Handmade and Humanitarian

Iowa native Bill Newbrough received a Nature Bag as a gift a few years ago, after a guided trip to a remote area in the jungles of Asia. Today he’s working with Bonsou Keoamphone (Sou for short), the guide who gave him the souvenir, to spread the word about these incredible bags. Sou, 22, is founder of a poverty reduction program aimed at helping the Khmu people enrich their lives while preserving a centuries-old tradition. Nature Bags are woven from fibers of the kudzu vine, which grows prodigiously in the region. The bags stretch and expand to hold a lot more cargo (groceries, books, beach toys) than you might expect. The fabric seems to cradle the contents, which keeps items from shifting and reduces the chance of bruising fragile fruits and vegetables. Three styles are available. Pahk is all natural in color, while Noy adds black stripes and detailing along the seams. The Beach Bag has a multicolor sack and incorporates cotton on the shoulder strap for a softer feel. No two are alike, but each Nature Bag is special. They’re sustainable in more ways than one. The raw materials are available in abundance, and every purchase helps to improve the quality of life for the Khmu people.

Nature Bag

Sustainable Multi Purpose Tote

Handmade and Humanitarian

Iowa native Bill Newbrough received a Nature Bag as a gift a few years ago, after a guided trip to a remote area in the jungles of Asia. Today he’s working with Bonsou Keoamphone (Sou for short), the guide who gave him the souvenir, to spread the word about these incredible bags. Sou, 22, is founder of a poverty reduction program aimed at helping the Khmu people enrich their lives while preserving a centuries-old tradition. Nature Bags are woven from fibers of the kudzu vine, which grows prodigiously in the region. The bags stretch and expand to hold a lot more cargo (groceries, books, beach toys) than you might expect. The fabric seems to cradle the contents, which keeps items from shifting and reduces the chance of bruising fragile fruits and vegetables. Three styles are available. Pahk is all natural in color, while Noy adds black stripes and detailing along the seams. The Beach Bag has a multicolor sack and incorporates cotton on the shoulder strap for a softer feel. No two are alike, but each Nature Bag is special. They’re sustainable in more ways than one. The raw materials are available in abundance, and every purchase helps to improve the quality of life for the Khmu people.

Grommet Launch Conversation

Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Bill
    Bill

    I am looking forward to spending the next few hours with you answering questions regarding the Nature Bag Khmu/Lao Poverty Reduction Project, and hoping to convince you to try one or more of our remarkable Nature Bags. As it is night here (11 p.m.), I apologize in advance for any grogginess that might be transmitted along with my intended messages.

    We are flattered and excited to be featured on the Daily Grommet. Our mission is two-fold: 1) Poverty Reduction; 2) To link green-thinking people around the world to the Khmu tribe’s homemade organic sustainable reusable multi-purpose totes that have evolved from thousands of years of use in the steep mountainside jungles of Northern Laos.

    Our mission is bringing me incredible experiences and a feeling of fulfillment for being able to improve the lives of both our customers around the world and our Khmu partners. I’ve been using a Nature Bag virtually daily for more than five years, and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.

  • Kate
    Kate
    6/14/2010 12:13 PM

    This product has a very compelling story, thank you for sharing it! Bill, how many hours does it take to create one bag?

  • Dana
    Dana
    6/14/2010 12:24 PM

    How do transportation and environmental costs figure into the benefit of buying these bags?

  • Karen
    Karen
    6/14/2010 12:53 PM

    Hi. What a wonderful product! We are organic market gardeners in Oklahoma. How can I get these in a wholesale quantity to sell at our farmer's market stand? I know our customers would love bags and the story behind them.

  • Bill
    Bill
    6/14/2010 12:54 PM

    @ Kate

    One medium size Nature Bag takes about two weeks to make! The anti-poverty project labels them UltimateGreen™ because there is no cultivation and no manufacturing.

  • Bill
    Bill
    6/14/2010 1:03 PM

    @ Dana

    We use recyclable packaging, most shipping containers are made entirely of recycled material, and/or are Cradle To Cradle Certified® for their ecologically-intelligent design.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    6/14/2010 2:04 PM

    Bill - thank you for being in touch with us today. It's amazing to imagine you half way across the world with the people who create these bags. You are to be commended for your role in this project, thank you for helping to make it a reality!

