the grocery store. That’s a very small part of it.”

Not only do the club members think the products can help people reduce their own environmental impact, but they also tie in with some of what the Stephen Lewis Foundation is working on overseas.

‘They are giving seedlings to youth,” Fisher said.

“The children are planting the seedlings in the compounds where the families live, and that seedling is going to be nurtured and will grow into a tree.”

Those trees will provide firewood for people to cook and heat their homes. Other trees will bear fruit and provide nutrition for community members “for decades to come,” Fisher said.

The fall tea, called Tea in Granny’s EcoFriendly Kitchen is set for Oct. 5 from 2-4 p.m. at Messiah Lutheran Church, 1796 15th Ave. East.

Admission, which covers the tea, program and entertainment from Arioso members, is $10. In addition to the baking and reusable bags and food wrap for sale, there will be door prizes and a raffle.

Tickets are available from any G4G member, or by calling Diana at 960-0221 or Monica at 940-7423.