Four months after initially presenting an ordinance to Bellingham City Council members to reduce single-use bags, on July 11th, the Bellingham City Council voted 7-0 in favor of the ordinance to ban carry out plastic bags and implement a 5 cent fee on brown paper bags starting July 2012. This truly was a community effort, starring two empowering citizens, Jill MacIntyre Witt and Brooks Anderson, who started the local group Bag It Bellingham supported by the Surfrider Foundation, People for Puget Sound, Sierra Club, Environment Washington, and RE Sources, who all helped in organizing hundreds of volunteer hours to gather over 3,000 signatures as well as to outreach and educate the community about the ordinance. The key to this victory was meeting with, involving, and gathering support from everyone in the community- from those at the farmer's markets, church groups, schools, neighborhood associations, dog owners, business owners, and more. The Surfrider Foundation Northwest Straits Chapter hopes that Washington State can soon follow in passing similar legislation to reduce single-use bags to help reduce our impact on our oceans.
In short, this was so successful due to two citizens that were highly motivated. This ordinance came as a community effort that was supported by organizations like Surfrider, rather than Surfrider presenting the ordinance and in turn, having it supported by the community. This also makes it harder for opposition groups to come after anyone since it would be individuals they'd have to go after, not a whole organization. The locals also tried to use the phrase "reducing single-use bags" more than "banning plastic bags" which also seemed good since there unfortunately sometimes seems to be a bad stigma to banning plastic bags.
Another part of its success, as mentioned by some of the council members, is that over four months were spent educating and outreaching to the community, meeting with neighborhood associations, and especially meeting with business owners and people like the Northwest Grocers Association. Also meeting with and getting the local media on board helped tremendously too. Throughout the whole process, it was really important to listen to people's complaints and concerns and address them as well as possible. It truly was a grassroots, community effort!
Click Here if you're interested in watching some of the city council hearing. Some highlights: testimonies start around 16:10 minutes in (which is a great one to start with- it's a grandmother and granddaughter). Then there's a store owner at 25:05. 33:20 older gentleman about how things are done in Germany. Another store owner at 35:15. An excellent testimony by a kid at 36:30 (definitely worth watching! He found out about it only last Saturday and really wanted to get up and talk and came up with that speech all on his own). Heather Trim (People for Puget Sound) at 37:45. Then comes a gentleman opposing the "scam". Surfrider member Eleanor Hines come on at 43 minutes. 47:45 Brooks Anderson comes on (she was one of the main forces behind this) followed by Jill MacIntyre Witt. There's footage of people on the street is at 50 minutes. Great effort overall, cheers to everyone involved!!