After saying that a bottle ban will be much more difficult to pass, Walker handed the meeting over to Ali Freiberg, a nurse at Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop and a concerned citizen of Mono County.
Freiberg is spearheading the community effort to create a plastic bag ban in the Town of Mammoth Lakes. In just seven days, she was able to gather 223 signatures for a Letter of Support she presented during public comment at the March 19 Town Council meeting. The Letter requests that the Town pass an ordinance banning the use of single-use plastic bags in Mammoth (see the link to the letter at the end of this article).
Freiberg is equipped with research and statistics to back up her request for a town ordinance. She cited the city of San Jose, CA, which has seen its plastic bag litter in storm drains drop 89 percent and 59 percent in the streets since the city instituted a similar ban. “This is not just a hippy dippy idea to make us feel good,” Freiberg said. “It actually works.”
There is currently legislation in Sacramento to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in all of California. California would be the first state to adopt such a ban.
103 communities in the State already have a ban on plastic bags, Freiberg said. “Ordinances have been adopted in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, and West Hollywood, as well as smaller communities like Truckee and South Lake Tahoe,” she said.
Passing this ordinance would keep Mammoth ahead of the curve, the citizens group argued.
Getting local businesses to support the ban is the largest challenge facing Freiberg and the citizens group. According to Freiberg’s research, there is a minimal usage requirement for a bag to be considered reusable: 125 uses. “That’s not a Vons bag,” she said. Freiberg added that single-use plastic bags are used for only 12 minutes on average.
Vons, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Rite Aid, liquor and convenience stores, restaurants, and any retail business would be affected by the plastic bag ban. The citizens’ group has a solution: promotional canvas bags with the Town of Mammoth Lakes logo offered for free or for a small fee.
During a recent shopping spree at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, which already has a ban on plastic bags, Walker had to buy canvas bags to carry her purchases. “I had to buy a bag from every single business. And now I use those bags everywhere,” she said. The promotional Mammoth bags “will be great marketing for the Town and it helps get the Mammoth brand out there.”
As for the switch from plastic to reusable bags, “I will tell you, once you get used to it, it isn’t that big of a deal,” Freiberg said. The citizens group also emphasized that living a sustainable lifestyle is an evolutionary process: “Everything we do every single day [creates] habits,” Walker said. “We change one habit and it will continue to change the way we think about everything.”