Saving the environment one cotton bag at time

Tarik Sayeed was surprised on a trip to Bangladesh to see shoppers using cotton mesh bags rather than plastic.

Tarik Sayeed holds one of his specially-designed bags he is currently trying to get funding for and which he hopes will eventually replace plastic bags at retail outlets.

Tarik Sayeed was surprised on a trip to Bangladesh to see shoppers using cotton mesh bags rather than plastic.

Seeing a third world country had rid themselves of plastic bags, inspired Sayeed to try bringing about change when he got home, trying to raise money for an ambitious project to encourage the use of reusable bags.

“Plastic bags are pretty much banned over there,” said Sayeed, who grew up in Bangladesh, though he has been living in Penticton for six years. “I started wondering if everyone else is doing it what is stopping us.”

When Sayeed discovered how much pollution was created by plastic, he decided just talking about it with friends wasn’t going to change anything.

“As human beings and individuals, we talk and discuss so many things, we never really implement it, which is why I have to try this,” he said.

Whether his project succeeds or not, he explained, at least he will have tried and have experience to share.

Raising $20,000 for his Zero Plastic Bags project will buy enough reusable bags so Sayeed can put them at stores like Safeway or Quality Foods.

“If I do that and I can match the price for five and ten cents per bag, the users will have the option of choosing whether they want a plastic bag which pollutes the earth, or, for the same price, a bag that does not pollute the earth,” he said.

Sayeed hopes to get his funding through the Aviva Community Fund competition, but he needs votes at www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf18717 to make it through the qualifying rounds. He’s got until Nov. 25 to generate the needed votes.

“What we are projecting is that if we can somehow bring in about 2,000 votes, we will be in the top 10,” said Sayeed. “We hope by then the momentum will start and take us to finals.”

Sayeed hopes to do more than help the local environment with his project. He’s been in touch with some of the survivors of the April garment factory collapse, who have pooled their money and opened a business making jute (burlap) bags. Those bags, he explained, are not only reusable, but compostable since they are made of natural plant fiber.

“That has a huge impact,” said Sayeed. “We can help them on that side of the world, and in return we are helping our own environment.”

Information about how Sayeed’s project is progressing can be found on Facebook at Zero Plastic Bags. Votes can be made daily at http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf18717.

Even if he doesn’t win the Aviva Competition, Sayeed said he won’t give up on his passion and will be taking it to crowdfunding sources to try again.