How California Became America’s First State to Ban Plastic Bags
By Matt Davis
California's environmental protections are not for sale. That's the message California voters sent to out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers when they upheld Proposition 67 by 53 to 47 percent in November. But how did the Golden State manage to win a state-wide bag ban against a national political backdrop that went the other way?
We Were Massively Outspent, But Had Broader Support
"Rarely in California history do local organizations running a shoestring campaign beat out-of-state deep pockets," said Dan Jacobson, with Environment California, who spent weeks in the run-up to the election driving around the state with an enormous inflatable turtle, aiming to draw voters' attention to the risks plastic bags pose to wildlife.
Save the Plastic Bag Ban Campaign brought their inflated Turtle mascot on UC Berkeley campus to raise awareness about Prop 67 and the ban of single use plastic bags in California.Khaled Sayed
The bag-makers' campaign had just four contributors. The campaign to ban plastic bags was backed by more than 500 organizations, from environmental groups to business organizations and dozens of cities and counties. More than 70 percent of the campaign's funding came from contributions from the environmental community. More than 40 newspapers endorsed the campaign.
"For me personally, as a movement-leader, I was deeply impressed by the energy and organization of this diverse coalition," said Shana DeClercq from The Story of Stuff Project. "Cities, mayors, non-profits large and small, individual advocates all pulled together in a cohesive way."
The Save the Plastic Bag Ban Campaign began at the grassroots level long before the election, said Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, founder and director of Azul, an organization seeking to raise up Latino voices on marine conservation issues.
"Legislators told us Latinos were either 'too poor to care' or didn't support legislation to ban plastic bags at all," Gutiérrez-Graudiņš said. "We actually knew better and this is where the bag campaign really took off."
Azul enlisted the help of civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who penned a couple of op-eds on the issue, as well as Jose Hernandez, a very well-known former astronaut who signed an op-ed of his own, stressing the science behind bag bans.
Azul helped to organize a poll, which reached only people of color throughout the state, and showed an overwhelming support of Latinos and African Americans for a plastic bag ban. They ran in-language focus groups in Los Angeles and San Jose to refine messaging.
"We flipped the script, so to speak, where now Latino staff, elected and community leaders saw themselves as trend setters versus followers," Gutiérrez-Graudiņš said.
"I believe it is extremely important to highlight the enthusiastic support from the Latino community for Prop 67," she said.
California Had a Huge Problem on Our Hands
"When Californians become fed up with a problem, we fix it," said Ryan Kallabis, a spokesman for Save Our Shores. "Nothing that is used for less than five minutes should pollute our environment for centuries."
And yet, plastic pollution was posing a huge problem for the world's sixth-largest economy. California Sec. of State Alex Padilla, who introduced SB-270, the legislation that led to the statewide ban, said that three years ago, California retailers were distributing 19 billion single-use plastic shopping bags every year.
"In 2017," he said, "that number will be zero."
In the weeks since the ban passed, an estimated 25 million plastic bags each day will have been eliminated from the waste stream.
We Started Local and It Worked
Plastic bags kill wildlife and pollute our environment. The evidence is overwhelming that banning plastic bags in local jurisdictions save wildlife and reduce pollution. At the time of the election, more than 40 percent of California communities were already living without plastic shopping bags through local ordinance. Those communities didn't want to roll back.
Ironically, the same bag makers behind trying to overturn our statewide ban have been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council to pass statewide bans on local bag bans. They say states should have the right to decide on bans as a whole, but local bans pave the way for state bans like in California, and are crucially important.
These 6 States Want to Ban Plastic Bag Bans (Yes, You Read That Right) https://t.co/pqWMelYDYB @PlasticPollutes https://t.co/fqEtS06qJl— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1459349531.0
We Got Creative and Worked With Our Allies to Spread the Word
"We knew that because we were working with a small budget, the Yes on Prop 67 campaign would be won or lost on the outreach and free media components," said Wendy James, CEO of Better World Group, which chaired the statewide campaign. "We had to rely on our NGO partners. And we had to build a broad coalition. We never turned down a request for a speaking engagement or debate, an opportunity for a letter to the editor or op-ed, and we used our broad base of supporters in a statewide media tour the final month, doing close to 20 news conferences in every media market in the state."
Clean Water Action and our allies at Save The Bay led a loose coalition of Northern California environmental groups in brainstorming creative ways to get out the liberal Bay Area vote. The groups worked closely with Save The Bay and took thousands of plastic bags back to the headquarters of Novolex, the world's biggest plastic bag manufacturer, based in South Carolina, broadcasting the action in partnership with Courage Campaign on Facebook Live.
We worked with a local dance studio to stage a Thriller-themed plastic flash mob, taking over a downtown street in Oakland on the eve of Halloween.
More than 50,000 Californians signed a petition to the CEO of Novolex, Stan Bikulege, following a mass email organized in partnership with the Daily Kos. The Story of Stuff used its extensive global network to pump out our message to plastic pollution activists all over the world, and garner added support.
"The Story of Stuff global community was passionately interested in the outcome here," DeClerq said. "We heard voices all over the world encouraging Californians to stand up against Big Plastic. From Ireland to Buenos Aires to Botswana, people cheered us on."
Celebrities also got involved, said Dianna Cohen with the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Her organization's video of movie star Jeff Bridges was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, drawing precious attention to the issue.
California Took the Lead
At Clean Water Action, we're keen to serve as guides for people considering similar laws around the country. We're also trying to stop waste at its source, by working with businesses and institutions to redesign the way they use single-use disposable packaging with our ReThink Disposable program.
If you'd like to learn more, please get in touch.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>