Kicking a bag habit in the Vail Valley |

Kicking a bag habit in the Vail Valley

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS plastic shopping bags KA 02-23-09

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail, Avon and Gypsum are joining other ski towns in an effort to make the area plastic-bag free.

The towns have joined the Plastic Bag Reduction Challenge, which will run from March 1 to Sept. 1. The towns will work with community organizations and local stores to pass out reusable bags, encourage the community to use them and monitor how many plastic bags are saved.

Vail is working with First Bank to make 1,000 reusable bags that will go out to residents, said Kristen Bertuglia, environmental sustainability coordinator for the town of Vail.

Newspaper, TV and radio ads will spread the word about the campaign, and partnerships with local businesses and hotels will get bags into the hands of guests and residents, she said.

Also, the Vail Recreation District will talk about the challenge in schools and hold a poster contest. The winning drawing will go on some of the reusable bags to be passed out, Bertuglia said.

Of the 26 towns, mostly from ski resort areas, participating in the challenge, the winner will receive a $5,000 grant from Alpine Bank to be used to install a solar panel system at a public school. The winner will be determined on a per-capita basis.

“This can make a huge difference,” Bertuglia said, listing off a couple of many reasons that plastic disposable bags are harmful to the environment. “Bags are a petroleum product, so it’s a major impact. Then there’s the cost and energy used in transport.”

Many people don’t use reusable bags because they simply forget or don’t think of it, or they reason that they reuse their disposable bags to clean up after pets or hold trash.

“Even if they’re being reused, they’re still ending up in the landfill, and plastic bags are not biodegradable,” Bertuglia said.

The challenge began in Aspen, Telluride and Mountain Village last year and has grown rapidly this year as other towns joined in.

Last season, the participating towns estimated that each person uses about 1,200 bags each year.

Other participating towns this year include Aspen; Telluride; Jackson, Wyo.; Sun Valley, Idaho; Carbondale; Park City, Utah; Crested Butte; Dillon; Frisco; Steamboat Springs; Snowmass; Breckenridge; and Winter Park.

Ski towns can make a strong statement through the program, since ski areas rely on the environment and weather for business, said Paul Strong, executive director for the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, which is organizing this year’s event.

“Ski areas are acutely aware of global warning as an issue, and of all the oil used for plastic bags,” he said. “They’re aware of the sustainability issues and are reliant on weather for economy, so they’re more in tune with those issues.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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