It’s easy to be green in an environmentally conscious city like Denver. With our numerous farm-to-table restaurants, free recycling, and bike-friendly thoroughfares, it’s actually hard not to. One little thing that makes a big difference is switching to reusable shopping bags (but you already knew that).

If you’re like me, you have a stack of those bags: in your car, in the pantry, holding stacks of magazines in your office—you get the picture. But let’s face it: Even those bags are, more often than not, mass-produced eye sores with some shameless logo plastered on the side. Recently, though, I found a fabric bag I could get excited about.

Enter Mission Wear. I discovered their products while waiting for a latte at Wash Perk. Made from burlap coffee sacks, advertising banners and scrap fabric, these bags are super durable and—wait for it—fashionable conversation starters. What’s even better is that by purchasing their products, you’re supporting a small nonprofit and creating jobs in our community.

Mission Wear employs hard-to-hire women (such as women with felonies) to teach them sewing skills and create a transitional space for them to enter the workforce. Beth Mcwhirter started the company in 2006 after mentoring a woman named Carrie through Open Door Ministries. “That’s their main obstacle to getting off the street is finding a job,” Mcwhirter says. “It’s just too easy for them to go back out there if they can’t make money.”

Mission Wear isn’t just bags, either. They offer several other products like placemats, aprons, wallets, and, my personal favorite, reusable snack bags. “We have some relationships with people in town, so we have a lot of interior design fabric, and we get banners from DCPA,” Mcwhirter says. (Check out this messenger bag fashioned from a Wicked banner.)

Mission Wear employs five to eight women at a time. They work out of a small studio in Denver with seven industrial sewing machines. “Quite frankly it’s difficult to find girls that sew,” Mcwhirter says. “We are always looking for seamstresses, and we don’t care if they have a felony. In fact, that’s who we want to give the opportunity to.”

Get Involved: Find out more or donate to Mission Wear’s cause here.

—Image courtesy of Mission Wear