We’ve Come a Long Way – Rebecca Mayer

On August 23, 2010, I published a blog on the Bag It website about cosmeticsdatabase.com, a resource developed by the EWG dedicated to exposing the potential dangers of toxic ingredients in beauty products.sd_rotator_4

Since then, the Bag It blog has covered topics such as bottled water, carcinogenic McDonald’s toys, the triumph of bag-banning in our hometown of Telluride, Colorado, TED talks on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and our most recent entry on a fabulous non-profit out of Moab, Utah, that builds straw-bale homes.img_0822

And now, here we are.  The final Bag It blog post.  It might be nice to take a look at how far we’ve come, and where we’re headed.

2012 was an incredible year for Bag It outreach and engagement.  To date we have shared the educational version of the film with over 1000 schools and community groups.  We reach out to each of them with additional curriculum materials for students and resources for community members who want to start down the path to legislative change for plastic bags via our Bag It Town Program.

The many health and environmental issues surrounding plastic have only picked up steam in the public eye this past year.  We hear from viewers daily via email and the film’s growing fanbase on Facebook that the film continues to educate and have a strong impact.

This fall Bag It successfully launched the Bag It Plastic Free School Contest, a friendly competition among schools to reduce single-use disposable plastic use in their community, thanks to a grant from the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation. Contest winners will be announced in April of 2013.

Bag It was honored to be selected as a top five finalist for the PUMA Creative Impact Award for most impacting documentary.  While we did not win, the competition was incredible and the event proved the incredible impact that documentary films have in the world.

Update from Emily Utter, Bag It Town Policy Director –
More than 80 jurisdictions in the United States now have legislation limiting the free distribution of single use bags. In California, more than 56 cities now ban plastic bags and charge a fee for paper bags. Some other cities, such as Portland, OR, have passed similar legislation to the CA trend. Washington, DC placed a 5 cent tax on all paper and plastic bags. Some cities have banned plastic bags entirely but have not placed taxes or fees on paper bags. Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic bags, though it was a county by county, or island by island, effort. Oahu was the last county in Hawaii to ban plastic bags.  More areas adopting plastic bag legislation:
11 Countries in Africa
14 Countries in Asia
8 Jurisdictions in Australia
22 Jurisdictions in Europe
9 jurisdictions in Canada
1 in Mexico (Mexico City)
5 Jurisdictions in S. America

Worldwide, nearly 80 cities and countries across the globe have banned or placed a charge on plastic bags. Notably, China banned plastic bags in 2008.

Expect big things from the Bag It Town Program in 2013, as we were just awarded a grant from the Patagonia company to keep this important work going.

Also – if anyone wants to see how big William got and the little activist he has grown into:

Here is a quick video message from Jeb and William.

So, dear viewers, thank you all for your support over the years.  Working together, we hope to enact more change in the future!

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How to Give this Season – Rebecca Mayer

My neighbors Aaron and Carisa are doing an extraordinary thing this holiday season – they are donating gifts to Angel Baskets rather than giving gifts to each other.  “Why not give to those who really need it?” Carisa asked me yesterday.

In that spirit, here’s an organization that really needs it (and we need their example even more).


Photo courtesy communityrebuilds.wordpress.com

Moab, Utah’s Community Rebuilds not only provides affordable housing to local guides and low-income earners, but it educates student interns about natural building.  Natural building, in this case, utilizes straw-bale construction, a technique originated in Nebraska in the early 1900’s and recently revived, because it provides excellent insulation, along with many other benefits.

“Straw is an agricultural by-product,” Founder and Executive Director Emily Niehaus explains.  “Straw is the shaft of the wheat; no one eats it because it has zero nutritional value.  It is generally burned.”

In the West especially, according to Niehaus, the burning of straw is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  Utilizing straw as a building agent gives the farmer twice as much income on their yield, improves air quality and reduces reliance on wood as a primary building agent.

