Bag the bags

by Danielle Evangelista

Cabrillo’s Sustainability Club helps the Hawkshop say “bon voyage” to their plastic bags.

5,000 unused plastic bags bearing the Cabrillo College logo were banned from the Hawkshop Bookstore and loaded up onto the back of a Grey Bears recycling truck.

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These bags represented thousands of potential death traps to various marine wildlife. Instead, Grey Bears will be selling the unused plastic to International Paper, where they will be turned into durable industrial plastic.

“Seeing those bags get loaded up and taken away gave me goose bumps, but it made me happy to see them all gone,” said Sonya Newlyn, secretary of The Sustainability Club.

The Sustainability Club came together with the Permaculture Club, Outdoor Club and the Bike Co-op in pushing for the plastic bag ban as well as the sustainable purchasing policy resolution. The Inter-Council Club and the Student Senate approved a total of $3,000 to spend on sustainable (compostable and biodegradable) plates and silverware to stock in the SAC East store room for all of the clubs to use.

“It was really Sonya who was the real pusher for everything,” said Ethan McIntyre, the Inter-Club Council representative for the Permaculture Club. “But I do view all of us as associates working together for the same cause.
“These clubs helped Cabrillo get a head start on the plastic bag ordinance which applies to the unincorporated cities in our area. (Meaning this does not include Santa Cruz, Capitola, Watsonville or Scotts Valley).

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The incorporated areas are governed by their own city councils, which all have a board of supervisors to make decisions about matters such as these. The ordinance will come into effect on March 20 and will apply to all retail stores with the exception of restaurants.

The bookstore is now using paper bags free of charge until Mar. 20, when by law they will be required to charged 10 cents per bag.

“We tried to get out of it, since books are already so expensive, but it is going to be the law,” said Nancy Seymour,  Bookstore Operations Assistant.

“Having the Sustainability Club purchase the remaining plastic bags from us really helped making the transition very smooth, especially since we were going to be losing money if they did not,” said Seymour.

According to the Clean Air Council, every year Americans use approximately one billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste. The state of California spends about $25 million sending plastic bags to landfills each year, and another $8.5 million to remove littered bags from streets.

Local beach clean ups held by the organization, Save Our Shores have “collected 34,000 pounds of trash within the last 5 years. Plastic bags are one of the top 10 items found littering our shores,” said Laura Kassa, local Save Our Shores rep.

“No longer having plastic bags at the Hawkshop is an important victory,” said Sky Smith, president of the Sustainability Club for the past 2 years. “It is hard to get people excited and want to get involved, especially without the resources to do so.”

Paper bags are just as bad as plastic which is why it is even more important for people to not simply switch back to paper.

However, some students do find ways to practice their own sustainability acts.

Cabrillo Student Emily Fowler said she makes her own reusable bags out of old t-shirts. She also grows her own veggies and composts all food scraps.

Fellow student Natalie Bruno said “little steps at a time will certainly make a difference in the long run. It can be difficult sometimes though because I do not always know when I am going to buy something, so I may not have a reusable bag on me when I make purchases.”

Newlyns next step will be pushing to ban all plastic beverages. She would like to improve all of the water fountains on campus. By one at a time, retro fitting a a tap to so students can refil their reusable water bottels with cold filtered water.

Newlyns idea is to place a little water drop mark on all of the maps which will help students locate where the faucets are located around campus.

This semester, the Sustainability Club will be putting on Earth Week Apr. 16-20. Each day will have a different theme  such as water or energy. There will be different events going on in the quad.

Smith said, “The bottom line is that 5,000 plastic bags are gone. We all know those will not end up harming our environment or the wildlife who depend upon it.”