By: Irene Little
“Give our school a chance to win $10,000 worth of solar panels. Take part in the Reusable Bag Challenge. Bring your own bags to all the stores in town and have them counted,” says Irene Little, co-chair of the League of Women Voters and Community Recycling Committee.
The Reusable Bag Challenge is now in full swing. On March 1, 2009 CAST (the Colorado Association of Ski Towns) started the challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to see which community can reduce the per capita use of plastic bags the most. Thirty-one mountain communities in three states have joined the effort.
In Estes Park businesses and organizations have agreed to tally all the reusable bags that people bring into their stores. By far, Safeway customers bring the most reusable bags. In May alone Safeway tallied almost 10,000 reusable bags. Since Safeway refunds five cents for every reusable bag utilized, what more incentive do we need to bring our own? Leaving them in the car or at home does not help. The other businesses involved in the challenge are the Local Roots Co-op, Rocky Mountain Nature Association, the Estes Park Public Library, A la Carte, Sphere of Influence, True Value and Lizzie’s Boutique. Country Market, Earthwood Artisans and Rocky Mountain Pharmacy are also planning to tally bags.
The other communities range from Carbondale, CO to Haily, ID and include Gunnison, Telluride, Aspen, Mountain Village, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Silverthorne, Dillon, Breckenridge, Frisco, Granby, Winter Park, Fraser, Avon, Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte, Durango, Eagle, Edwards, Estes Park, Grand Lake, Gypsum, Silverton, Steamboat Springs, Gunnison and Vail. Jackson Hole, WY, Park City, UT, Sun Valley, Ketchum, Haily and Bellevue, ID are also part of the challenge. I am sure our citizens are going to be best in being good to our environment and use reusable bags!
Since March, the Estes Park stores have logged the use of almost 27,000 reusable bags. The organizers of the challenge estimate that since the launch of the Challenge on March 1st, participating towns have eliminated an estimated 792,000 disposable shopping bags. Wonderful! It is only a minor part of all the plastic bags that are handed out, but it is a start. The Estes Park Safeway store alone gives out over two million plastic bags yearly! And where do most of these plastic bags end-up? In our landfills, our trees and in our oceans. The oceans now have large floating islands of plastic and garbage that are the size of Texas! Environmental concerns around issues of litter and of the degradation of resources are the primary impetus behind the CAST Challenge. In the U.S alone, the annual production of disposable grocery bags emits nearly four million tons of CO2-equivalent. An estimated four billion (that’s billion!) plastic bags worldwide end up as litter every year-enough that tied end to end, the bags could circle the Earth 63 times! The time has come to stop this trashing of our planet.
The winner of the CAST Reusable Bag challenge will receive solar panels for its public school. Alpine Bank and PCL Construction Services will donate $10,000 toward a solar panel installation in the winning town. In addition, Independent Power Systems of Boulder Colorado has generously offered to provide the parts and labor for the solar panel system at cost.
In part because of the benefit to the school, the students and parents of school children have become involved in the challenge. The elementary school children decorated canvas bags for Mother’s Day. The high school art students decorated a large poster about the challenge for display in Safeway and the PTO parents are very interested in getting more stores involved in the challenge.
Plastic bags can be recycled. However, the market for all recyclables has crashed—another victim of the world-wide economic downturn. Right now, Larimer County is stockpiling the collected recyclables that cannot be sold. That cannot go on forever. You can help. Bring your own bag and reduce the amount of trash/recyclables!
Editor’s Note: Estes Park News wishes to be part of this Bag Challenge and is giving away a free EP News reuseable shopping bag (one per family please) to those who come into our office at 166 S. St. Vrain and ask for a free bag. We love being part of going green and making the world a better place for everyone!