I ask Niehaus if straw-bale construction works in any climate.  She says that it’s effective even in the dark, damp atmosphere of the San Juan islands off the coast of Washington.  “Because we use local clay-based soil to coat the straw bales, the bales are well-sealed,” she explains.  “The earthen plaster acts as a wicking agent, as long as the straw is perfectly dry initially.”


Photo courtesy communityrebuilds.wordpress.com

Community Rebuilds also installs solar power and helps the new homeowners recycle old trailers for money.  In addition, they set up construction recycling on site, educating their interns on recycling construction materials, which account for a large part of our landfill waste.

If you wish to support Community Rebuilds in its work to improve their community and realize their MISSION to build energy-efficient housing, provide education on sustainability and improve the housing conditions of their workforce, please visit their site here.

grinchAnd to close with the words of the Grinch – “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

May all of our hearts grow three sizes that day.


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Hipcycle your Christmas – Rebecca Mayer

Recycling takes energy and resources and money.  And recycling, as we know it, is a fairly new concept.

tire-basket-large_HC-00547_1Introducing upcycling: the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful.

Not only is it cool, but as the company Hipcycle points out, your grandma did it.  It’s enduring and traditional.  Like Christmas.

The term upcycled was actually coined in 2002 by William McDonaugh and Michael Braungart for their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

According to environmental blogger Debra Atlas, Browsing through the Hipcycle website is a feast for the eyes and imagination. It features so many fun and creative products. There are handsome clocks made from bicycle or old computer parts, colorful woven baskets made from woven plastic bags and lovely hanging jewelry racks made from reclaimed pallet wood.

Stay tuned for next week’s green holiday shopping tip from Bag It and also send us your suggestions to save the environment while spreading holiday cheer!


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Jeb’s Southern Circuit Tour Wrap-up!

Jeb on Tour

Wow, what a tour!

Just got home from the Southern Circuit and am still reeling from such an amazing trip, showing Bag It throughout the South.

When I last wrote I had just left Manteo, NC, and was headed to Miramar, FL, and then on. Miramar’s screening was the second time I had been there with Bag It and the turn out was even better than the first. I think the hosts Jessica and Joyce had been working hard getting the word out and it paid off big time. We also had a very fun Q and A where I met, and had pictures taken with a bunch of folks, one high school student who had written an essay for school on the subject of plastic, a young man with a theater company, people who wanted to get involved in a local bag ban, and more.

The Miramar cultural center is a quite beautiful,  new facility that hosts arts performances of all sorts in the city center. I also got to finally meet Theresa Hollingsworth from South Arts, who puts the whole tour together. Big high five to you Theresa for bringing us around the region with our films. Thanks!!!

Next I headed to Jacksonville for a show at the Aurora Stage Theater. Aurora Stage has been in existence for around eight years and is actually a theater inside and old JC Penny, inside a mostly empty shopping mall. The idea came from a man named Daryll Ruben Hall as a way to revitalize an area that had been hit hard by economics and crime. The place hosts not only sold out theatrical productions but also arts camps for kids and a community center of sorts. I was treated to some very fine BBQ afterwards by my host, which was delicious. Just a  side note about this tour, be prepared to eat well!

Stuffed Goats in Winder

Off to Winder, GA where we screened in what was once an old industrial building and is now a theater/tv studio for the city of Winder, which can be used by schools and groups throughout the region. I see a theme in these place of taking what was old and abandoned and using the arts as a way to revitalize.

After Winder I was back in the Tar Heel State for a show at Western Carolina U. with a huge college crowd, some of whom were there for extra credit, but still!!!! Rachel, my host, did a great job of getting the word out and packing the place on a school night. Once again a great Q and A followed Bag It with questions about the film and also quite a few about how people could affect change in their community and on a larger scale. One young man told me the film had changed his life and he was determined to go to law school so he could work at the higher levels of power to really get at the root of issues with environmental law. Wow!

