A Bumblebag for life: how Nairn volunteers are tackling plastic pollution

Two volunteers holding up a Bumblebag that they have made.

Forgot plastic unsightly, unfriendly bags and get yourself a Bumblebag – the latest eco-friendly accessory to come out of the Highland seaside town of Nairn.

And what better time to bring this fantastic new sustainable bag to your attention than Recycling Week, a celebration of all things eco-friendly.

Run by National Lottery funded charity, Green Hive, Bumblebags are made by volunteers who come together to turn surplus material donated by the public into eye catching, plastic free shopping bags.

Some eye catching Bumblebags made by local volunteers

The Bumblebag project is just one of the many environmentally friendly activities made possible by The National Lottery Community Fund, which recently announced a new £100 million Climate Action fund, that will empower communities across the UK to take high-impact climate action.

As well as this popular enterprise, Green Hive delivers volunteer led litter picks, upcycling activities, food waste reduction initiatives, a community growing project and much, much more.

Kirsty Ellen is its Development Officer and was born and raised in Nairn. As a keen up-cycler, she has a real passion for what the organisation is all about.

“At Green Hive, we help turn ideas that will improve our environment into action. Our volunteers are the lifeblood of the organisation and it’s them who really make things happen. Over the last six months we have had 100 people volunteer their time in one way or another.

Kirsty Ellen, Green Hive Development Officer adding a layer of mulch around the base of a young apple tree

“It was a volunteer who came up with the idea for Bumblebags, which takes unwanted fabrics and up-cycles them into plastic free shopping bags to distribute for free to local people. Our sewing group meets monthly at our hub to share and learn new skills and meet new people, and in the process creates these wonderful canvas bags.

“What’s fantastic about this is that you can make a Bumblebag as simple or as intricate as you like so it’s something that anyone can get involved in whether you are a seasoned sewer or have no experience at all.”

Since launching Green Hive has made around 300 bags and has partnered with shops, the local nursery, foodbank and Nairn Library to adopt its bags as an alternative to plastic.

Plastic bags are unfortunately something that Green Hive’s volunteers regularly see washed up on Nairn’s soft sandy beaches while doing their litter picks.

Green Hive volunteers taking part in a litter pick on Nairn beach

“People are becoming much more aware of the impact of plastic waste on our local environment”, says Kirsty.

“Everything we do is about strengthening and building the community of Nairnshire in an inclusive and sustainable way. People tell us they don’t want to throw their old unwanted fabrics into landfill so they appreciate having Bumblebags to donate these too.

“We also see lots of people giving Bumblebags as presents to their families which encourages more people to use them more sustainably, which can only be a good thing.”

Green Hive received £91,328 over two years from our Community Led fund to grow its volunteering activities. Already making an environmental and social impact on the local community, it has longer terms plans to become a social enterprise by generating a proportion of its income through plastic recycling and creating a growing space for volunteers to grow mushrooms from waste coffee grounds.

If you are feeling inspired by their work head over to our new Climate Action Fund web page to find out more about this new fund, which will open to applications in Autumn 2019.

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