Ask Eartha Steward: Bring your own bag! |

Ask Eartha Steward: Bring your own bag!

Eartha Steward
High Country Conservation Center

How many reusable bags do you own? Right now, I’m at about 30. This bag fetish started seven years ago when I bought my first canvas bag at Smoky Mountain National Park. From there it has grown into 10 or so Chico bags that I store in my car, a handful of souvenir bags (from all my favorite places) that float from my house to my car, and of course, the stylish bags that I fold up and keep in my handbag at all times.

So as you can see, these days it’s pretty hard to forget my reusable bags when I shop. I have a confession though: It wasn’t always easy, and several plastic bags have been sacrificed over the years to get to this point.

I remember times when I would get all the way to the cash register, pay for my items, and glance over to see them bagged in plastic. The guilt would quickly set in and I would say, “Next time.”

I passed that stage to remembering seconds earlier, when I load my groceries on the check-out conveyer belt. It was still too late to run out to the car, but at least I could refuse the plastic bags. Refusing a bag is also a great alternative to using.

Mr. Steward has seen me break down in the check-out line more than once as I scheme on how to get our groceries to the car bag-free. As the crazy anti-bag lady, I’ve packed over 30 items in my cart, repacked them in the car, and watched them roll all over the back seat all the way home. You would think that would teach me to remember my bags!

Over the weeks, I moved from stage to stage. I finally developed a system where I rotated the bags from car to store to house to car. I left bags hanging on my front door to remind me to put them back into my car after unloading groceries. This worked! Before I knew it, it was habit. If I forgot them in my car, a reminder of plastic bags from other shoppers leaving the store would motivate me to grab my bags.

We’re all human so mistakes, forgetting, laziness ” it’s all part of life. As creatures of habit, it takes some dedication to break them. I’m telling you though, if there was ever a habit to break, it’s the single-use plastic bag habit.

Americans are plastic bag junkies. We’ve become so dependent on plastic bags for storage, groceries, garbage, dog poop, etc. that we feel we need to hoard them from the grocery stores. I’d love to get rid of plastic bags altogether, but it’s not feasible ” not yet at least. For now, we’re just asking that if you must use plastic bags, you use them wisely.

Reduce your use by bringing your own bags when you shop or refusing a plastic bag when you have a few items to carry. It’s amazing what your reusable bag impact can do for our county and the environment. One reusable bag has the potential to stop the waste of 1,000 plastic bags in its lifetime. That is huge.

Plastic bags are a consumption problem. Recycling and reusing aren’t the answers. In most cases plastic bags end up in our landfills. If Americans are using on average 500 to 700 plastic bags in one year, think of the waste you will prevent if you choose to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bags).

Now’s your chance to shine and kick the plastic bag habit once and for all. The CAST 2009 Reusable Bag Challenge starts this weekend! Join us for the Kick-Off event on Saturda from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reusable bag crusaders will be stationed at BYOB booths at the City Markets in Breckenridge and Dillon, and Safeway and Wal-Mart in Frisco. Stop by and pick up your “Got Bag” reminder decal so you can remember your bags at your car.

The Reusable Bag Challenge starts Sunday, March 1. Look for the CAST Reusable Bag Challenge poster at participating stores. Every time you BYOB, your bags will be tallied in the challenge. Summit County towns are participating as a community, and we have a chance to show the 25 other participating communities that we are serious about our plastic bag waste! To find out more about the Reusable Bag Challenge, please contact (970) 668-5703 or visit our website at

Oh, and thanks to Creative Flowers in Breckenridge for reminding Eartha that there are plenty of great local and earth-friendly flower shops in our very own county that sell fresh organic flowers for that special someone. Eartha is always happy to have your input, so if you have questions, suggestions or comments, please let us know.

Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Jennifer Santry, Heather Dodd Christie, and Susie Nothnagel, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.

Submit questions to Eartha at or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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