That question seems to be a young child’s favorite word. Two Ridgway seventh-graders, Indigo Krois and Maizy Gordon, are hearing that a lot from adults these days.
As the founders of the Carry On! Ridgway Reuses campaign, Krois and Gordon, ages 12 and 13, have gotten used to business owners, teachers and others (like newspaper reporters) asking: Why do you want to get rid of single-use plastic bags? To provide a well-researched and hopefully convincing explanation, the two close friends — backed by a small team of volunteers — have organized a screening of “Bag It,” a documentary about how plastic products threaten waterways, marine life and human health.
Showing tonight (Thursday) at the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway at 6 p.m., “Bag It” follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier around the world as he comes to understand the impact of the average American using about 500 plastic bags each year, for about 12 minutes each.
Directed and produced by Telluride filmmaker Suzan Beraza, she and the Carry On! Team will give an introduction before the screening and answer questions afterward.
“Plastics in the oceans are a massive problem,” said Beraza, who is also Telluride Mountainfilm Festival Director. “Yeah, we’re far away from oceans, but most plastics end up in streams and rivers and make it into oceans. Single-use plastics like straws, bottles and bags as a whole are negatively impacting our lives. These are things we can just avoid by learning new habits like carrying our own reusable coffee mugs, water bottles and bags. It’s hard to remember at first, but it only takes about two weeks to really change habits. The more plastics you try to avoid, the easier it becomes.”
Since the film’s premiere in 2010, more than 2,500 screenings have taken place at festivals, theaters, churches and community organizations. “Bag It” has been part of a worldwide movement to get governments to ban or require fees on single-use plastic bags.
Motivated by the film, school lessons and their mothers, Gordon and Krois asked Ridgway town officials to consider an ordinance reducing plastic bag consumption and promoting the use of reusable bags.
Though encouraged by council members last autumn, a staff person told them the process to pass such a law could take a while.
“I learned that sometimes it’s harder for small towns to accept change than what you would usually think. Once you have a habit, it’s hard to break,” Krois said.
Several Colorado resort towns that depend on tourists who shop, such as Telluride and Aspen, were successful in passing restrictions on plastic bags from stores earlier this decade. Crested Butte and Nederland, each with populations that are only about 600 people more than Ridgway’s, also passed ordinances in 2018 and 2015, respectively.
The two friends have developed a plan to help Ridgway “slowly ease into” reducing plastic bags through education and assisting people in changing their habits. In between their schoolwork, family life and hobbies, they have been doing a lot of research and meeting weekly to plan next steps. Last Friday, they visited local businesses to give them an informational brochure and movie tickets.
They were pleased to learn that Ridgway Office Supply asks customers to bring back bags so they can be reused. Next, they want to talk to businesses about offering used shipping boxes to customers instead of single-use bags, and stocking reusable bags (like the ones they have made to fund their campaign).
“No one was mean. They did not debate us, probably because we’re kids,” Gordon said. “They did ask why.”
To that question, Krois replied, “I felt like it would be a good thing to do for the Earth. If plastic stays around, it will probably destroy a lot of the animals and wildlife and increase greenhouse gasses, enhancing global warming. I don’t want the next generation or anyone younger to have to experience something other than a good world.”
Gordon agreed. “We love animals and we don’t want them to be dying because of things humans created. Plastic bags don’t ever go away,” she said.
The “Bag It” film screening is funded in part by Alpine Bank and the Sherbino Theater, and admission is a suggested donation of $5 per person. The Carry On! campaign will take donations in exchange for reusable bags to fund future outreach.