Kate Fleming stands outside Mothers Nature’s Market and Deli in Cook Street Village where Karebags are available for customers after the City banned single-use plastic bags July 1. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Kate Fleming stands outside Mothers Nature’s Market and Deli in Cook Street Village where Karebags are available for customers after the City banned single-use plastic bags July 1. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Victoria’s plastic bag ban inspires local entrepreneur to give back

Karebags a local, collaborative alternative for reusable bags, donates profits to charity

There are as many opinions about the City of Victoria’s ban on plastic bags as there are old carry-all’s stuffed under the sink from last week’s grocery run.

What there isn’t a ton of, however, are local entrepreneurs providing solutions that not only help the average shopper, but give back to the community at the same time.

RELATED: Victoria first B.C. municipality to adopt plastic bag ban

The first thing Kate Fleming thought upon hearing about the ban – which took effect July 1 – was retailers are going to need an alternative to meet the guidelines of the new bylaw.

So she launched Karebags, a “wholesale reusable bag company with a conscience,” back in April and the first shipment sold out entirely.

Fifteen per cent of the sale of each bag is donated to a local charity, and Fleming first chose Bridges for Women. Karebags will select a new organization every two months, “so the love can spread around a bit,” she says.

Courtesy Karebags

“What helps us to stand apart is that we’re a local company and I’ve had the opportunity to actually get out into the community and meet with these small retailers,” says Fleming, a recent graduate of the bachelor of commerce in entrepreneurial management at Royal Roads University.

Working part-time at the Victoria Women in Need Community co-operative, Fleming is much more at ease in the non-profit realm, and “feels foreign in the world of business” but Karebags perfectly blends the two.

In a cheerful hue somewhere between sea foam and teal, she has designed four different product lines that range in pricing and fabric styles including polypropylene, cotton and polyester.

“No one fabric is perfect and it has to do a little with the customer’s preference,” she explains. “As we grow, [we’re] making sure we have that end of life plan for the product.”

RELATED: BC Supreme Court rules in favour of Victoria’s plastic bag ban

Businesses can choose to have their logo printed on the bags, there are no minimum orders, and special deals are available for trial runs. Fleming was also conscious of her wholesale price to keep in line with the $1 to $2 limit retailers are required to charge customers.

“If we’re talking about reducing waste and putting the right product out in the marketplace, they need to be tested by the businesses and work for the businesses so they’re not just stored in a warehouse somewhere collecting dust,” she says.

Fleming anticipates the steps Victoria has taken to eliminate plastics will soon be the norm in cities across the province.

“The single-use plastic bag: its time is up.”

To learn more about Karebags, visit them online at Karebags.ca or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


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