    @Karen - what a great place to spread the story and sell these products. We will make sure that you get contacted personally.

  • Catherine
    Catherine
    6/14/2010 4:03 PM

    Has your group considered producing for sale written or visual documentation on the method of preparing the kudzu and art of creating the bags?

    As you are likely aware, we've got a 'bit of a problem' with kudzu in the SE United States. I can think of several different individuals and groups dedicated to hands-on traditional artisan practices who would jump at an opportunity to learn from the Khmu craftspeople and try their hand at creating the bags with locally available kudzu.

    Just thinking that classes/educational material might both provide an additional revenue stream and increase awareness for the program and about the Khmu people.

    Thank you, and every best wish for all your endeavors.

  • Bill
    Bill
    6/14/2010 4:52 PM

    @ Catherine - We thought about it and looked into it but currently there isn't a machine that can make the cord into a fiber. Maybe because the lightness of the fiber? It takes two weeks to make just one bag and the methods that the Khmu use are very time consuming and painstaking, but for them it is an aged old tradition and they enjoy the task very much!

    If ever there is a machine that can make it much faster and easier to create the fiber we will definitely set it up to have the kudzu here in the US made useful!

  • Catherine
    Catherine
    6/14/2010 7:19 PM

    @Bill --thank you for your reply. Believe it or not, the folks I'm thinking of wouldn't want to use a machine. For them, the value is in learning and attempting proficiency at an ancient art/craft. (my immediate circle includes, for example, felters, smelterers and weavers who work off primary source docs ranging back to very BCE)

    Should you ever have transcripts or video available for purchase, please do let the Grommet-fairies know & I will happily pass on the word (as I've already done about the bags themselves). Cheers!

  • Bill Newbrough
    Bill Newbrough
    4/13/2011 2:54 AM

    @Catherine: We actually have a mini-documentary that shows many of the processes used by the Khmu in making the Jungle Vine Cord and forming it into the Jungle Vine fabric that is the basis of the Nature Bag. You can see it on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5Ers6ouWJ0. The making of the straps is shown briefly in the video NatureBag 2010 also available on You Tube.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    4/13/2011 9:20 AM

    @Bill Newbrough: Thank you for stopping by with that information. I have embedded the video here. There is an unbelievable amount of work that goes into each of these bags.

The launch day conversation has ended. Please direct further questions about this Grommet to our Community Experience Team.

 

Nature Bag

Sustainable Multi Purpose Tote

Handmade and Humanitarian

Iowa native Bill Newbrough received a Nature Bag as a gift a few years ago, after a guided trip to a remote area in the jungles of Asia. Today he’s working with Bonsou Keoamphone (Sou for short), the guide who gave him the souvenir, to spread the word about these incredible bags. Sou, 22, is founder of a poverty reduction program aimed at helping the Khmu people enrich their lives while preserving a centuries-old tradition.

Nature Bags are woven from fibers of the kudzu vine, which grows prodigiously in the region.
The bags stretch and expand to hold a lot more cargo (groceries, books, beach toys) than you might expect. The fabric seems to cradle the contents, which keeps items from shifting and reduces the chance of bruising fragile fruits and vegetables. Three styles are available. Pahk is all natural in color, while Noy adds black stripes and detailing along the seams. The Beach Bag has a multicolor sack and incorporates cotton on the shoulder strap for a softer feel.

No two are alike, but each Nature Bag is special. They’re sustainable in more ways than one. The raw materials are available in abundance, and every purchase helps to improve the quality of life for the Khmu people.
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Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Bill
    Bill

    I am looking forward to spending the next few hours with you answering questions regarding the Nature Bag Khmu/Lao Poverty Reduction Project, and hoping to convince you to try one or more of our remarkable Nature Bags. As it is night here (11 p.m.), I apologize in advance for any grogginess that might be transmitted along with my intended messages.