Savannah was one stop I was looking forward to as it’s a place with lots of beauty and history to take in. Bag It was screened in tSavannahhe historic Lucas Theater which was just unveiling its new LED, energy efficient marquee. We had a champagne toast and were told that the lights, over the course of their expected 20 year life-span, would save an estimated $80,000. I think it was worth it. And they look great!

I took in the sights, learned that the civil war was a bit more complicated than my Yankee upbringing had lead me to believe, and headed to my last stop, Alexandria, LA.

It was here that I was hosted by the delightful David and Nicole Holcombe, who have hosted every filmmaker since the beginning of the Southern Circuit. The Holcombes live in a wonderful art-filled home and wined, dined and conversed with me in grand style. Our Bentley Hotel

Bentley Hotel

screening took place in downtown Alexandria before which I took a stroll with David around town and got to see the Bently Hotel, which was the headquarters for all the generals planning D Day back in WWII.

After the screening I was treated to a very nice reception where I got to meet and talk plastic with most of the film attendees.

The next day the Holcombes put me on a plane and I was on my way back home to Portland.

The trip was a whirlwind and such an amazing chance to get to see places, talk to people and share the message of Bag It with yet more people who can help be catalysts for change in our world that desperately needs it.

Thank you Theresa, Alison, and all responsible for my great time on the Southern Circuit!

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The Greener Giving Guide – by Rebecca Mayer

We are huge fans of the Center for Biological Diversity.  Edward Humes, in his book Eco Barons said, the modern American environmental movement has been reinvented by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Mexican Gray Wolf

Mexican Gray Wolf

You can sign up here to use your mouse to save a grouse. Or a sea otter. Or a Mexican gray wolf. Because your voice can sway the decisions of public agencies that determine the fate of species nearing extinction.

Support biodiversity through the Center’s Greener Giving Guide.  Choose “eco-reads”, stuff the stocking with “mini-species” or learn options to make part of your online shopping spending go to protect diversity on our planet.  A Merry Christmas, indeed.

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Happy Buy Nothing Day! by Rebecca Mayer

We at Bag It wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.  We also wish you a joyous Buy Nothing Day!

There’s a meme that’s been floating around Facebook:






Adbusters posted the following quote:

Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.

– Fawzi Ibrahim

Here’s an idea: when you spend time giving thanks this Thursday, think about how many things on your gratitude list are material possessions.  You may find that many are not.

This Friday, how about enjoying those blessings on the list that have nothing to do with sales and shopping?

We wish you well!

– the Bag It team

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Musings from Jeb Berrier, on the Southern Circuit Tour

Bag It narrator Jeb Berrier is touring 23 locations in Southern states over 11 days on the Southern Circuit Tour.  Here are some of his notes from the road:

Next stop on the Southern Circuit: Manteo, NC, home of the famous Lost Colony of 1583. I say famous, but I had never heard the story, shame on me because it’s a good one, and something we all should know.

Manteo was a Croatan Indian chief that befriended the English explorers who landed at Roanoke Island in 1584. This pre-dates Jamestown by more than 20 years. Manteo traveled to England several times where he learned the language, was appointed Lord of Roanoke, and returned in 1590 with the English to find the entire colony gone, without an explanation. The mystery has never been solved. I can’t believe this was the first time I’d heard this story, or maybe I had and like so many things learned in school, it had faded into my 40 something brain.

The other bit of history right across the water from Manteo is Kitty Hawk, site of the Wright Brothers’ fist flight. I actually stayed right on the beach in the Orville and Wilbur Wright Days Inn. Pretty awesome, and pretty windy, which is part of the reason they picked it for their flight.

I was picked up and brought to the screening by my host, Chris Sawin, who works for the Dare County Arts Council in Manteo. We went to their “brand new building” (actually their brand new building is about 100 years old). It’s the old courthouse that they have taken over and have turned into an arts center. Art galleries on the whole first floor, featuring painting, photography, sculpture, and my favorite, an old cigarette machine which has been retro fitted to dispense art. For real, it’s full of cigarette sized art pieces that you can buy for $5. A good use of a beautiful old machine, and how fitting for North Carolina. The upstairs was the old courtroom, which is being turned into a live performance venue. The courtroom was also the setting for an episode of Matlock, which many of the town’s people were in.

