Lee Flanagan is on a Mission to Better the World with Style

Flanagan has been featured on “Good Morning America” and “The View,” and her bags were included in the Grammys’ gift bag.

Lee Flanagan
Published June 27, 2024 9:26 AM
3 min read


You don’t need to lose your sense of style to have an impact.

That’s what Rye resident Lee Flanagan was thinking when she started her company, Pure Sage, which marries style and sustainability in reusable bags.

“One bag can replace up to 500 single use bags in a year,” Flanagan said. Pure Sage bags are made from recycled plastic bottles and “roll up into the size of a candy bar,” secured with a sage-green band.

Flanagan has received plenty of recognition for her innovation. She has been featured on “Good Morning America” and “The View,” and her bags were included in the Grammys’ gift bag.

How did she land such high-profile placements? Flanagan said she followed up and followed up again. Her persistence has now brought even more attention to Pure Sage; in September, she’ll be on the Today Show’s Steals & Deals.

Flanagan designs the patterns of the bags with a fabric designer in the garment district. She sells them in 11 different designs and in small, medium, and large sizes. There are indigo, natural, purple, and pink tote collections with different designs in each color. She also has a travel collection with packing cubes, laundry bags, zip pouches, and gear bags.

Flanagan, 56, has lived in Rye for 18 years. Before Pure Sage, she worked for various philanthropies while raising her two children in Rye. During that time, she became an investor in a company that made reusable bags and completely gave up single use bags. Intrigued, she began researching the reusable bag industry, which is how she found her manufacturer.

Flanagan works with a female-owned manufacturing company in Jordan; 90 percent of the employees are women, including many recent refugees. She creates the patterns and sends them to her manufacturer in Jordan. The recycled polyester is made in China and sent to Jordan, where the bags are made and then sent to New York.

“I thought there was really an opportunity for a company like Pure Sage that would appeal to people who want to live stylishly, but want to live more sustainably,” Flanagan said. “It’s like the water bottle. You have a water bottle, you have a reusable bag in your purse, those are the two easiest things you can do every day to be a little bit kinder to our planet.”

Flanagan was exposed to the business world at a young age. Her parents ran a medical products business in Syracuse that had been started by her grandparents. Flanagan grew up traveling with her parents for business, seeing what happens behind-the-scenes, and learning what it takes to run a company. Flanagan and her sister were the third generation of women to take over their family business.

When Flanagan and her sister sold their business in 1997, she moved to New York and got her Masters’ in Public Administration at Columbia University. During her time at Columbia, she took a social entrepreneurship course that stuck with her. She finished the class thinking, “If I could be anything, I would be a social entrepreneur.” She wanted to be in the business world, but wanted to do something that “contributed to the social good or solved a societal problem.”

And she is making that happen.

“I would love to sell a lot of bags to a lot of people and replace a lot of plastic and single use paper bags,” she said. She thinks America should take note of the European model. “On average, Europeans use four single use bags a year, and in America, people use one a day.

“Everybody wants to do better,” Flanagan said.

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