ADAMS — The old Firehouse Cafe on Park St. was bustling with activity on Sunday afternoon as half a dozen people stood around a work table making reusable shopping bags.
It's part of The Bagshare Project, a statewide challenge to make an easier transition for towns like Adams that are moving away from plastic bags.
"We want to make 8,400 reusable bags for Adams by Earth Day, April 22," said Leni Fried. "That's one bag for each of the 8,400 residents in town."
Adams residents passed anti-plastic bag ordinance unanimously at town meeting on June 20, 2016. The bylaw goes into effect on Mar. 30. Fried and her Bagshare partner Patricia Fietta are working with the town to have local businesses and groups contribute 120 bags apiece to make the goal of 8,400.
"So far we have 15 organizations contributing," Fietta said.
Fried started the Bagshare Project in 2007 in nearby Cummington as a response to the 49,000 paper bags used annually at The Old Creamery store.
"This is the tenth anniversary of the bagshare," Fried said. "15,000 bags have been sewn from scrap fabric by volunteers."
On Sunday, employees of Bishop West Real Estate worked on making their 120 bags under the guidance of Fried and Fietta.
The process is simple, Fried said. You start with a sturdy bag — an animal feedbag or a barley bag from any one of a number of local breweries — and open the bag over the back of a chair. Then, you use a "bag pusher," a large wooden clip invented by Fried's husband Mike Augspurger, to fold the bag in on itself and create a double layer. Then the bag is shaped.
"It's amazing what they can do with feed bags," said Bishop West's Hinsdale office manager Barbara Osborne as she stapled the corners of a new bag to the sides, "boxing" the bag's bottom lining.
Next up is the bag's handles. They're made with farming irrigation drip tape.
Fried said Augspurger went through a number of different materials before he decided on the irrigation strips. There are miles and miles of it in landfills, she said, because farmers lay it at the beginning of planting season and must dispose of it if the tape gets holes in it or blocked up with sediment.
"It blows me away they thought to use it," said Peter West, one of the team working at the firehouse.
The handles are attached with grommets, metal rings that create eyelets for rope or thread to go through thin material. The Firehouse has two grommet presses for bag making.
"We went through a number of solutions to putting in the handles," Fried said. "The grommets worked best."
Grommets are also used to fix the bags' bottoms together on the side or at the tail on barley or feed bags respectively.
And with that, the bag is completed.
The project is seeking more organizations to contribute 120 bags each to meet the goal of 8,400 bags by April 22.
"We need 50 more groups to complete the challenge!" Fried wrote in a follow up email on Sunday.
Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-496-6236 or @BE_EoinHiggins.