What is the Urban Sustainable Society?

You've heard of the Red Hat Society...those ladies over 50 who wear funky red hats and get together at cafes to have fun together? Well, we are the URBAN SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY! You will recognize us when you see a plarn (plastic bag crochet) purse hanging from our shoulder. We are ordinary community members, making ordinary personal changes, to make an extraordinary --GREEN-- difference in our local communities. We believe that individuals can do so much more, so much faster than governments and laws. We want government to do their part, too, but rather than wait for them to legislate change, we take personal action now to change our own habits, and to teach others how they can change theirs as well. We want businesses to shape up, too, so we talk to local business owners/managers, we write letters, and most importantly, we spend our dollars in ways that make an environmental difference. (Go to www.biggreenpurse.com to find out how women, who spend 85% of consumer dollars, can make a huge difference in greening our world!) This Urban Sustainable Society webpage will help you start your own Urban Sustainable Society group in your community, and give you lots of tips and ideas so you can make personal habit changes and spend your consumer dollars in ways that make your community a greener place, too!

My plastic bag crochet PLARN creations

Find an URBAN SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY group near you!

Local Urban Sustainable Society groups use YahooGroups to form and chat with local community members about green solutions in their own homes and hometowns. The groups also help people meet up and network face-to-face. Find a group in your town, or if there's not one yet, find out how to start one at:


01 May 2009

Plastic Bag Crochet "Plarn" on the go -- How to conveniently take your project with you!

The best way to share your passion for greener living is to be visible in a fun, friendly way. I take my current plastic bag crochet plarn project with me almost every time I leave the house. It literally only takes 30 seconds to get it out, crochet a bit, and stuff it back into my project tote bag. In the meantime, you will be asked what you're doing when people notice that what you appear to be crocheting (or knitting!) with looks like a chopped up plastic shopping bag. Not only will carrying your project bag with you make churning out copious numbers of finished projects quick and easy, but you will have fun sharing your passion with others.

If you carry your projects with you to do on the run, keep the following in a canvas bag:

***Your current project, and crochet hook or knitting needles
***Reading glasses, (I keep a spare pair in my project bag...I'm useless without them!)
***Sharp, pointed, full-sized scissors (thus the canvas tote bag to keep them contained -- they would poke through a plarn bag)
***Folded plastic grocery bags (They store more compactly folded than "bunched"). I can keep my project bag from being too bulky because I know I can cut and crochet about 4 bags per hour, so I just put in my canvas bag the number of plastic bags I can use on that day's outing, (plus a few extra in case I have more time).
***One narrow newspaper delivery bag or Subway sandwich bag. This I use to stuff the trimmings from the bags into. It will hold a LOT, and the narrow shape keeps the trimmings from springing back out of the bag. When it is 2/3 full I tie a knot in the top and drop it off at a grocery store recycling bin so the trimmings don't end up in the landfill.
***My envelope filled with www.UrbanSustainableSociety.blogspot.com flyers, (printed on the back of something else, of course!), to give to those who see me out and about crocheting with plastic bags. When people have questions, I take the opportunity to share my message about how easy it is for ordinary people to make lots of small changes that add up to a greener community.

Be sure to click and watch/read the how-to links at the right of this blog to learn the cleverest and easiest way to cut plarn. And of course, please do spread the word so that others can learn this easy method, too! The biggest complaint I've heard is that it's a pain to make the plarn, so if we can share this method more broadly, then more people will recycle more bags. Yay!!!

08 March 2009


The concept of creating this "society" has been ruminating in my head for several years. I've been rescuing plastic bags from my local community reclamation center, where unsuspecting citizens add them to the recycling bin labeled "plastic bag recycling", but where, the attendant employee tells me, they are retrieved and burned in the city's garbage incinerator. "They're oil-based, so they burn real good!" he excitedly tells me. WHAT??!! You BURN them? "Well...we don't have a buyer for them and they're not worth much, so yeah...we just burn 'em every day." And that's when my motivation to get this group going really kicked in. I don't want to live in a city where decent citizens are doing what they can to be green, and where they end up breathing the toxins from their "recycled" bags without even knowing it. I thought seriously about trying to take this issue on with the city government powers-that-be, but the thought overwhelmed me. It seemed so negative. It seemed so down-the-road. It seemed so hopeless. Well -- it just didn't seem like much fun!

So here's what I did instead. I started collecting the plastic bags (with permission) out of the reclamation center bins whenever I had time. I brought them home and sorted them by store and color. I crocheted bag after bag, mostly when I was out and about in public. I've talked to hundreds of people so far, and have shown dozens more how to cut plastic bags into "plarn" and how to crochet with it. While I'm doing that, I also tell them WHY I am crocheting reusible bags out of plastic bags that others have used once and then disposed of. Sometimes people don't get it. "I bet if you just went to a store and asked, they'd GIVE you a bunch of bags!" "I'll take more bags when I shop and save them for you!" No, no, NOOOOO!!! Please don't take any more bags. Please start bringing your own bags so we can STOP taking a new bag every time we purchase something. There is so much more I want to say, but how can you say it all while you're chatting with a stranger in the dentist's office waiting room?

Enter my idea: Start a website. When someone asks, give them a card, (printed on the back of recycled paper, of course!), directing them to this website. Include on the website both the why and the how of Urban Sustainability. If the idea catches on, and there really are people willing to carry "plarn" purses, and who will likewise talk to people and pass out website cards, maybe we, the URBAN SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY MEMBERS, will start to be recognized around the world. Maybe people will see those purses and will ask people, "so what do YOU do in YOUR home to make a green difference in OUR town?" And we will all tell our stories.


That's the simple truth. If we want to make a difference, we have to have some fun with this! Those Red Hat Society ladies?... They have FUN! So if we want to make positive changes in our own families, we need to have some fun, too. What could be more fun than using a crocheted purse, and pointing to the purple hues while in a check-out line and saying, "That's Taco Bell... And the red, well, that's Target, of course! And I'm sure you know what the white with blue is...can you say WalMart?!" Honestly, I have had more fun showing people the bag, and then watching the recognition on their faces when I name the stores and they "get" that the colors they are seeing really and truly are recycled bags from those very stores. Then I might say something like, "Yeah...I do lots of green things. Did you know that mint is a weed and grows like crazy? I grow cocoa mint in my yard and make my own fresh tea with it. Now I don't ever buy tea bags any more. I LOVE easy gardening and paying less for groceries!"

Little ideas. Little changes. Tell someone here, tell someone there. Start a website, make some how-to videos, upload them. Give away some bags. Ask people if they will do the same. Go, Green!

Thanks, all!
MakeAjoyfulNoise, your friendly Urban Sustainable Society founder