Heal the Bay’s 4th Annual ‘A Day Without A Bag’

Heal the Bay’s 4th Annual ‘A Day Without A Bag’

To Be Held On December 16th, 2010, 'A Day Without A Bag' will bring early holiday presents to shoppers and provide an educational summit for policymakers.  Nearly 20,000 reusable bags will be given away at more than 80 locations.

A unique coalition of major retailers, local governments and regional environmental groups has formed to organize the fourth annual “A Day Without a Bag,” which urges consumers to forego environmentally harmful one-use plastic or paper grocery bags in favor of reusable totes.

Dozens of community groups, from Watts to Malibu, will be conducting bag giveaways and grassroots education for consumers throughout the region. The event, launched by environmental group Heal the Bay, is sponsored by the city and county of Los Angeles.

The day of action follows on the heels of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ bold vote in November to ban plastic bags in unincorporated areas of the county. Dozens of other municipalities in the state are now actively pursuing similar measures to save taxpayer dollars and reduce urban blight, from San Jose to Long Beach.

Led by “Green Santa” and his band of elves, volunteers will distribute free reusable bags to patrons at high-profile shopping areas throughout the region. A diverse mix of businesses is scheduled to support the Dec. 16 event through in-store promotions or giveaways at stores countywide, including Ralphs, 99 Cents Only, Subaru and Union Bank.

For a Google map of all giveaway sites go to www.healthebay.org/nobagday

A public awareness campaign about the economic and ecological benefits of reusable bags is being aimed at county residents, who use more than 6 billion disposable plastic shopping bags each year. While this year’s event focuses attention for a 24-hour period, organizers encourage shoppers in the coming year to resolve to make reusable bags part of their everyday habit.

As a parallel to the giveaway program, Heal the Bay will host the inaugural “Day Without a Bag Summit” on Dec. 15 for municipalities interested in enacting legislation and creating public programs that will reduce single-use bag consumption. Policymakers from dozens of cities are expected to attend the half-day tutorial at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works building in Alhambra. For details go to http://www.healthebay.org/event/day-without-bag-training-summit

Last year, more than 70 of the county’s 88 cities officially endorsed the “A Day Without a Bag.”

“This year we have more than doubled the number of cities in the county that are supporting ‘A Day Without a Bag,’” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “It reflects the growing groundswell in Los Angeles for reusable bags, which not only save the environment but taxpayer dollars as well, especially in a time of drastic budget shortfalls.”

California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year just to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste. Less than 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year in Los Angeles, so the remainder clogs precious landfill, litters public spaces and harms animal life when the bags infiltrate waterways.

Spurred by the success of previous Heal the Bay events, community groups throughout the state launched their own “A Day Without a Bag” campaigns. Similar outreach programs will be held in San Diego, Orange County, Ventura and San Francisco counties.

Many progressive local governments countywide have already taken action or are exploring policies to curb the use of plastic bags.  The cities of Santa Monica, Malibu and Manhattan Beach have adopted pending ordinances that prohibit retail establishments, restaurants and vendors from providing single-use plastic bags to customers.

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban plastic bags by Jan. 1, 2010 if a statewide user-fee on plastic or paper bags has not been established by that time.

Paper bags, while biodegradable, still require vast amounts of fossil fuels and water to produce, distribute and collect for disposal. For more information on costs of disposable bags: http://www.healthebay.org/about-bay/current-issues/marine-debris

Heavy-duty reusable bags are convenient, environmentally friendly alternatives that have been embraced by millions around the world. Ireland has been able to reduce its use of disposable grocery bags by 90% since 2001 via public programs.

About Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay, celebrating its 23rd year, is dedicated to making Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters safe and healthy again for people and marine life.  It is one of the largest non-profit environmental organizations in Los Angeles County, with more than 12,000 members. The organization focuses on education, outreach, research and advocacy through programs like Coastal Cleanup Day each September and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Beach Report Card weekly and annual updates are available at www.healthebay.org

Photo: Courtesy of "Heal the Bay"