    We are flattered and excited to be featured on the Daily Grommet. Our mission is two-fold: 1) Poverty Reduction; 2) To link green-thinking people around the world to the Khmu tribe’s homemade organic sustainable reusable multi-purpose totes that have evolved from thousands of years of use in the steep mountainside jungles of Northern Laos.

    Our mission is bringing me incredible experiences and a feeling of fulfillment for being able to improve the lives of both our customers around the world and our Khmu partners. I’ve been using a Nature Bag virtually daily for more than five years, and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.

  • Kate
    Kate
    6/14/2010 12:13 PM

    This product has a very compelling story, thank you for sharing it! Bill, how many hours does it take to create one bag?

  • Dana
    Dana
    6/14/2010 12:24 PM

    How do transportation and environmental costs figure into the benefit of buying these bags?

  • Karen
    Karen
    6/14/2010 12:53 PM

    Hi. What a wonderful product! We are organic market gardeners in Oklahoma. How can I get these in a wholesale quantity to sell at our farmer's market stand? I know our customers would love bags and the story behind them.

  • Bill
    Bill
    6/14/2010 12:54 PM

    @ Kate

    One medium size Nature Bag takes about two weeks to make! The anti-poverty project labels them UltimateGreen™ because there is no cultivation and no manufacturing.

  • Bill
    Bill
    6/14/2010 1:03 PM

    @ Dana

    We use recyclable packaging, most shipping containers are made entirely of recycled material, and/or are Cradle To Cradle Certified® for their ecologically-intelligent design.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    6/14/2010 2:04 PM

    Bill - thank you for being in touch with us today. It's amazing to imagine you half way across the world with the people who create these bags. You are to be commended for your role in this project, thank you for helping to make it a reality!

    @Karen - what a great place to spread the story and sell these products. We will make sure that you get contacted personally.

  • Catherine
    Catherine
    6/14/2010 4:03 PM

    Has your group considered producing for sale written or visual documentation on the method of preparing the kudzu and art of creating the bags?

    As you are likely aware, we've got a 'bit of a problem' with kudzu in the SE United States. I can think of several different individuals and groups dedicated to hands-on traditional artisan practices who would jump at an opportunity to learn from the Khmu craftspeople and try their hand at creating the bags with locally available kudzu.

    Just thinking that classes/educational material might both provide an additional revenue stream and increase awareness for the program and about the Khmu people.

    Thank you, and every best wish for all your endeavors.

  • Bill
    Bill
    6/14/2010 4:52 PM

    @ Catherine - We thought about it and looked into it but currently there isn't a machine that can make the cord into a fiber. Maybe because the lightness of the fiber? It takes two weeks to make just one bag and the methods that the Khmu use are very time consuming and painstaking, but for them it is an aged old tradition and they enjoy the task very much!

    If ever there is a machine that can make it much faster and easier to create the fiber we will definitely set it up to have the kudzu here in the US made useful!

  • Catherine
    Catherine
    6/14/2010 7:19 PM

    @Bill --thank you for your reply. Believe it or not, the folks I'm thinking of wouldn't want to use a machine. For them, the value is in learning and attempting proficiency at an ancient art/craft. (my immediate circle includes, for example, felters, smelterers and weavers who work off primary source docs ranging back to very BCE)

    Should you ever have transcripts or video available for purchase, please do let the Grommet-fairies know & I will happily pass on the word (as I've already done about the bags themselves). Cheers!

  • Bill Newbrough
    Bill Newbrough
    4/13/2011 2:54 AM

    @Catherine: We actually have a mini-documentary that shows many of the processes used by the Khmu in making the Jungle Vine Cord and forming it into the Jungle Vine fabric that is the basis of the Nature Bag. You can see it on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5Ers6ouWJ0. The making of the straps is shown briefly in the video NatureBag 2010 also available on You Tube.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    4/13/2011 9:20 AM

    @Bill Newbrough: Thank you for stopping by with that information. I have embedded the video here. There is an unbelievable amount of work that goes into each of these bags.

The launch day conversation has ended. Please direct further questions about this Grommet to our Community Experience Team.