Talking Green column from the Steamboat Pilot & Today | September 8, 2019

Over Labor Day weekend, I was in Crested Butte. The town passed a plastic bag ban in 2016, and one thing you couldn’t miss was the handmade “borrow a bag” bin at Clark’s grocery store. It was stocked with colorful, reusable, cloth bags, free for anyone to take if they didn’t have their own.

This spring, the city of Steamboat Springs joined other mountain towns like Crested Butte, Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Avon and others in banning single-use plastic shopping bags. As of October 1, City Market, Safeway, Walmart and Walgreens will no longer provide plastic shopping bags and will charge a 20-cent fee for paper bags. (Natural Grocers already offers cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags.) Stores will still provide plastic bags for produce, bulk food, meat and seafood as they have done in the past.

Plastic is everywhere these days — in our homes, where we shop and, unfortunately, in our environment. The average American family uses almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year, but only 1% of plastic bags are recycled. The rest end up in landfills or worse polluting the landscape and waterways, including our beloved Yampa River.

Steamboat’s new paper bag fee will be used to further protect our environment by funding programs and infrastructure that will reduce waste and increase recycling. To avoid the fee on paper bags, bring your reusable bags every time you shop. If you forget your reusable bags, the city and Yampa Valley Sustainability Council are working to set up bag share bins at several locations.

Many people are worried about how they’ll pick up their pet’s waste or line their trash cans without plastic shopping bags. You can use produce, bread or tortilla bags for pet waste and purchase a washable, cloth trash can liner. The liner I use is decorated with rainbows and unicorns and makes me smile every time I take out the trash.

Visit the Sustainability Council’s booth at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market this weekend to learn more about the bag ban and get a free reusable bag made from a recycled T-shirt. If you’d like to go beyond the ban and swear off more plastics, like straws, to-go cups, take-out containers, produce bags and more, take the council’s pledge to reduce plastics at

For more information about the plastic bag ban and a list of frequently asked questions, visit

Anne Mudgett is communications and development director for Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.