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The initiative to eliminate plastic bags on the shoreline is gaining momentum. Several grass-roots groups—Plastic-Free Guilford, BYO Guilford, BYO Branford, BYO Connecticut, and groups like the Madison Chamber of Commerce—are leading efforts on education as well as organizing calls to action with goals of affecting change in legislation.
"I began working on this group last year when I felt very weighted by the devastation and hold that plastic is having on our environment," says Daniela Balzano of Plastic-Free Guilford. "Plastic usage and overconsumption has really always bothered me, but it wasn't until I heard the shocking statistic that in the year 2050, the weight of sea life in our ocean will equal the weight of plastic in our ocean. It was such a shocking statistic and I knew that I needed to help prompt change in our community."
Balzano began organizing meetings and neighborhood cleanups and noted it was "shocking" to see the amount of plastic collected. Plastic-Free Guilford highlights local businesses that are using alternatives to plastic on its Facebook page.
"The greatest change I've seen has been within the community. I'm noticing more and more cloth bags or consumers opting out of plastic bags in line," says Balzano. "I spoke with Page Hardware a few weeks ago and learned that their plastic bag consumption is down by 65 percent and they have adopted a new plastic bag made out of corn protein. With a small effort from everyone, the movement could become contagious and we can all do our part to minimize plastics."
Small stores aren't the only ones working for change. Towns, such as Branford, have ordinances in the works to ban single-use plastic bags, while Big Y, with 70 supermarkets in the New England area, recently announced it will be eliminating single-use plastic bags with a goal of moving entirely to reusable bags by 2020.
In Madison, the Chamber of Commerce has been encouraging its member businesses to work toward a greener community with steps such as not using straws, single-use plastic bags, or styrofoam. It also is circulating a poster with the message: "Reuse the bag. Refill the bottle. Refuse the straw."
The chamber recently hosted its annual Souper Bowl, eliminating the plastic spoons and styrofoam cups used in the past and replacing them with heavy paper cups and stainless spoons that were collected and then washed and sterilized by the Madison Beach Hotel for use at the event next year.
"We are hoping that increasing awareness to both our members and the citizens of town will encourage all to be more mindful of the environment and take steps to help protect it," says Chamber Executive Director Eileen Banisch.
Residents can find a plethora of information about action initiatives, news, and tips on greener living on each of the groups' Facebook pages (BYO Branford, Bring Your Own Guilford, Plastic-Free Guilford). Terri Cain, the organizer of BYO Guilford, notes the group's biggest goal is education and action in legislation.
"There are many more ways to reduce plastic usage—we are starting with paper bags, but we're already working on ways to move toward more sustainable resilient communities," says Cain. "Several bills have already been proposed and introduced so we're working politically with towns, the state, our representatives, and senators to try to get this legislated through the state."
Tips to Reduce Plastic Use
1. Bring your own reusable bags when shopping.
2. Say no to straws when dining out.
3. If you need a straw, invest in a stainless steel reusable one.
4. Use a refillable water bottle.
5. Give up baggies and plastic wrap in favor of reusable containers when storing food or packing lunches.
6. Avoid using plastic silverware.
7. Bring a reusable cup for your to-go coffee.
8. Opt for products packaged in paper or cardboard over plastic.
9. Avoid plastic razors, toothbrushes, and feminine hygiene or other personal care products.
10. Go paperless to save plastic envelope windows.
11. Buy snacks in bulk and serve in containers vs. single-serve items.
12. Avoid body care products with microbeads.
13. Reach out to local lawmakers and take action.
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