ORONO, Maine — Practically everything consumers purchase these days from groceries to shoes to books gets put in a plastic bag by the retailer. Other than recycling or reusing them as liners in household trash cans, it’s tough to figure out what to do with them.
But Mary Mahoney demonstrated how to turn those plastic shopping bags into identity card holders, wallets and purses as part of Saturday’s 15th annual HOPE Festival and Green Expo.
Mahoney, 37, of Brewer said she is experimenting with ways to market the products as a fundraiser for H.O.M.E. Inc. in Orland.
She showed people attending the festival at the Student Recreation and Fitness Center at the University of Maine how to fuse several bags together between parchment paper with an iron. Mahoney then cut the bags into strips and showed how to crochet the strips into a water bottle holder and a purse.
“It takes 25 shopping bags to make a water bottle holder,” she said, “Fifty to make a small purse, and 100 to make a large purse. And they’re waterproof.”
Mahoney’s demonstration was among the new offerings this year at the festival’s new location, along with workshops on community gardening, reducing home energy costs and yoga, Ilze Petersons of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine in Bangor said Saturday. The center has sponsored the event since it began 15 years ago. This is the second year the festival has been held at the university and the first year in the rec center — the first green building on campus.
“People are loving the space [because] it’s light and airy,” Petersons said about an hour into the festival that got under way at 11 a.m. after a fun run for adults and children. “There’s so much going on, it’s like a six-ring circus.”
Nearly 60 organizations and individuals offered information about topics from home-schooling to sustainable living to nonviolent communication and peace issues. The Green Team from the Weatherbee School in Hampden offered information on how students could raise awareness about environmental issues.
“We meet each Friday, and in the spring we go on litter patrol and clean up around the school,” Kyle Tolman, 13, of Newburgh and a member of the Green Team, said Saturday. “We weigh it each week and add it up at the end of the year. Last spring, it weighed 36 pounds.”
On Saturday, Tolman and fellow team member Dustin Ramsay, 13, of Hampden offered juice pouches to thirsty festival-goers, asking them to return the pouches. The Green Team sends the pouches to a New Jersey company called TerraCycle Inc. That firm pays the team 2 cents per pouch and turns them into tote and book bags that are sold at retail stores.
Two years ago, the Green Team was awarded $500 at the festival by the Joe Hill Foundation. The team has used that money to create a tool kit to help students around Maine in grades three through eight organize and lead a Green Team of their own. It will be available next month, according to Ramsey.