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Kristi MacDonald is passionate about plastic, or rather, getting rid of it.
The entrepreneur and local small business owner—she also runs The Bike Shops in Huntsville and Gravenhurst—has begun producing an alternative to single-use plastic bags.
BeeBagz are small fabric bags infused with beeswax. They are reusable, resealable, and waterproof, and they carry the naturally anti-bacterial properties inherent in beeswax, making them ideal for food storage.
MacDonald had already been using plastic alternatives in her kitchen, like beeswax wraps and silicone bags, but she felt something was missing and set out to make her own version. She’s been testing and refining and is now almost ready to launch.
“My kids have been using them in their lunches for the last four or five months and I have three or four test families in Huntsville using them,” says MacDonald. “I’ve developed a prototype that I think is a winner.”
There are many uses for BeeBagz. They can be used in kids’ lunches for foods like sandwiches, cookies, fruit, and cheese and are easy to clean even when they’ve been left a little too long. “Sometimes there’s a little bit of a growth experiment going on in there,” laughs MacDonald. “I just soak it in cool water, give it a shake and they’re good to go again.”
BeeBagz can store produce like lettuce or avocado. “It keeps them fresh longer than in plastic because it does let your produce breathe a little.” You could even take them to the store to pack up bulk foods or produce instead of using the plastic bags they have available.
They can be formed into a bag that will stand up on its own for easy snacking, and the tops are self-adhesive—just roll it down and the heat of your hand will hold it in place.
They come with a care guide—mostly you just need to avoid harsh soaps and really hot water—but they aren’t indestructible, notes MacDonald. Neither is plastic, but with care BeeBagz will last for a long time and they are completely biodegradable when they can no longer be used. They even come with a limited-time oops warranty—if you wash your BeeBagz with water that’s too hot, you can return them for a new one.
MacDonald hopes that BeeBagz will inspire people to look at how they use plastics in their lives and maybe consider using them a little less.
“I don’t want to shame people into never using plastic again,” she says. “I just want people to start thinking about their single-use bags. If they use just five less a week or ten to start, and then maybe shift into not using them at all.” She notes that the test families would sometimes forget they had the BeeBagz to use, but that when they started to think more about incorporating them into their lives, they noticed the biggest change.
The bags are being produced locally—they’ll be sewn in Powassan from fabric MacDonald has had specially designed, and they’ll be infused with wax at The Hub in Huntsville. And she notes that she’s had a lot of help along the way to get to this point, from IION (Innovative Initiatives Ontario North) and Muskoka Futures who helped with funding and business advice, MDH District who helped her navigate the fabric world, and The Hub who have provided affordable space in which to create.
BeeBagz will launch in June with a limited first run—you can sign up for updates at beebagz.com—and MacDonald already has her eye on the future. She’s researching other products like carry bags with innovative fabrics made from pineapple or mushrooms, and she’s hired a corporate sales person for companies who want to go green with some of their branded products.
To celebrate the launch and in honour of Earth Day—this year’s theme is reducing plastic pollution—MacDonald has issued a plastic diet challenge. You can sign up for tips, and then like and share the challenge tips on the BeeBagz Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds for a chance to win some green products.
“It’s meant to gently shift the way you do things and think about things, and how BeeBagz can help you in that plastic diet shift,” says MacDonald. “Small changes can lead to big steps, instead of being overwhelmed.”