It’s in the bag: Grand County towns may join initiative to curb use of plastic bags |

It’s in the bag: Grand County towns may join initiative to curb use of plastic bags

Tonya Bina
Grand County, Colorado

If everyone in the United States tied all the plastic bags they use in one year together in a giant chain, the chain would reach around the Earth 760 times.

It’s estimated the average American uses between 300 and 700 plastic bags per year, and about 97 percent of the bags end up in either a landfill or littering the planet.

Those are among the reasons two environmental groups, along with the towns of Telluride, Aspen and Mountain Village, entered into a challenge last year to alter consumer habits.

Over a period of 99 days, towns encouraged consumers to forego plastic and instead tote reusable bags to stores. Five grocery stores were involved.

During that time among the three towns, 140,000 bags were saved from use, said Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser.

“If we had gone at it for a year, 3 million bags would not have been used,” Fraser speculated.

Telluride won the challenge.

As a reward to the winner, the town of Aspen supplied $1,100 worth of educational solar monitor sets to Telluride’s local school district.

Fraser was so encouraged by the success of the pilot program, last November he introduced the idea among all 27 members of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.

With 65 total grocery stores within the member towns, it’s estimated 6.7 million bags could be saved in 2009 alone, according to CAST Executive Director Paul Strong.

A six-month challenge is set to start March 1. Challenge officials are creating posters to help remind consumers to bring reusable bags to stores.

Locally thus far, the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, Granby and Grand Lake have shown interest.

David Allen, who helped spearhead last year’s challenge in Telluride and is doing so again with the CAST campaign, said the challenge will be open to non-CAST-member mountain towns as well.

“It’s really a behavioral change,” Fraser said. “It’s making sure that you always carry with you your own bags. It’s something to help the environment that’s a wonderful statement to be made, and that it is done voluntarily is an even better statement to be made.”

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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