After the tour we headed over to the theater and screened Bag It to a small but enthusiastic crowd. Just so you know, this was Election Night, and there was a big storm happening, so we were grateful for any crowd at all. I was told that some of the towns on the Outer Banks have actually ‘Bagged It’ already and instituted a plastic bag ban in the large supermarkets.

Next day was a biggie with three high school classes and a lunch.  We started with Miss Shimi’s class who had been asked to name things they use every day that are made of plastic. Thank goodness for Shimi! She’s a great teacher who really asked these kids to think and participate, which they did.

It’s always fun to see kids think about a life without single-use disposable plastics. They have never known anything different, but at the same time they are often quicker than adults to see the problems with some of our more wasteful and destructive ways, and to be open minded about ways to help make things better.

Next, after a meeting with some of the environmental club we headed over to First in Flight High School for Katie Neller’s advanced science class. These were kids who had done a variety of AP environmental science, chemistry, and physics classes. After discussing the issue of bottled water (one poor girl had brought a water to class and took some playful ribbing from the other kids), we came up with a possible exercise of carrying their water around school for one day in something other than plastic. Mason jars, spaghetti sauce jars, or anything that was not single use plastic. At first they shuddered at the thought of the un-coolness factor, a legit fear for any high school student, but after being offered extra credit by the teacher, they all seemed to get excited about it. What better way to open a dialogue about why we don’t need to be drinking tap water shipped from Fiji in a throw away bottle, than to wear a mason jar around school on your belt. Might even become a fad.  Ms. Neller also wants to get the kids out in the field doing research on plastic to plankton ratios in their ocean water.

Lunch was at a delicious fish place called Tortuga’s Lie, with some members of the Arts Council and two local filmmakers. Almost everyone at lunch was a member of Surfrider, a nationwide group devoted to protecting the oceans and beaches. One upcoming film is about the stranding of sea animals on beaches. They don’t know why marine strandings happen when they do, but in many cases the animal has ingested, guess what………….wait for it……….,you got it,  plastic, and it goes on shore to die. These stories are all connected and make me glad to know that there are people all over the world who care and who are working to make a difference.

Farewell Manteo, next stop Miramar, FL.


Jeb Berrier, from the Road

Eastern Tennessee State University, E.T.S.U., in Johnson City, TN: First stop on the Southern Circuit Film Tour (23 locations in Southern states over 11 days) with Bag It, the film I narrate and represent.

First of all, for anyone who might think this tour is some sort of mini vacation, like I did, think again. My itinerary is jam packed with not only screenings and Q&A sessions, but dinners with interesting and interested people, lots of class time with college and high school students, lunches with environmental groups and even fitting in a little sight seeing on the side!

At ETSU I started the morning bright and early with an Intro to Theater class. Some students were getting ready for a production of Julius Caesar and others told me about short film projects they had done. I of course had to share my story of being at ETSU in 1995 with a touring production of Hamlet where our Hamlet had a stomach bug and was throwing up violently on show day. Instead of cancelling the show and having to possibly drive back we decided to place a garbage can on either side of the stage in the wing, so Hamlet could finish a soliloquy and then make an exit and puke. It worked and it was also one of his best performances!

A mini acting lesson maybe? Getting a tour around the theater where it happened brought back lots of memories.

I then headed on to meet with Cathy Whaley, whose class I would be attending next. Cathy teaches film and various English classes, and is an encyclopedia of film knowledge. Sometimes I felt a little embarrassed, not having seen certain things she mentioned. I mean, I’m supposed to be the film guy right?

This was her Thinking/Argument/Civic Engagement class.  It was here that I got some tougher questions about our approach to researching Bag It. Why did we included or not include include certain topics in the film?  Did we look into enough of the positives aspects of plastic?  It made me think of things we perhaps could have explored more, given the time and money.  It gave me pause.  Had we, as suggested, created a film with an ‘agenda’?

