I recently learned that no Vermont town has a plastic bag ban. Given that Vermont has been an environmental leader since the ’70s, I was surprised and disappointed.
After living for 35 years in Vermont, my husband and I moved to Lee, Mass., in 2011 to be closer to grandchildren. We chose the Berkshires because it is so similar to Vermont.
After our move, I joined the Lee Greener Gateway Committee. In 2015, the committee started the process of writing two bylaws for consideration at our 2016 Town Meeting: a plastic bag and Styrofoam ban. About 24 Massachusetts towns already had plastic bag and/or styrofoam bans. We presented drafted bylaws to our Selectboard, held public hearings, and contacted local media. Using community input, the final drafts of the two bylaws were passed.
Businesses and community members were given a year to comply. The committee assisted with pamphlets for businesses and consumers, posters for businesses, and reminders in utility bills.
Our committee has promoted consumer use of reusable bags. With grants, we commissioned a student to create a Lee logo for a cloth bag, which businesses sell. We gave these bags to the food pantry, WIC program, and senior citizens. We have also sponsored “gently used reusable bag” swaps at our library and farmers market.
Now, 55 Massachusetts towns have plastic bag bans. The state Legislature is working on a statewide ban. I strongly encourage Vermont town officials, and those in surrounding towns, to pursue a ban. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. uses 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make them. If we all do our part to reduce this source of littering, ocean pollution, and drain on resources, our Earth will be healthier, as will future generations.