Vail: Losing plastic bags… and what else? |

Vail: Losing plastic bags… and what else?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Local business owner and volunteer, Patti Kravitz, left, helps shopper Lorraine Parodi pack her shopping into one of the reusable shopping bags handed out to shoppers at Citimarket in West Vail last week.

VAIL, Colorado ” Toting your own cloth bag to the grocery store may seem like a great way to “go green,” but what about all the other plastic, metal and paper packaging we use?

Stores up and down the valley have joined a plastic bag reduction challenge, organized by the Colorado Association of Ski Towns. The campaign has resulted in more than 48,500 plastic bags saved in Vail alone.

However, experts point out that forgoing plastic bags makes a small dent compared to avoiding overpackaged products, especially those wrapped in excessive plastic.

“We really need to focus our efforts and remember the ‘three R’s’ in the right order – reduce, reuse and recycle ” and recognize how we use our resources beyond just plastic bags,” said Kristen Bertuglia, environmental sustainability coordinator for the town of Vail.

Plastic packaging is probably the worst for the environment compared to aluminum or paper products, Bertuglia said, and it’s best to avoid “convenience packaging,” such as foods with individual portions.

Consumers can save by buying products packaged in recycled materials, buying soap or detergent in concentrated form, and buying items in bulk, she said.

Some residents said they do just that ” a decision that also results in cost savings, too, some said.

Edwards resident Jim Gabriel said he tries to avoid prepackaged foods and buys food in bulk when possible.

“I do most of my cooking myself at home, and monetarily it comes out a lot cheaper,” he said.

His habits aren’t based solely on environmental motives, he said, but he has noticed that he is producing less trash.

“With larger packaging, I’ve noticed that the trash goes out once a week instead of once every few days,” he said.

Matt Scherr, executive director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, cautioned to buy in bulk, not buy in mass. Buying a large package of drink boxes all individually wrapped doesn’t make too much of a sustainable difference, he said.

Others admit that packaging isn’t something they pay much attention to when shopping. A Vail employee, who asked that his name not be used, pointed out that for him convenience outweighs his environmental concerns.

“(Packaging) is part of life and I never think about it,” he said. “I usually buy the frozen vegetables in the individual servings, which I guess is double packaging. However, I like it better than the family size because I don’t waste as much food.”

Scherr said that reducing the amount of plastic and other packaging we use is difficult. His family has done away with Ziploc bags, opting for reusable wrapping products or used tortilla bags instead, and they use reusable mesh bags to bag vegetables instead of the plastic ones at the store.

Getting most consumers to think that way is tough, he said.

“The roughest part is that there’s not too much you can do about it,” he said. “If you want your yogurt, it comes in the container. You try as a consumer to make the best choice you can, and push for policy.”

Still, green campaigns have made consumers more aware of what they buy, some said. Avon resident Gedra Mereckis said that she’s become more aware of wasteful packaging over the past few years.

“I stopped buying bottled water a few years ago,” she said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

She admitted that she still uses plastic grocery bags and uses them as trash bags. Experts point out that those nonbiodegradable bags still end up in landfills even if they’re reused.

“I guess there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Mereckis said. “They should make those bags biodegradable, or make all trash bags biodegradable. I’d be willing to pay more for that.”

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

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