Plastic-bag challenge making progress in the valley |

Plastic-bag challenge making progress in the valley

Dustin Racioppi

EAGLE COUNTY ” There’s no clear front-runner in the beginning stages of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns’ Plastic Bag Reduction Challenge, but there’s a healthy competition brewing among several towns in the county to be crowned the winner.

Of the 26 ski towns participating in this year’s challenge to reduce the number of plastic bags used, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum and Vail are in the mix to win the grand prize ” a $5,000 grant to install a solar-panel system at a local school.

Since it kicked off March 1, no official numbers for the first month have been tallied. But judging by town officials and some local employees, there won’t be many ” or as many ” plastic bags used in the Vail Valley for the next few months.

“We have been doing a ton of media outreach and public education,” said Kristen Bertuglia, Vail’s environmental sustainability coordinator.

Those efforts are only beginning, as schools and local agencies plan to launch various programs throughout the year to raise the level of awareness in the Eagle Valley and get more people and businesses involved.

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At Gypsum Public Library, a workshop will be offered in June for parents and their children to take plastic bags and turn them into reusable ones. The library also is participating in the challenge by encouraging customers to think twice about using plastic, though librarian Amber Jones said most customers either take their books out by hand or use a reusable bag.

A program similar to the library’s will be held at Avon Elementary School. The Youth Foundation, along with the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, has ordered 1,000 reusable bags that children in the after-school program will decorate and sell at local stores.

But there are more ideas floating in the heads of Avon’s youngsters. The Youth Foundation’s marketing and event director, Katie Bruen, said the students also have come up with ideas to use recycled materials for art projects, to make fliers and brochures for the contest and design a sticker that would be put on a car’s rearview mirror for the forgetful types who always want to use reusable bags but forget to bring them into the store.

“It’s really smart,” Bruen said. “The kids come up with such great ideas.”

Challenge leaders are hoping that the push from the younger generation helps spark change with the older folks, who may be used to using plastic bags or are resistant to making the switch.

“They’re excited to promote the contest and get some more people to join,” said Dawn Ritts, special projects coordinator for the town of Gypsum. “It’s really easy for the kids to convince their parents to get involved.”

One thing that towns are realizing though, is that lots of people and businesses in the valley have been on the reusable-bag bandwagon for a long time.

Vail resident Tina Liccardi has been using cloth bags she bought from a fundraiser at Battle Mountain High School for about a year now. For her, it has become a routine in her everyday life.

“I just think it’s a great idea for the environment,” she said.

At Columbine Market in Gypsum, manager J.R. Reale said most of his customers use cloth bags or no bags at all. But the market is still pushing for more people to take part in the challenge, and so far, he said it’s working.

“It looks like we’ve had some good participation,” he said. “We were already involved in (promoting reusable bags). We’re just using the challenge as getting the town on board to help the event.”

Preliminary data suggests it has been a success in Vail,


Bertuglia said Vail Delivery has used 3,000 reusable bags since the start of the competition, which she said equates to somewhere between 9,000 and 12,000 bags saved.

Each participating town will publish its official progress sometime around the beginning of every month.

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