Have you ever felt depressed by all the bags that people use, day after day, and how many of them get loose in the environment? Plastic bags are high-count items each year in the California Coastal Cleanup. We’ve all all seen bags littering our parks and blown up against highway fencing.
Redwood Landfill, the final resting place for garbage from Marin and Sonoma Counties, has an employee dedicated full-time simply to patroling the property and recovering plastic bags and other plastic packaging that has gotten loose!
The average Californian, according to the Integrated Waste Management Board, throws away about 552 plastic bags a year. This may seem like a small number — less than 2 a day — but when you add up the numbers that we all use together, the amount is overwhelming: 19 billion plastic bags per year in California, or 600 bags per second.
But you may also have wondered, “What good is it for me alone to stop throwing away bags?” The answer is: it’s a good start, and let’s get everyone else involved. That’s what Bring Your Own Bag Day is about, on Saturday, December 19, 2009.
What is BRING YOUR OWN BAG DAY?
It’s a joint project of the County of Marin, EcoMom Alliance, Green Sangha, iReuse.com, and Teens Turning Green, in conjunction with Day Without a Bag, an action by Heal the Bay, Earth Resource Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, and others.
It’s a day dedicated to raising community awareness and showing how we all can reduce waste, clean up our streets and parks, and eliminate toxic inputs from our lives – simply by bringing our own bags.
What’s the goal?
- Stores will measurably reduce the number of bags they give away on Saturday, December 19.
- Customers will develop the habit of bringing their own reusable bags instead of counting on costly, environmentally-polluting single-use bags.
- Eventually, we will see elimination of free bags every day of the year – saving stores money and conserving precious resources.
How can stores and markets get involved?
Participating businesses can:
- Proclaim BYOB Day through signs outside stores, displays at check-out counters, in-house newsletter messages, PA announcements, and checker scripts. Green Sangha has provided sample text and scripts, and a customized message that Safeway will broadcast in all their Marin County stores is copied below.
- Make reusable bags available and prominently displayed at their check-out counters. In Marin County, the JPA on Hazardous and Solid Waste has already given away 10,000 canvas tote bags. They will donate even more on Saturday.
- Give a generous credit for each reusable bag a customer brings (10-15 cents); add a surcharge on all non-reusable bags that the store dispenses (we suggest a minimum of 25 cents, to catch customers’ attention and reinforce the point).
- Join our working group of businesses, civic officials, and eco-activists to work on the proposed county ordinance to ban single-use shopping bags and to make BYOBag a daily reality.
Participating stores in Marin County include: Delano’s, Good Earth, J. Crew, Marin Farmers’ Markets, Mill Valley Farmers’ Market, Mill Valley Market, Mollie Stone’s, Nordstrom, Palace Market, Safeway, Whole Foods, Woodlands Market. Municipalities that have issued official proclamations include the County of Marin, City of San Rafael, and the Town of San Anselmo.
Here’s what Safeway is putting on their loudspeaker announcement in every Marin County store on Saturday:
“Good Morning Safeway Shoppers…just a reminder that today (Saturday) is Bring Your Own Bag Day – a special community project brought to you by the County of Marin and a number of other local nonprofits. Safeway is proud to be participating in this event and we will be giving away one free reusable bag to our first 250 customers today! We are doing this at all of our stores in Marin County.
“It’s also a good opportunity to remind you that Safeway does sell re-useable bags and we have a number of types to choose from. Come take a look at our checkout counter and complement your purchases today by buying a few additional re-useable bags.”
When I brought my reusable produce bags into Safeway (Redwood City) a few days ago, I noticed on the receipt some 1 penny reductions in charge, plus 1 5 cent reduction, meaning they are giving credits for both grocery bags and reused produce bags.
Haven’t done any publicity for BYOB day but I’m giving my office white elephant gift in a cloth bag instead of wrapper.
That’s great news about Safeway in Redwood City. They’re giving away free bags at every Marin store on Saturday, and we’re hoping they’ll expand the action to all of the Bay Area. If you have a moment next time you’re there, do express your gratitude to the manager. They love to hear our compliments — like rain to a thirsty garden. (Who doesn’t appreciate being appreciated?)
The White Elephant gift idea is of course a Zero Waste practice itself. A Green Elephant wrapping fits the moment like a glove!