ASPEN - During the campaigns in Roaring Fork Valley municipalities to ban plastic grocery bags, critics often said it was unfair to target just bags since plastic is so prevalent in packaging.
Fair enough, says the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, an agency that promotes wise use of resources throughout the valley. So CORE and partners are sponsoring a competition to build awareness of plastic waste and promote conservation.
Beginning Sunday, families and individuals in the valley are urged to measure their plastic waste for five days - without changing their normal consumption habits.
"For the first five days, it's a free-for-all," said Amelia Potvin, a staff member at CORE.
Starting Friday, participants will be asked to set a goal for reducing their plastic consumption for the final five days of the program.
Participants will be urged to document the changes with photographs - both the amount of plastic accumulated during the first five days and the, hopefully, reduced amount during the last five days.
Results will be shared at 5 p.m. Nov. 20 at a free Early Bird Community Thanksgiving Meal presented by Aspen TREE in the Aspen High School commons.
The competition is dubbed "Waste Not, Want Not."
Potvin said she and a colleague did a trial run of collecting their plastic waste for five days. They were surprised at the results because, as people promoting sustainable lifestyles, they thought they already did a good job of minimizing plastic waste.
"When you pile it up for five days - it's 'whoa,'" Potvin said.
It's easy to let yourself slip into poor habits and grab a plastic fork or pick up lunch in a plastic to-go container. The awareness coaxed them back to better habits, such as bringing their own containers when they picked up a salad or another to-go meal and making sure they brought reusable utensils from home to use at the office.
"A lot of it is deciding what you're going to buy," Potvin said.
CORE is teaming with the nonprofit Aspen TREE and the city's Environmental Health Department on Waste Not, Want Not. The environmental health department will award prizes to participants in the challenge.
Waste Not, Want Not is the final installment in a four-part Waste Free Challenge series that CORE presented. The first competition promoted home energy-efficiency. Participants learned steps they could take to reduce their home-energy consumption. It took place as awareness over potential natural-gas extraction in Thompson Divide was building. People were given the opportunity to reduce their natural-gas consumption by making their homes more efficient.
The next competition was the COREmuter Challenge, in which participants tracked their human-powered commuting miles, on bicycle or by foot, and tried to avoid using a personal vehicle for as many days as possible.
The third installment generated awareness of local foods.
For more on Waste Not, Want Not, contact Potvin at firstname.lastname@example.org.