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Faces of Manufacturing: Eco-Baggeez

Meet Eco-Baggeez LLC

Eco-Baggeez LLC is a Cazenovia startup that produces sandwich bags made of sustainable natural brown kraft paper. The bags are biodegradable, recyclable, compostable, microwavable, resealable and 100 percent sourced and made in the USA.

“None of our competitors can make all those claims,” said Elizabeth Race, owner of Eco-Baggeez. Race’s goal is to make a difference for consumers and the planet.

“Did you know that each year 97 billion plastic sandwich bags end up in landfills, waterways and oceans from US households alone and those bags take an average of 50 years to biodegrade?” she said. “Eco-Baggeez are designed to put a dent into that by offering the consumer an alternative that is not only better for the planet but that fits their lifestyle.”

From Busy Mom to Entrepreneur

It was Race’s own lifestyle that spurred the idea for Eco-Baggeez. She was a mom, working as a teaching assistant for the local elementary school. One day it dawned on her just how many plastic bags her family was using and discarding every year. She set out in search of alternatives.

“This was years ago and back then it was mostly reusables—hard plastic or glass,” she said. “Those weren’t anything that fit our lifestyle as a family. We were just so busy. The kids were in sports and other activities, and we were involved in the community. We didn’t have time to wash these things out every night and get them ready for the next day.” Over the next decade—during which she moved from teaching assistant to computer tech specialist for Cazenovia Central Schools—Race worked to create the solution she had been unable to find.

“I was researching and developing all kinds of materials and actually formulating this product,” she said. “I would come home from my full-time job and work late at night to move this thing down the field. I paid for everything as I went along. That’s one of the reasons it took 10 years.”

What Race designed was a bag with pleated sides and an adhesive flap, made from natural materials that are not only environmentally friendly but able to absorb moisture, fat and grease.

Doing Good

In 2016, Race was one of 20 green technology innovators from around the world invited to present her product to political and business leaders in Washington, DC. Her fellow inventors told her how difficult it was to find someone to make their product in the U.S. Soon after, she would learn this for herself.

Her goal was to contract with one manufacturer who would make the bags from start to finish, but that proved cost prohibitive. She found a company in Illinois to produce the bags alone and contracted with The Arc of Madison-Cortland to apply the adhesive, package the bags, prepare them for shipment and act as Eco-Baggeez’s shipping and receiving warehouse.

“I was very lucky to find The Arc since they were willing to work with me and make a go of it,” she said. “Plus, it supported my mission of doing good for the planet while doing good for the people on the planet.” It was June of 2019 that Race decided all the pieces were in place to leave the school district and officially launch Ego-Baggeez. Her daughter, a recent college graduate, signed on as director of marketing and sales. The bags found their way onto some store shelves and things were going fine until COVID hit.

“Our product is designed to transport food from home to school or work and people weren’t going to school or work,” she said. “We had to figure out not only how we would survive but how we could we make a difference and help during that time even if we couldn’t sell our product.”

The decision was made to donate 500,000 Eco-Baggeez to school districts statewide, for use in providing lunches to needy children. Meanwhile, the company began selling online, through Amazon and GreenPaperProducts.com, and “that really was what saved us” as people who found the bags became return customers.

The Next Level

Race’s daughter has since left the company for another opportunity, leaving Elizabeth Race a one-woman company with some contract help. But she is not alone. Eco-Baggeez is a member of the Tech Garden, a Syracuse-based technology incubator, and works with the Technology Development Organization (TDO), the MEP Center serving Central New York. In November 2021, Eco-Baggeez was a $50,000 winner in FuzeHub’s Commercialization Competition, part of the Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund. This gave the company the resources it needed to expand its product line to include larger bags, a necessary part of an effort to attract national grocery store chains, wholesalers and other key customers.

The FuzeHub grant—along with FuzeHub’s Marketing Services—are also making it possible for Race to update her branding—developing more cohesive marketing materials and redesigning her packaging. “So, with the money from the Jeff Lawrence Fund we are going to have two different sizes and a totally new look, so I am very excited,” she said. “I think the new box will be easy to spot from a distance on a grocery store shelf. It also makes it very clear what product is even if you are looking at it online.”

That is not all that may be changing. Because of the rising cost of wood pulp, Race has been working with SUNY College of Environmental Services and Forestry (ESF) to find alternative materials from which to make her bags. “I thought maybe we could come up with something that is still sustainable, still plant-based, but not wood,” she said. “So, I am working with ESF on what we could be in the future that would still do the same thing but with a slightly different material that will keep the costs low for the everyday consumer.” Meanwhile, Race is seeking financial partners to help the company reach its full potential. “We’re looking for investors who would be willing to come in and have the same mission we do,” she said. “Then we could move to the next level and begin manufacturing our bags ourselves.”

Comments

1 thought on “Faces of Manufacturing: Eco-Baggeez”

  1. I’m interested in your product. I am a package designer and developing reseller on Long Island, NY. I follow and service many of Stonybrook Universities start-ups, including;
    Bio- nutritional, bio- research, personal health and technology companies. We serve as manufacturers reps, in New England and in the NY metro. Area.

    My company , located in Acra, NY is Product Resourcrs Corp.

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