By Reina Rago
Marlborough Public Schools
Marlborough – Thirty-four years later, Bonnie Combs, a 1983 graduate from Marlborough High School, visited Roberta Garcia-Collins, her sewing teacher. Combs called the high school to inquire if the sewing program was still offered since she wanted to thank Collins for fueling her passion to help save the planet.
Relieved to learn that she was still teaching sewing to students, especially since many schools no longer offer this course, Combs visited Collins.
“I wanted to connect with Mrs. Collins to personally thank her for teaching me valuable sewing skills that have allowed me to sew reusable shopping bags out of different materials,” stated Combs. “It’s important for me to give back to my greater community, so I offered to spend time with Mrs. Collins’ students and teach them how to also make reusable shopping bags.”
After meeting Combs, it’s easy to catch the “green mission bug.” Her commitment to challenge the habits of a “single-use society that is out of control,” are contagious. Recently, she delivered her passion to a group of Collins’ sewing students and spent an afternoon teaching them how to sew reusable bags out of plastic seed, feed and grain bags. The students were fascinated by Comb’s personal story and mission and quickly revved up their sewing machines to create reusable bags.
Combs’s mantra is “We can save the planet one bag at a time.”
Combs caught her “green mission bug” at Whole Foods where she worked for 15 years in the area of marketing and community relations. Today she is the marketing director for the Blackstone Heritage Corridor where she drives programs to eliminate the “plastic ocean” and save watersheds. Spouting dramatic facts from ecowatch.com, Combs shared, “It is now estimated that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean; 100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement…approximately one million sea birds also die from ingesting plastic. Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year and they are only used an average of 15 minutes. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year. It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.”
Hearing these alarming facts, Collins’ students shut off their sewing machines to listen to Comb’s powerful message.
In addition to demonstrating how to create reusable bags out of plastic, Combs also showed the students how to create aprons, smocks, pouches, and even t-shirts out of plastic. Within less than an hour, Collins’ students each had created an attractive reusable bag.
“My goal is to pass on my passion to children and students and to reduce our negative impact on the world. We have to rethink everything we do and use,” Combs stressed.
Proudly smiling at her former student and her current students at Marlborough High School, Collins said, “Ms. Combs has tremendous passion, and passion is always contagious.”
Marlborough Public Schools is grateful to Collins and Combs for their dedication to teaching students valuable skills that can change the world, one bag at a time.