On the verge of CB’s plastic bag ban

Boomerang bags and borrowing reusable bags around town

By Cayla Vidmar

In August 2016, local non-profit Sustainable Crested Butte succeeded in persuading the town of Crested Butte to sign an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags. The ban takes effect on September 1, 2018, and businesses are preparing with boomerang bags, reusable bag borrowing bins, and customer education.

A few years back, former Crested Butte Community School student Benjamin Swift was so inspired by his environmental science education, his work with the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and a film called Bag It that he started the “Plastic Bag Free Crested Butte” movement.

In 2016, the movement morphed into Sustainable Crested Butte, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, alongside the success of banning plastic bags in Crested Butte. Swift has since gone to college out of the valley, but his work lives on.

Sustainable Crested Butte and participating businesses have begun implementing the Boomerang Bag Project, which, according to Sustainable Crested Butte board member Brittany Perkins, began in Australia. “Crested Butte was the second U.S. community to participate, behind Minneapolis,” writes Perkins. The Boomerang Bags have patches sewn into the fabric reading “Borrow and Bring Back,” so store customers can easily identify which bags should be returned to stores.

“Currently we have 14 participating stores in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. We also have bag racks scattered around valley locations, including the chamber of commerce, the Transit Center in Mt. Crested Butte, the Three Seasons Building, and the lobbies at the Grand Lodge, the Lodge at Mountaineer Square and Elevation,” writes Perkins.

Visitors can also leave bags in their hotel rooms, and they will be returned to Sustainable Crested Butte.

A similar project is under way at Clark’s Market, where customers can leave their extra reusable grocery bags for people to use and return, and if you forgot your bags, you can borrow them out of the bin. “This is different from our Boomerang Bag program because we hope to keep food items out of the Boomerang Bags so that someone doesn’t put their new Patagonia from Chopwood into a bag that had ground beef or whatever in it earlier,” writes Perkins.

According to Perkins, there were mixed feelings among business owners before the ordinance passed in 2016. “I think business owners saw the benefits of getting rid of plastic bags, but it is really hard to run a business in Crested Butte and they didn’t want this ban to make it harder for them,” says Perkins. However, since the ordinance passed, Perkins reports that Sustainable Crested Butte hasn’t experienced any pushback.

Currently Sustainable Crested Butte is in the midst of the summer-long task of educating the public about what the ordinance means for them. They are also trying to ease the transition for business owners by collecting unused bags for recycling, and providing stores with reusable bag options. This includes educating business owners on which bag options are right for them, both environmentally and financially, whether they decide to go with reusable bags or recycled paper bags.

Sustainable Crested Butte doesn’t have any new projects on the horizon yet, but Perkins writes, “Plastic straws are something we are always talking about, so they might be next on the chopping block.”

Visit Sustainable Crested Butte at select Farmer’s Markets and get involved through volunteering and donating. Sustainable Crested Butte is also seeking board members. For more information go to SustainableCB.org.

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