A local entrepreneur has found a second, more eco-friendly use for the constantly changing poster billboards that can be seen along the freeway. They also make fashionable tote bags.
Veronica Aguirre-Kolb, owner of dazzleVdesigns, said she has been sending samples of her bags to Santa Barbara-area businesses in the hopes that others take notice of upcycling, a type of recycling that finds alternative uses for materials already deemed as waste.
The 32-year-old Santa Barbara native said the tote bags are perfect for carrying groceries, a possible substitute for the plastic-based reusable bags being sold at other stores.
As a full-time senior yoga instructor at Bikram Yoga Santa Barbara, Aguirre-Kolb also has come up with what she calls “grodi” bags, which are designed with an anti-mildew interior to tote around sweaty — and often smelly — workout clothes.
Aguirre-Kolb said living so close to the Pacific Ocean has helped her focus on the goal of keeping the water from becoming the world’s next landfill.
“I’m trying to encourage shops in town,” Aguirre-Kolb told Noozhawk. “Upcycling makes it so we’re already using trash. We can’t totally eliminate plastic. I just want people to know about the upcycling.”
Aguirre-Kolb founded dazzleVdesigns five years ago as a freelance floral designer and decided to add the eco-friendly, bag-making component 2½ years later.
She spent a year researching to find the best material, which she buys online from a Philadelphia-based company and then takes to Mama Bears in Goleta so local seamstresses can clean and then measure and cut the billboards into bags.
Aguirre-Kolb said some surfboard companies use the same upcycled material to hold dingy, heavy wetsuits.
She has been working with her alma mater, Bishop Garcia Diego High School, to help promote and use the tote bags, which cost $15 and are available to purchase online. The grodi bags, which are $25, have been selling out more quickly.
Aguirre-Kolb said businesses have the option of swapping out her dazzleVdesigns logo for their own.
She hopes to eventually turn a profit, but mostly she said she’s making the upcycling push because someone should.
“This is the smallest thing I can do, but it’s something,” Aguirre-Kolb said. “I’m doing my best for the ocean.”