Introduction: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle: Up-cycled Tote Bag

About: Hey guys! I'm Marti. I teach high school Culinary Arts and I love to bake, sew, cook, run, read, and learn new things.

Everyday should be Earth day! Let's do our part to make the Earth a better place to live and remember that everything that we consume affects us in some way. In the spirit of Earth day (April 22), I've created this lesson to help my students embrace the idea that everyone needs to do their part to protect the environment. After learning about the importance of reduce, re-use, and recycle, students will design and create up-cycled products using recycled materials.

I made this grocery tote bag out of a chicken feed bag that I snatched from my garbage, ultimately saving it from a life in the landfill and creating something that can be used again and again. The only two items I used to make this project are the feed bag and tape. If you don't want to use tape, this project would make an easy sewing project too.

Along with this tutorial, I've included my "Think Sustainability" Lesson Plan, Slide Presentation and the Up-cycle Project Guide. I teach high school students, but this lesson would be great for almost any age group. It would even be great as a youth group activity.

Let your creative juices flow! Use this lesson and activity to help kids get excited about doing their part to protect the environment and to REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE!

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Gather Your Supplies

  • Feed Bag (or other thick plastic bag - big rice bags work great)
  • Duct tape (or other strong tape)
  • Scissors
  • Box (this is to help form the corners of the bag and make a flat bottom)
  • Yard Stick (not necessary but helpful to measure and draw a line to cut on)

Step 2: Prepare the Feed Bag to Be Transformed

Prepare the Feed Bag

  1. Wash and dry the feed bag - just wipe it down with a clean damp towel and make sure it is clean.
  2. Cut off the bottom and top of the bag.
    • For the bottom of the bag: I measured it just above where the big stitching is (about 5 inches from bottom)*.
    • For the top of the bag: there was a red line, so I just cut along that line (about 5 or 6 inches)*.

*If you want to make this a sewing project, save the scraps to make the handles.

Step 3: Tape the Bottom and Top of the Bag

Tape the Bottom

  1. Cut a piece of tape a little longer then the bottom of the feed bag and place it with the sticky side up on a flat surface.
  2. Place the feed bag onto half of the tape and then fold it up, pressing to secure the tape to the bag. Cut off any excess tape at the corners.

Tape the Top

You can either use several smaller pieces of tape or one long piece of tape to finish the top edge of the bag. I used one continuous piece of tape...but it was a little difficult.

  1. Place a strip of tape along the top edge of the bag, placing it about one inch onto the top outside edge.
  2. Fold the other half of the tape to the inside of the bag.
  3. Press the tape to secure it along the top edge of the bag.

Step 4: Form the Flat Bottom of the Bag

Form the Bottom of the Bag (so it stands up)

Find a box that will fit in the bottom of the bag (I used a box of bulk pasta from my pantry - a shoe box or any box would work). It doesn't need to fit. You are just using the flat edge to help form the triangle flap that folds up which creates a flat bottom bag.

  1. Place the box into the bag and press it into the corner on one side.
  2. This will create a triangle.
  3. Place tape along the edges of your triangle and fold up and secure it to the side of the bag.
  4. Place a small piece of tape along the bottom edge of the bag (this makes a triangle on the corner of the bag).
    • Repeat with the other corner.
  5. Remove the box and tape up the inside of the bottom of the bag placing one strip or tape down the middle and along the two short edges of the bag.
  6. Then I taped two diagonal strips forming an X and two more strips of tape along the long edges.

Step 5: Make the Handles

Make The Handles

  1. Measure a piece of tape that is about 20 inches long and place it so the sticky side is up.
  2. Measure another piece of tape about the same length. Tape the two pieces together taping it to the center of the first piece of tape.
  3. Fold the first piece of tape over the second.
  4. Turn it over and fold the final piece of tape over and pressing the two pieces together to secure.
    • Repeat the first 4 steps to make the second strap.
    • Trim the ends to make the traps the same length.
  5. Cut a piece of tape about 5 inches long, fold it in half and cut a little slit in the center.
  6. Place one end of the handle into the slit (done about two inches) and tape it to the top edge of the bag. I used the word "FEED" on the bag as my center point and I placed one edge of the handle on each side.
    • Cut another piece of tape about 5 inches long for the other end of the handle and repeat step 5 and 6 making sure the handle is in the center of the bag.
    • Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the handle for the other side of the bag making sure the handles line up with one another.
  7. Cut 4 pieces of tape about 3 1/2 inches long and place them over the ends of the handles along the top edge of the bag.

Step 6: The Finished Tote Bag!

Voilà! The Finished Tote Bag!

Now you have an up-cycled tote bag to use for groceries or anything you need to carry. It's durable and sturdy and you can feel good that you are doing your part to reduce, re-use and recycle!

For auditory learners there are several variations of this bag on YouTube. There are also several sewing video tutorials for tote bags from recycled material.

Happy Creating!

*This video is a short tutorial that was useful when I made the handles. I reinforced mine a little bit differently, but you will get the idea.

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