Fashionable ‘eco-bags’ become hit with consumers

by Yo Nakai

Kyodo News

Environmentally friendly “eco-bags,” which many consumers are opting to use in lieu of wasteful plastic shopping bags, are becoming fashionable with the help of brand-name goods manufacturers, with one such bag breaking the 1 million sales mark.

Outside a department store in Osaka in July, there was a long line of young women and men waiting to buy eco-bags from Anya Hindmarch of Britain.

The trend has been similar elsewhere in Japan. At a Tokyo branch of the company that launched the bag, scuffles broke out between shoppers and sales staff.

The Ginza branch of department store Matsuya Co. offered 500 of Anya Hindmarch bags for sale by lottery, and about 15,000 people applied over two days. “The popularity was unexpected,” a Matsuya representative said.

The bag, which goes for ¥2,000, states “I’m NOT A plastic Bag” on the outside. It was selling on an Internet auction site for 10 times the amount.

Eco-bags from Italy’s Benetton are also popular. They debuted in Japan in July last year, and so far more than a million have been sold.

The bag, which costs ¥500 and comes in 10 colors, is made of thin polyester and can be folded into one’s palm to take anywhere. Some people have bought bulk quantities of the bag to give out as thank you gifts at wedding receptions.

The Shinjuku head store of department store operator Isetan Co. is selling bags under such brands as Mina Perhonen and Dress Camp, which give the profits to tree-planting campaigns. Supermarkets and station buildings are also expanding their eco-bag offerings.

The popularity of eco-bags apparently derives from their style, rather than a rising consciousness about protection of the environment.

But a 32-year-old housewife in Chiba Prefecture who has been using the bags said, “If popular brand-name goods manufacturers handle eco-bags, such consciousness will likely spread rapidly.”

Editor Kazumi Oguro of SOTOKOTO, a magazine promoting a “lifestyle of health and sustainability,” said, “‘Eco-conscious is a new fashion. Thinking about the global environment used to be constrained, but now, all people have become aware that it is quite enjoyable.”