July 2015

Reusable Shopping Bags: A Cottage Industry?

Global Warming Express and Adelante Program

 

Esha Chiocchio

 

When the Santa Fe City Council opened the floor for public discussion concerning a plastic bag ban last year, several elementary school kids took to the podium to express their support. The ban was passed—minus the desired 10-cent tax for paper bags—due to a technicality. So, when the 10-cent fee for paper bags was reintroduced on April 29, the kids were ready to address the City Council again in favor of continuation of the plastic bag ban and the addition of a 10-cent fee.

 

During the discussion among the council members that followed the public comment period, Councilor Ron Trujillo voiced his concerns that the 10-cent fee would create a financial hardship for lower-income families and said he did not feel that the plastic bag ban adequately addressed the plastic waste issue because it still allowed vendors to provide thicker plastic bags to their customers.

 

Hearing this, the kids from the Global Warming Express (GWE), an after-school program that teaches elementary school kids about climate science and sustainability, decided to address Councilor Trujillo’s concerns head on. During the next GWE class at Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences (SFSAS), Deedee Jansen suggested that the GWE make reusable bags to distribute throughout Santa Fe so that everyone has a bag and can avoid the 10-cent fee.

 

Having studied the importance of local sourcing, both to support the local economy and to reduce the carbon footprint, the kids designed a project that would produce bags as locally as possible. With the help of GWE instructors Genie Stevens and myself, as well as Sustainable Santa Fe commissioners Kim Kelly and Glenn Schiffbauer, designer Nao Sadewic of Positive Energy Solar and sponsors Tai Bixby, associate realtor with Keller Williams, and Marlin McKenna, the kids were able to produce the first round of bags during the Green Festival on May 16.

 

To create the designs for the bags, each of the five GWE classes in Santa Fe—at Acequia Madre, Wood Gormley, César Chávez, Ramírez Thomas and SFSAS—submitted letter designs that were then put into an arrangement by the SFSAS students to read “Reduce Reuse Recycle.”

 

The GWE contacted Las Mujeres de Adelante, a women’s cooperative that is part of the Adelante program of the Santa Fe Public Schools, to have the bags sewn from fabric purchased from Santa Fe Fabrics and donated by Kim Kelly. During the Green Festival, we set up a workspace where David Sloan of Warehouse 21 silkscreened the bags, and women from Las Mujeres de Adelante sewed them.

 

With only two weeks to pull the project together, the team was able to locally source and produce about 100 bags during the event. The GWE would like to expand the project to support the kids in their mission to reduce waste, preserve the planet and create a sustainable lifestyle for all Santa Fe residents.

 

If you would like to learn more and/or support this effort, visit www.theglobalwarmingexpress.org

 

 

 

 

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