Our Future in the Bag

Rayan Krishnan, EarthEcho Youth Leadership Council Member

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This is a story from our Ocean Challenge partner EarthEcho International. Your participation in the Ocean Challenge has helped to support their work!

I’m a high school senior in the Greater Seattle region serving as a leader on EarthEcho International’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC). Members of the YLC are working in four communities to impact the issue of ocean plastic pollution by educating members of our respective communities and providing an easy, effective alternative – a free reusable bag. While each community is at a different point, I am currently collecting data on how many paper or reusable bags are being used at PCC, a local grocery store. After I have collected data, I will host a “make-a-bag” event on April 15th at a local library to engage community members, especially youth, in sewing “Future in the Bag” patches onto 300 tote bags. I will then set up bag-share stations where shoppers who have forgotten their reusable bag can “borrow” one from the station and return that or another reusable bag when they return to the store.

Through the bag swaps, people actively reduce their own plastic usage and they can pay it forward by contributing to the bag swap station as well! In recent weeks, I have collected data on the number of bags used at my grocery store that are reusable and my colleagues in Miami, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, Australia, are all doing the same. While counting, people have approached me asking why I am counting other people’s bags, which has sparked some good conversations with community members about the goals of our project. In each community we will count reusable bag use AFTER the bag swap stations are installed to measure our impact.

As part of this project, I have partnered with several community organizations including Zero Waste Washington, a non-profit in Seattle that advocates and worked to pass plastic bag ordinances in cities throughout Washington. Most recently, the group successfully passed a measure in the Washington state senate phasing out single use plastic bags by 2022, with a fine on stores that don’t comply. This landmark case will have a huge impact in Washington state, and many grocery stores are already seeking alternatives, such as the bag-swap stations, to encourage reusable bag use. I have identified other community members who will contribute to the make-a-bag event. I am partnering with Mors bag, an organization that takes scrap cloth to sew reusable bags. I have also met with some Redmond city council members who are interested in supporting the event and supported the plastic bag ordinance in Redmond as well. Sustainability Ambassadors is a local non-profit youth network that I will be working with to encourage participation in the event.

While each of the four Future in the Bag communities are a little different, YLC members in each community have identified a retail partner where they can place at least one bag swap station and have a bag-making event planned in April. We are all collecting data to compare communities and create an action guide for other students to lead these efforts in their communities. Thank you for your support.