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Inventions: Not her father's grocery bags

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Nearly 50 years ago, Gordon Dancy designed the plastic bags shoppers the world over see in most stores these days.

Now his daughter, Kristen Brown of Murrells Inlet, has designed something she hopes will take their place.

In about two weeks, Brown, an environmental consultant, will introduce My Eco System, a line of reusable grocery bag sets.

A limited number of the bags will be available at Piggly Wiggly in Litchfield for market testing.

After listening to feedback, and making any modifications, the bags will be made available online and in stores.

A price hasn’t been set.

Brown said she thinks her father would be proud. Before his death, he realized the environmental problem plastic bags had created and started a program to reclaim and recycle them.

Brown opted for another solution.

“Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled,” she said. “For me, it just seemed a better solution was to find something that actually worked for people to reuse and help reduce the number of plastic bags out there.”

My Eco System consists of four reusable bags designed to nest into each other and fold up into a small carrying clutch for easy storage and transport. The clutch folds out to serve as a bag.

Each bag is a different size and designed for a different use.

The smallest bag has compartments to hold glass bottles and jars. Another bag has an insulated liner and zippered top for packing chilled and frozen foods.

A bag for fruits and vegetables has an anti-bacterial lining that can be wiped clean.

The largest bag is designed to hold all other groceries, including oversized boxes, Brown said.

Once unfolded, the bags are designed to fit easily inside a shopping cart. The shopper arranges the bags in the cart after the items are loaded onto the register and the bagger loads the groceries straight into the cart.

“It actually cuts down on the time it takes to get it all bagged and makes it easier on the bagger,” Brown said. “You don’t have stuff sliding and rolling all over the place.”

Each bag holds up to about 40 pounds. Together, the set can take the place of 15 to 30 disposable bags each trip, according to Brown.

What makes My Eco System different from any other reusable bag on the market is the thought that went into functionality.

In high school and college, it was Brown’s job to go around to stores and promote the plastic bags her father designed.

That task left her with lots of experience bagging groceries and gave her the insight necessary to make the bags convenient and user friendly for shoppers and stores, she said.

“I don’t think someone who hadn’t done that kind of work would have put the thought into functionality that I did,” she said.

The bags have a rigid structure designed to resist spilling or toppling over and have straps that cross, so as not to slip off the shoulder.

“I tried to keep it all about convenience,” Brown said. “I knew if I was going to get people to change their behavior, I would have to have the ultimate bag.”

Brown decided to launch her bags at Piggly Wiggly in Litchfield, because that’s where she does her shopping. Store manager Tim Smith is thrilled his store will be the one to introduce the bags to the public.

Smith said about 10 percent of his customers use reusable bags, up from about a half percent two years ago.

“We’ve tried to push reusable bags and the story is always kind of the same,” he said. “They get left at home or in the car, or they’ve got one bag and need 10, or have four and need 20. It seems like with this set, though, everything is together and it’s able to hold a complete order.”

Brown said she’s already been using one of the prototypes to do her shopping.

“I fit about $150 worth of groceries in it every week,” she said. “My husband loves it, because you can carry every thing in at once. You put one bag over each shoulder and one in each hand and you never have to go back to the car.”

People who see the bags ask about them all the time. Up until now, Brown said she hasn’t been sure exactly what to tell them.

“I’m really kind of shy and I would just try to avoid the question,” she said. “I guess soon I can tell them they can go buy a set of their own.”

A Web site where the bags will be sold, myecosack.com, is under construction and should be finished by the end of May.

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