ASPEN " Telluride is the clear winner in the Aspen-Telluride Reusable Bag Challenge. Its residents used 29,351 reusable bags at local grocery stores, compared to the 26,793 bags used by Aspen residents.
The victory is even more dramatic considering the towns' respective populations. Telluride has about 2,500 residents " less than half Aspen's population of 6,000.
The challenge, which ran from May 24 (Memorial Day weekend) to Sept. 1 (Labor Day weekend), was sponsored by the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) in Aspen and Sheep Mountain Alliance (SMA) in Telluride. In Aspen, Clark's Market, City Market and the city of Aspen also contributed to the effort.
CORE and SMA estimate that one reusable bag equates to roughly 2.5 plastic grocery bags. Given that estimate, the two towns eliminated over 140,000 plastic bags from being used. The challenge also raised $2,800 for local environmental projects.
"Both communities should be proud of their effort," said Nathan Ratledge with CORE, "although our hats go off to Telluride for their success. They did an outstanding job."
Both organizations also are moving forward with related projects to further address the consumption of single-use, disposable shopping bags. CORE is working with Aspen High School's Earth Club to create a unique, reusable bag that will be made available in area hotels this winter. The goal of the students' initiative is to engage and inform Aspen's large visitor community.
CORE and SMA are also pursuing other long-term solutions, including the possibility of a city ordinance. CORE is hosting an online feedback page on its website (www.aspencore.org) and encourages all interested parties to contribute their opinions. Options for reducing plastic bag use include banning plastic bags and charging for them.
Whatever direction it chooses, Ratledge said CORE is looking into partnering with other municipalities " likely Telluride and possibly Crested Butte " on a 90- to 100-day trial period. He added that CORE would love to include a downvalley town, as well.
Although the city of Aspen has been supporting a voluntary program, grocers have not. According to Ratledge, grocers have argued that they need to give customers what they want " and if the government isn't willing to discourage plastic bag use, it must not be something the people want.