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"Grannies" come together to ban plastic bags

BY KELSEY JOHNSON | SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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A chain of plastic bags stretched more than 1,000 feet through the Pedestrian Mall on Sunday.

100grannies, a community group of senior women, hosted “Ban the Bags” to raise awareness about the dangers of using petroleum to make plastic bags. Their ultimate goal is to make plastic bag use in stores an idea of the past.

“I hope that the ban on plastic bags catches on by next week," said Becky Ross, the head for the Ban the Bags event.

Zach Carter, the president of the Sierra Student Coalition said the effort to remove plastic bags from the community is important. The coalition focuses mainly on the use of coal on campus and has an ongoing effort to reduce and eliminate water-bottle use on campus.

“I can see [this ban on plastic bags] becoming a part of the Iowa City community,” Carter said.

Plastic bags are detrimental to the environment, he said, because they are generally unsustainable, which is why a reusable or biodegradable option is critical.

Fewer than 1 percent of plastic bags make it to a recycling plant every year. Ross noted that the chain of bags billowing on the Ped Mall was similar to what happens to plastic bags — they blow away, and nature becomes a casualty.

Costing less than 0.2 of 1 cent to make, plastic bags are taxing in other ways. Bags drain more than 12 million barrels of oil yearly from U.S. production alone, Ross said.

Many Iowa City residents have recognized what they label an unnecessary production-consumption process, and they continue to work toward a more sustainable community.

“Plastic bags should be banned in Iowa City. They are a problem here, and they are a problem everywhere,” City High sophomore Lilly Brown said, who was sitting on the Pedestrian Mall during the event.

Brown said many community members stopped and exchanged their plastic bags for reusable ones, and the chain of bags grew.

The Iowa City City Council’s discussion of plastic bags is also growing.

The City Council is conducting a feasibility study of plastic-bag use. Ross said the goal of eliminating plastic bags in Iowa City is underway, and the issue will hopefully come to a more prominent light in the future.

100grannies hopes to remain part of this effort.

100grannies “founding granny” Barbara Schlachter said the issue of petroleum-based plastic bags is one of many the group hopes to tackle.

The group formed in April with 10 members. Its first activity took place during the Iowa City Arts Festival, where it hosted creative children’s activities that related to Arctic climate.

The overall goals of the group are to raise awareness of community issues and expand nationally with a focus on more globalized issues.

Schlachter said the Ban the Bags event was well-received by community members.

Many people signed a pledge to reduce their use of plastic bags. Schlachter could not indicate how many signatures were gathered as of Sunday night.

Schlachter came up with the idea for the group after reading James Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren.

“There was a passage in which [Hansen] said if 100 grannies lined up on a railroad track 10 by 10, they would have the force to stop a whole train,” Schlachter said.

Schlachter said 100grannies is a force in the community, and the group continues to grow in efforts and numbers. She said it’s important to work toward a greener community for the benefit of younger generations.

“We’re older women,” Schlachter said. “We don’t have as much to lose. On the other hand, our grandchildren have their entire lives in front of them and have everything to lose."


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