Joel the ETSU Bag Monster!

Next I was escorted to lunch with the ‘Eco Nuts’, a student group who do a lot at ETSU to promote recycling and all things green. They have instituted a bags to benches program with Trex Lumber where for every 10,000 bags collected the school will get a bench to place on campus. Very cool. Oh, and I can’t leave out Joel the Bag Monster, who was out in the bag suit promoting the evening’s screening. I’ve worn those things many times and they are not the most comfortable, but Joel was a great monster who will be appearing on many Facebook pages in the weeks to come, judging by how many pictures were taken.

Later, I had dinner with a Professor of TV and Media Studies, along with one of her star students, Mike Fink. Tammy wanted me to meet Mike as he is an up and coming filmmaker/comedy guy who has had a couple of videos go viral, which is more than I can say for myself. The three of us discussed tv and film careers and how there are lots of different ways to carve out a niche for yourself these days without moving to LA, not that there’s anything wrong with that!

It’s always nice to think you have something of value to tell a guy like Mike who seems so excited and I think destined to do some interesting things with his life and career.

The screening was great with lots of good discussion afterwards…and cake! Got to meet a lot of great people who had a real excitement about the film and issues around plastic.

A big thanks to everyone there, Dr Michael Briggs and Donna, who picked me up at the airport, Heidi and Lise from the Mary B Martin School for the Arts who hosted the event, Cathy Whaley, Tammy, Mike, Joel the Bag Monster and all the folks from Eco Nuts and the campus recycling group for being a positive example for all the students at ETSU. Hope to be back sometime before too long.

Next stop, Manteo, NC. The Outer Banks!

Jeb Berrier
‘Bag It’

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Bag It in Berlin! by Rebecca Mayer

Yeah!  Bag It has been shortlisted for the PUMA Creative Impact Award, and the whole team is going to Berlin for the announcement of the finalist!  The finalist will be selected from international submissions as “the documentary deemed to have made the most social impact” this year.

Editor Casey Nay, Director Suzan Beraza, Bag It Town Coordinator Emily Utter and Producer Michelle Hill (Not pictured: Executive Producer Judy Kohin)

Bag It‘s selection was recently featured on the Huffington Post UK, where director Suzan Beraza declared the goal “to keep this campaign going. It’s a big world out there, and a lot of people still to hopefully inspire to change their habits!”

We are so grateful for everyone’s widespread appreciation of the message of the film.  Bag It has been welcomed at 1000 schools, universities and corporations across the world, with hopefully many more to come!

“Going to Berlin is like a huge team field trip,” says Producer Michelle Hill.  “We are excited for Emily Utter (Bag It Town Coordinator based in San Francisco) to join us.  She is so fired up about bag-free initiatives and has really used the film as a tool to up the ante on the issues.”

We’d like to send a shout out to PUMA for their new dissolving plastic bags.  See here.

As individuals and as organizations, we are faced with some serious challenges today such as ongoing conflict, climate change, loss of biodiversity. None of these issues will solve themselves without intervention. We, at PUMA, have chosen to intervene through film because it is the most powerful medium to reach mass audiences and influence opinion formers and will contribute to leaving a better world for generations to come.
Jochen Zeitz, Chairman of PUMA

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“Plastic is Too Valuable to Throw Away” – by Rebecca Mayer

Last week, we highlighted the imminent flight of an Australian pilot who plans to fly half-way across the world using plastic as fuel.  Increasingly, scientists are looking at ways to convert existing plastic into new products or fuel.  See this New York Times article.

Also check out this lovely video about increasing the life-span of existing plastic products.  Smart plastic, we like to call it!

Since plastic will continue to exist (for thousands of years), why not continue to think creatively about how to harness its potential?

Plastic demands 8% of the world’s petroleum each year; maybe we can steadily reduce that demand by using what had already been made.



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