Bags to Riches

Wagz Bagz help “Reduce Your Pawprint” and benefit more than just the environment.


Boomer Jerritt
Boomer is a commercial photographer in the Comox Valley and has been photographing for InFocus Magazine since its inception close to 16 years ago. In that time he has taken the photos for more than 150 issues, psychotherapist shooting a wide variety of photographs covering all aspects of life in the Comox Valley. Boomer’s range of clientele includes not only a regional flavour but also provincial and national editorial magazines and tourism related imagery. To view Boomer’s stock site and commercial portfolio visit:



Laura Busheikin
Laura Busheikin loves writing for local media because it connects her to community. “Every time I write for InFocus, I learn things about where I live, I meet great people, and I see that the articles help build community by sharing local stories,” she says. “As a writer, I am helping weave the web of communication that keeps us strong, vibrant, and connected.”

Laura has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting out as co-editor of the Ubyssey Newspaper, progressing through freelance magazine writing and editing, and then moving into a long stint working in the non-profit sector. As well as magazine articles, she writes funding proposals, press releases, and other promotional copy. Laura is also a yoga teacher and an avid dancer, currently exploring Flamenco and Romany fusion styles. She lives on beautiful Denman Island with her family and pets.

Ryan Parton
Ryan Parton is a freelance writer and the proprietor of Ryan Parton Writing Solutions. A graduate with distinction of Concordia University’s School of Journalism in Montreal, Ryan relocated to the Comox Valley in 2002 and has no desire to ever live anywhere else. Ryan is well travelled and has a keen sense of adventure, although his idea of adventure is gradually shifting from traversing the wilds of exotic locales to overcoming the daily challenges of raising a toddler. He lives in Courtenay with his wife Sarah and his son Spencer.


Arran Kerrigan
Arran has a profusion of interests and writing about these experiences always provides her with a new perspective. Arran is especially passionate about environmental innovation, mountaineering, healthy living and social issues. She often loses herself in her research and resurfaces hours later amazed, enraged, motivated and hungry. Arran has an MA in English from the University of Aberdeen, where she organized her time so she could work part time, edit the university paper, vice captain the triathlon team, compete in triathlons all over the UK, organize climbing and cycling trips in Europe, sea-kayak, volunteer and attend classes full time. After graduating, she moved to the Comox Valley where she worked as an English instructor at the local college. She now works for a web design company, runs a professional organizing business, spends time with her daughter Sholeh, teaches running clinics with ELM, and spends any time left over with friends and nature.

Ian Lidster
Ian Lidster is a long time writer and newspaper journalist. Currently working as a freelancer, he began as a columnist for the old Comox District Free Press (the Green Sheet) in 1977. At that paper he was also a reporter and ultimately assistant editor until it folded in 1994. He then worked at the Comox Valley Echo as columnist, reporter and assistant editor. He has been a regular contributor to the Victoria Times-Colonist and has also freelanced to the Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province, the Sunday Times of London (England) and was a columnist for the Great Yarmouth Mercury in Great Yarmouth, England in 1981.

Ian has won a number of awards for his writing, including Canadian Columnist of the Year, and British Columbia Columnist of the Year, and the BC Attorney General’s Award for Crime Prevention Writing in 1999. Ian is a former secondary teacher of English and History, and is also a certified addictions counsellor and continues to work in that field part time.
Married to Wendy, Ian’s hobbies include reading, writing, painting, and especially travelling and he has a passionate love for the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

“The Wags Bagz project provides multiple benefits for everyone,” says Bill Weston, at Wagz with his dog Fergus and some of the products created by the Beaufort Association with the donated denim.

Last fall, Bill Weston, Darin Bellham and Wendy Scott, co-owners of Wagz Lifestyles for Dogs and Cats, were researching options and kicking around ideas about how they could provide their clients with truly environmentally responsible shopping bags.  Despite the myriad of commercial products on the market today, Weston says they just couldn’t find a shopping bag that met all of their criteria.  None were really “environmentally friendly.”

“I think it is fabulous that people are becoming more conscientious about the number of plastic bags that are ending up in the landfill,” says Weston, “but I can’t help but think that, in some ways, with some types of re-usable bags, we are simply substituting one problem product with another.  Sure, many people are reusing alternatives to plastic shopping bags more than ever.  The problem is that many of these ‘re-usable’ bags are still being manufactured using chemical products.  They are not very durable [so they don’t last that long] and they ultimately end up in a landfill where they will never decompose, along with thousands of traditional plastic bags.”

One day, it dawned on Weston that he was, quite literally, sitting on a potential gold mine—his blue jeans!  Denim fabric is made of cotton, which is a 100 per cent natural and completely biodegradable product.  And, since old blue jeans are a finished product, there would be no need to use any chemicals to “manufacture” the “raw materials” to make a line of reusable bags for use and sale at Wagz holistic and raw pet food and accessories store in Courtenay.

Weston knew that many people have old jeans they no longer wear but simply haven’t gotten around to recycling.  Perhaps the “spare” jeans are tattered and worn.  Maybe they are part of someone’s “One day I’m going to lose enough weight to fit in them again” wardrobe.  Perhaps they’re simply out of style.  Whatever the reason, he suspected that there could potentially be hundreds of used blue jeans stacked in closets in the Comox Valley.

Wagz Bagz

Bill Weston.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

“We decided that if we could get people to donate their old blue jeans, we could re-manufacture them into reusable, durable shopping bags,” says Weston.  “In doing so, it would be one way that we could reduce our environmental footprint… or, in the case of Wagz, our ‘pawprint.’
“We contacted the Beaufort Association to see if they would be interested in developing an innovative partnership with us. They were already supplying us with pet beds and dog coats made from recycled fabric, so we thought it would be a great way to expand on that program.”
Susan Bunn, executive director of the Courtenay-based Beaufort Association for the Mentally Handicapped, was thrilled with the concept. “Wagz Bagz was a project I knew our people would really enjoy,” she says.

The Beaufort Association’s Quest program offers a variety of services focusing on personal development and community involvement opportunities for adults with mental and physical challenges.  Sewing facilities were already in place, so the jean bag idea was a perfect fit.
Considering that Quest is all about empowering people with developmental and other ability challenges, the participants are not volunteers.  They are paid for their work. (They are, however, assisted by a team of several volunteers from the community.)  Quest provides the participants with a place to work on various projects, then guides and facilitates their activities with the appropriate training, equipment and support.

Recognizing the vital contribution that the Quest participants would be making for this project, the people at WAGZ made the decision to donate all proceeds from the sale of Wagz Bagz directly back to Beaufort.

Quest participants Brian, Danya, Leona, John, Rae, Mary, Deb, Dave and others would look after the majority of the cutting, sewing, serging, silk screening, ironing and quality control processes used in constructing Wagz Bagz.  Andy McDougall, silk screen guru of the Comox Valley, agreed to provide technical assistance with the intricate step of silk screening the fabric.  A two-color silk screen logo was designed and would be applied using non-toxic, biodegradable, water-based inks.

Weston says that the finished product is carefully constructed and expertly sewn to last for many years. The team at Beaufort has set up a production process that ensures that no scraps of cloth, seams, zippers or rivets are wasted.