Children lead effort to stop the use of plastic bags

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By Kirsten Laskey

Plastic bags have really left a mark on the environment. They are made from petroleum, harmful to animals, and rather than bio-degrading, plastic bags are photodegradable; the sun breaks the bags into smaller and smaller parts, but these pieces never go away.

As a result, members of the Pajarito Envrionmental Education Center’s Kinnikinnick Club, a nature club for students in grade four through six, are working to wipe away the mark left by plastic bags on the environment.

The goal, said Michele Altherr, sponsor of the nature club, is to encourage the community to abandon adding to any of their collections of wadded up tan and white bags and use instead the various canvas bags available right here in Los Alamos.

To accomplish this, club members have formed a campaign, called Invest In Me, and currently have taken it to Smith’s Food and Drug Centers in White Rock and Los Alamos.

Posters have been mounted to advertisement stands, and club members screened a Power Point presentation to Smith’s employees. For its part, Smith’s offers customers who sack their groceries in reusable bags a 5-cent rebate.

Additionally, Smith’s donated 1,860 reusable bags during local Earth Day festivities.

“They’ve been real helpful with donating bags on Earth Day,” Altherr said. “I think that made a huge impact.”

The grocery store is not the only business in town to collaborate in the campaign. Re/Max, Los Alamos Medical Center and the Reel Deal Theater are also participating.

Altherr said the campaign was created out of the club’s desire to do a community service project. Altherr said they chose the campaign to abolish plastic bags in the community because it could be realistically achieved.

The numbers support this. John Roberts, manager of the Smith’s in Los Alamos, said the grocery store was asked to participate in the campaign in January.

During a five-month period alone, Roberts said the store is under budget for plastic bags by 172,000 bags, or 86 cases.

This proves, he said, that reusable bags are “definitely increasing” in popularity.

“It’s been accepted unbelievable well,” Roberts added.

In fact, the Los Alamos Smith’s is the number-one seller of the Smith’s reusable bags out of the 132 Smith’s stores in the U.S. The White Rock Smith’s came in ninth.

It’s something that Los Alamos should be proud of, Altherr said.