Simon Fraser University

Bagging a banner winner

Sonam Swarup, 604.809.5477;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210;

April 7, 2011
It has been a banner year, quite literally, for one group of Simon Fraser University students.

Members of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) at SFU Surrey have taken their small idea - turning a pile of leftover street banners into colorful, useable bags - and grown it into an award-winning sustainability teaching tool for local high schools.

Since the idea first took root the students have worked with 700 high school students in more than 20 schools in Vancouver, Vernon and Ottawa, helping them to create more than 1,000 bags from nearly 500 banners worth over $30,000.

The bottom line, says project coordinator Sonam Swarup, is that 1,100 pounds of nylon was kept out of landfills, saving over 27,000 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Students have also become involved with a number of banner companies and say there’s no shortage of supply. Each banner typically becomes two bags.

The students recently visited Byrne Secondary School in Burnaby, where they cut patterns and used the school’s home economics sewing machines to stitch the bags.

Bright and colourful, the bags are typically kept by students who use them to replace plastic bags in their own lives, says Swarup. Some are sold as fundraisers. Last year Kitsilano high school students gave more than 30 bags to the city’s Battered Women’s Shelter so the women would have bright, spacious bags for their belongings.

Swarup and fellow SIFEr Manisha Narula took top honors for their presentation of the Banner Bags project at the Scotiabank & SIFE Go Green Challenge, at the Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (ACE) competition in Calgary. The win means they’ll move on to the national finals in Toronto May 9, when they’ll square off against 60 other university teams.

The students will spend the next few weeks preparing for the competition, but say they will continue to accommodate schools as necessary. They’ve also produced a teaching kit for teachers and are hopeful that those who have been involved in the project will carry it on and spread word.


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