Books Fearless Females and Courageous Women Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Saving the Planet One Less Plastic Bag at a Time

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Fats here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

In celebration of Earth Month and our theme, Fearless Females and Courageous Women, I’m sharing a picture book about Isatou Ceesay, a woman from Njau, Gambia who transformed her village and inspired other women to build a cleaner and more beautiful community. In this post, I included images from the book, pictures of Isatou Ceesay with the author and other Gambian women, a step-by-step video on how to recycle plastic bags, and many more.


One Plastic Bag:
Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Author: Miranda Paul
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher: Millbrook Press (2015)
ISBN-10: 1467716081
ISBN-13: 978-1467716086

According to the timeline included in the book, plastic bags became a serious problem in Gambian villages during 1980s-1990s. People would drop plastic bags on the ground until the bags piled up and trashed the cities. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.


Years pass and Isatou grows into a woman. She barely notices the ugliness growing around her… until the ugliness finds its way to her.

The plastic bag problem was so serious in Gambia that even plants and animals were affected. Many goats in the village had died because they were feeding on the plastic bags. Gardens couldn’t grow in soil filled with trash. People in the villages tried getting rid of the bags by openly burning them, something that is dangerous to one’s health and the environment.


In an effort to clean up her community, Isatou plucked plastic bags from trash piles and took them home. Isatou and her friends washed the bags, dried them, cut them into strips, and crocheted them into bags. Other people made fun of Isatou and her friends but they pressed on, knowing that they were doing it for a good cause.


In 1998, with the help of Peace Corps volunteer Peggy Sedlak, Isatou and her friends formed the Njau Recycling and Income Generating Group (NRIGG). Four years later, Isatou became assistant technical trainer for environment for the U.S. Peace Corps in Gambia. In 2014, NRIGG was incorporated as a registered nonprofit organization and renamed Gambia Women’s Initiative.


Curious on how to turn plastic bags into purses? Let Isatou Ceesay be your guide! Images of finished products and pictures of Isatou Ceesay were also included. All images were taken from various online sources.




Three months ago, I was introduced to New Life for Old Bags (NLOB) by my friend and former co-worker Ruth Werstler Fishter. She added me to the NLOB Ohio group on Facebook. When the Wayne County Public Library held a program for “Crafting for a Cause,” Ruth was given the opportunity to talk about NLOB and invite people to join the cause.

New Life for Old Bags (NLOB) is a collaboration of folks of all ages and abilities to make mats for the homeless out of used plastic bags. My heart goes out to the volunteers and other folks who continue to provide “new life” to plastic bags by putting them to good use and donating them to homeless people. If you think what they’re doing is cool, check out the amazing mats below! Images were taken from the Facebook page of NLOB and NLOB Ohio.


Wondering how you can help recycle plastic bags?
Check out some links below!

Earth 911 answers frequently asked questions about plastic bag recycling, provides a description of different plastic materials, and locates a recycling center near you!

Do you live in Ohio? Join the NLOB Ohio group on Facebook. For inquiries, you may send an email to!

Do you know how to crochet? Are you interested in sharing your skills and joining the NLOB cause? Join the NLOB group on Facebook or email Find an NLOB group near you or start a small one!

5 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Saving the Planet One Less Plastic Bag at a Time

  1. Wow! What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing the pictures of New Life for Old Bags along with this. Fascinating.


  2. I know the book you’ve shared, Fats, thought it was amazing, and the illustrations beautiful. But thanks also for sharing about the mats. What creativity in both these stories! I don’t use plastic bags, carry others with me always, and wonder why so many at the store continue to fill their carts with groceries in the bags. Reusable ones are available everywhere! Thanks for the great post!


  3. I really enjoyed this book, but loved the additional resources you provided! Thanks for adding the additional information.


  4. annettepimentel

    My ten year old daughter has been so inspired by this book. We have many cut-up plastic bags around the house and little crocheted plastic bag swatches. She’s not at the skill level of these wonderful examples you show, but time will tell…


  5. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Cleaning Up One’s Community One Crocheted Coin Purse At A Time – Gathering Books

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