Tue, Jul 10, 2007 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Environmentalists pan `eco-friendly' bag

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ho Tsung-hsun, left, head of an environmental advocacy group, tells Jason Tsai, a representative of Breeze Center, yesterday that the mall should use the phrase ``eco-friendly'' as a means of safeguarding the environment, not just selling products.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Environmentalists gathered at the entrance of the Breeze Center in Taipei yesterday morning, criticizing the shopping mall over its handling of the sale of Anya Hindmarch's eco-friendly bags last Friday.

Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), secretary general of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union and organizer of the protest, said the fashion company should also be held responsible for the chaos last week.

"Given that hundreds of customers have already lined up in front of the store the night before the sale, the company should have marked a clear route for the line to move smoothly and peacefully," he said. "Their marketing strategy is definitely eco-unfriendly."

Ho also said that the company could have done better than simply tell the public that "It's Not a Plastic Bag" -- the slogan printed on the front of the Anya Hindmarch bags.

He said that consumers have no way of telling how the bag was made, or whether the manufacturing process was as eco-friendly as it claimed.

Carrying dozens of plain, eco-friendly shopping bags with them, Ho and representatives from other nongovernmental organizations demanded a chance to speak with the fashion company's agents in Taiwan, but they were stopped at the entrance by the mall's security guards.

Yesterday's protest was but a reflection of the growing dissatisfaction among environmentalists over the issue of protecting the environment.

For Sandra Peng (彭渰雯), representative of the Taiwan Environmental Action Network, the stampede outside the Anya Hindmarch stores last Friday was hard to forget.

"I was speechless when I saw people fighting for the eco-friendly shopping bags on TV," she told the Taipei Times. "I was thinking -- `Well, if only the same number of enthusiasts were committed to protecting the environment.'"

While Peng agreed that the public should be informed about the urgent need for environmental protection, she noted the fundamental conflict that exists between encouraging consumption and preserving the environment.

"I really doubt that anyone bought the bag for the sake of protecting the Earth," she said, adding that she was aware that some bought the bags in hopes of selling them later at a higher price.

The fact that anyone would spend NT$500 to show that he or she is an eco-friendly shopper is something Lim Hak-yan (林學淵), executive director of Taiwan Agenda 21, cannot understand.

"Do you know how many eco-friendly shopping bags I have in my house? More than 20," he said, adding that they were all given free under various occasions.

Lim said his shopping bags were made from various materials -- from used plastic bottles to other biodegradable substance.

"To be honest, I think it [the sale] was all part of a marketing strategy to encourage buying," he said. "It had nothing to do with environmental protection."

Like Ho, Lim also questioned if the company had informed consumers how the bag was produced and whether a portion of the revenue generated from the bag's sales would be used to sponsor other environmental protection campaigns.

Eight buyers were injured while struggling to get one of the bags.

The bags are available in limited quantities worldwide. Less than 1,000 were appropriated for sales in Taiwan last Friday.

On the same day, chaos also marred sales of the bags in Hong Kong. News reports showed that although the stores had informed the waiting customers that all bags had been sold, many refused to leave and vowed to stay in line until they got one.

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