Like Acela Trains? You Can Buy Bags Made From Their Leather Seats

Oct 17, 2018

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Your next commuter bag has probably traveled more miles than you have.

Earlier this summer, Amtrak began updating the interiors of its Acela Express trains in anticipation of the next-generation Acela fleet, which becomes active in 2021. The Acela Express runs along the northeast corridor between Boston and Washington, DC with stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. The renovation process will involve replacing the leather on all 6,080 Acela Express seats. But instead of discarding the decade-old seat covers, the train company repurposed the leather toward a more sustainable solution, partnering up with non-profit designer People for Urban Progress (PUP) to design a line of handmade leather bags.

The first batch of Amtrak leather bags range from $75 to $385 in price. Image courtesy of People for Urban Progress.

The limited edition line of handmade travel gear will retail between $75 and $750, launching in small batches each month throughout the coming year until the leather runs out. The first items available are the Agent Backpack, the Passenger Tote, and the Dispatch Dopp Kit, which prominently feature the signature slate blue leather of the Acela Express seats.

The process of repurposing the seat leather includes separating the leather from the foam seat, dry-cleaning the leather utilizing an environmentally friendly process, then cutting the leather and restitching it to create each product. All told, there should be enough upcycled leather to make 2,500 bags in total.

“One of the main objectives of this Upcycling project is to divert as much waste from landfills as possible,” said PUP senior sustainability manager Kara Angotti. The non-profit is known for repurposing dated infrastructure into reusable material: in 2008, PUP upcycled the roof of the RCA Dome, previously the home of the Indianapolis Colts, using the materials to design a series of wallets, handbags and other goods. PUP has also transformed baseball stadium seats into bus stops and public seating around the city of Indianapolis.

Featured photo courtesy of People for Urban Progress.

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