JULY 8, 2019 BY 

From the Steamboat Pilot & Today | July 8, 2019

by Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s time to start making your reusable bags part of your routine while grocery shopping.

There are less than 90 days until Steamboat Springs’ plastic bag ban takes effect in the city’s largest grocery stores. Ahead of the ban, the city, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and other partners are kicking off outreach about the ordinance.

The city is working to purchase reusable bags to give to community members before Oct. 1, when the ban goes into effect. At the July 2 Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, council members set a $63,600 budget for outreach on the ordinance, including $35,000 to purchase bags to distribute to community members and visitors.

In the coming weeks, the city and other organizations will work to select these bags and the artwork that will appear on them, a program for smaller businesses that opt-in to the bag ban and advertisement for the ban, according to Laura Sankey, who is overseeing the community education and outreach project.

The Sustainability Council plans to talk to people about the ban at impacted stores, the Farmer’s Market and other community events.

“We really just want to make sure people have a positive experience with this change,” Sankey said.

“The easier we can make the transition for everybody, the more positive it will stay, and I think that will, hopefully, encourage more people to embrace other changes from a sustainability standpoint that improve our community,” she added.

This includes reaching visitors through Steamboat’s lodging companies.

At a glance
The ordinance banning single-use plastic bags and placing a fee on paper bags will take effect Oct. 1. Walmart, City Market, Safeway and Walgreens will no longer distribute plastic grocery bags at check out and will charge a 20-cent fee for each paper bag distributed.

Customers using federal food assistance will be exempt from the fee.

Stores will be allowed to keep 5 cents of that fee to fund public and sales staff education, improvements to infrastructure and administration of the fee, the cost of collecting the fee and encouraging the use of reusable bags.

The city will use 15 cents of the fee to fund a new city program that will initially provide reusable bags and education to the community. After the first year, it will fund those actions as well as program administration, additional waste reduction infrastructure, community cleanup events that reduce trash and maintenance of a website aimed at educating the public about waste reduction efforts.

Smaller retailers can opt in to the fee, and if they choose to, they will keep the entirety of the fee. This aims to incentivize smaller retailers to implement the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee.

“We want to reach out, not just to locals, but we want to make sure second homeowners build this habit and make visitors aware of this as much as possible,” Sankey said. “We’re going to be working with members of the lodging community to find the best way to communicate that to visitors before they get here.”

Sankey said the group is working through the details of how reusable bags would be distributed to locals and visitors. The group is working with local grocers to learn what works elsewhere, and Sankey said they plan to support stores impacted with the ban.

The Sustainability Council is also working to help community members make their own bags out of T-shirts. Using T-shirts donated by Rummagers, Déjà Vu Boutique, event producers and community members, people can make their own reusable bags at the Sustainability Council’s booth during Art in the Park this weekend and the Farmers Market on Aug. 24 and Sept. 14.

If you don’t have time to make a bag, the Sustainability Council will also be handing out reusable bags made by the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs and other organizations.

The Sustainability Council is accepting donations of T-shirts of any size without holes in them at its office at 141 Ninth St. in downtown Steamboat.

Using donated, people can make their own reusable bags at the Sustainability Council’s booth at Art in the Park this weekend and the Farmers Market on Aug. 24 and Sept. 14.

“It’s a creative way to engage the community in the importance of reusable bags, and also recycling, because these are all T-shirts or feedbags or upholstery samples that are being up-cycled,” Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Executive Director Sarah Jones said.

Jones added that this also provides a platform for community members to ask any questions they might have about the ordinance and figure out other ways to line trashcans or pick up dog waste.

Sustainability Council Communications and Marketing Director Anne Mudgett said the organization is also exploring a bag bank, which would allow shoppers to take a bag if they forget one and leave a bag when they have a spare. She said this would benefit visitors who might not want to purchase paper bags and residents who forget their reusable bags.

“We’ve seen other communities utilize this concept to great success, so we’re confident we’ll be able to work out the details,” she said.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.