If Margie Shepard gets her wish, every shopper in Saratoga Springs will soon be toting reusable shopping bags.
The co-chairwoman of Bring Your Own Bag Saratoga, Shepard has been working along with her committee for about a year to research the science of plastic and study what other municipalities have done to reduce the usage of single-use, disposable plastic bags.
BYOBag, a project of the nonprofit Sustainable Saratoga, aims to reduce shoppers’ and retailers’ dependence on those bags, which are non-biodegradable and negatively affect the environment once discarded.
WHAT: A screening of the documentary “Bag It,” followed by a question-and-answer session with representatives from local businesses and city government
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Dutcher Community Room, Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St.
COST: Free and open to the public
Monday, the group unveiled its own reusable, locally printed canvas shopping bag, which bears the image of the Spirit of Life statue that stands in Congress Park holding a red, reusable shopping bag.
Committee members plan to canvass all independently owned downtown businesses, excluding restaurants, and ask owners to sign a petition in support of the reusable bag initiative. Once a business signs, a picture will be taken of the owner holding a reusable bag — a gift from BYOBag — in front of his or her business.
The bags are not being sold to the public because the nonprofit organization doesn’t have the licensing necessary to sell them, Shepard said.
“But they look great and people are already asking for them, so we’re going to try to figure out how other people can get ahold of them,” she said.
Shepard brought the bags to four businesses Monday and all four signed the petition.
“People are really receptive; it was great,” she said.
Earlier this year, BYOBag circulated another petition urging the City Council to ban disposable plastic bags in stores and markets throughout the city.
Eliminating the bags in Saratoga Springs won’t save the world, but it’s a starting point, said BYOBag committee member Monica Winn.
“Everybody will say, ‘What about all the plastic bottles? What about the plastic yogurt containers?’ But this is such an easy place to start. I feel like it’s a good place to start,” she said.
The damage plastic bags inflict on the environment will be highlighted in a free, BYOBag-sponsored screening of the film “Bag It” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
The 74-minute documentary follows a man who questions the necessity of plastic bags and along the way learns what they are made from, where they go after they are discarded and how they affect the environment.
Following the film, there will be a question-and-answer session with representatives from local businesses and city government.
According to the Clean Air Council, Americans use approximately 102.1 billion plastic bags annually, creating tons of landfill waste. Light breaks the bags down into smaller and smaller particles that contaminate the soil and water and are expensive and difficult to remove.
The prospect of remedying such an enormous environmental issue can be overwhelming, Shepard admitted, so BYOBag has chosen to focus on one small, positive step people can take to help: Bring reusable bags to the store.
“There is definitely a lot of science that is kind of negative,” she said. “People feel bad when they hear about all the plastic in the ocean, and so we’re not ignoring that. We’re just saying, ‘It’s not hard to make a difference. Here’s what we suggest.’ ”