A local campaign hopes to do away with plastic bags and establish Durango as a progressively green community, one signature at a time.
The Durango Bag It campaign is pushing to eliminate the distribution of one-time-use plastic bags in businesses around town.
Volunteers and supporters are circulating several petitions and collecting signatures from people who hope to cut down on overall plastic waste in the community.
Americans goes through about 100 billion plastic bags per year, which adds up to a lot of unnecessary waste and creates a variety of problems, said Erich Bussian, who spearheaded the local campaign.
Though no ordinance has been written at this point, Bag It laws likely would end the use of plastic bags in town and require a nominal fee for paper bags, Bussian said.
Plastic bags already have been banned in one form or another in places such as Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; Brownsville, Texas; San Francisco; and multiple counties throughout California.
Telluride was the first town to jump on the Bag It bandwagon in Colorado and has since been followed by Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt and Carbondale, Bussian said.
Its been a nonissue in every place thats done it so far. I mean San Franciscos been doing it for four years now, he said.
Jessica Johnson, a volunteer helping promote the local campaign, moved to Durango from Portland three months ago. Though Johnson was not directly involved with the Portland campaign, several of her close friends were, she said.
The ordinance passed and went into effect Oct. 15, and since then, stores have seemed to adjust just fine, she said.
When Johnson heard about a similar movement starting in Durango, she was eager to get involved and began collecting signatures in support of the campaign online and at the farmers market.
While Bussian said the Durango campaign has received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of signatures, the petitions are only the first step in the grass-roots movement.
The petitions are meant to get the word out in the community and make this an issue in peoples minds and show proof of support, Bussian said.
Recently, volunteers behind the campaign have turned most of their attention toward promoting and planning a showing of the film Bag It, a documentary investigating and showcasing the effects of plastics on the environment and the human body.
Bussian will emcee a showing of the film Thursday at the Smiley Building theater, which will include a question-and-answer session with the star of the film, Jeb Berrier.
A screening also will take place at Durango High School, Bussian said.
Members of the local campaign hope the film, which has garnered attention from celebrities such as TV personality Ellen Degeneres and singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, will help create buzz around the issue, Bussian said.
All community members are invited and encouraged to attend the film, whether they have formed an opinion about the topic or not, Johnson said. The main goal is for people to attend the event so they can learn about the issue and make up their own minds, she said.
As part of the event, there will be a station where attendees can bring their old T-shirts and have volunteers help turn them into reusable cloth bags, Johnson said.
The movement has received support from the public and local businesses such as Marias Bookshop and Durango Natural Foods, both of which are selling tickets to the screening and hosting petitions.
The vast majority of people Ive talked to in town have been really supportive, Johnson said.
Still, there is some opposition, Bussian said.
Change is always scary, he said.
A big argument is that people forget reusable bags when they go shopping, but a change in policy might help push people to get in the habit of remembering, Johnson said.
So far, City Council has responded positively to the campaign, which Bussian said could do more than just cut down on waste.
Areas that have moved in this direction seem to attract green businesses and start-ups that create real jobs for the community, he said.
Making a statement that this is an environmentally conscious and progressive community also could benefit local tourism, he said.
Ive stressed in multiple letters Ive written to City Council that the sooner Durango can implement this, the greater the impact will be, he said.
It is important to show that Durango is a leader, and not a follower, in passing green initiatives, he said.
Members of the movement hope that the campaigns next big step will happen next month, though it is unclear what that might look like at this time, he said. The next step might be assembling a task force that will investigate the matter, or it could mean writing the ordinance, he said, Either way, volunteers hope to keep the ball rolling so that legislation can be passed quickly.
Sometimes it takes something big to help change the habits of an entire community, Johnson said.