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Sunday, September 25, 2022
Home Green Letter: Reusable Bags for Rye

Letter: Reusable Bags for Rye

The following is a letter to MyRye.com from Sara Goddard, chair of the Rye Sustainability Committee:

ReusableBags-don'tforgetI am the chair of the Rye Sustainability Committee (RSC), a municipal sub-committee of the City of Rye, dedicated to working with City Council on important environmental issues that affect our community.

As MyRye reported last week, our committee has put forth a proposal for a retail shopping bag ordinance which would prohibit the use of certain kinds of plastic retail shopping bags. This proposed ordinance is part of a wider campaign by the RSC to promote the use of reusable bags in Rye.

We were inspired by recent highly successful legislation of some of our neighboring coastal communities, including, Westport, CT, Southampton and East Hampton, NY, and Chestertown, MD. All of these municipalities have passed legislation virtually identical to what is being proposed for Rye, and the results have been favorable for residents, merchants and the environment. A public hearing for the proposed ordinance is scheduled for 11/16 at City Hall.

I noticed from comments to your post of 10/18, that there is some confusion about the proposed ordinance, and thought it would be helpful to forward a FAQ sheet, in addition to the following information about this RSC campaign:

Reuse instead of Dispose: This proposed ordinance is about a change of life-style. With a recycling rate of less than 10% of all recovered plastic, recycling can only be a short-term measure. In order to make a lasting impact on our environment, we need to reduce our over-all consumption of plastic at its source.

In addition, the RSC has been working over the last few months to raise awareness about the proposed ordinance:

  • We have collected, to date, 76 signatures of support from Rye merchants and organizations. This represents more than half of all Rye businesses. We plan to collect more in the weeks ahead.
  • We have met twice with the Rye Chamber of Commerce to explain the details of the proposed ordinance and to answer questions.
  • We have presented background information to City Council on 10/5 and 10/19, in addition to speaking individually with City Council members and City staff about the proposed ordinance.
  • We co-hosted the "Bag It" film/discussion evening on 10/21, with over 200 in attendance. The film and discussion following focused on the lasting problems of plastic in our environment and how we can take action to slow down the alarming increase in waste proliferation.
  • Should the ordinance pass, we plan to work with the merchants to help them educate the public about bringing their reusable bags. 
  • We are available to discuss any aspect of the proposed ordinance with whomever is interested.

Thanks for your consideration and please let me know if you have any further questions about this issue.

Sincerely,

Sara

Rye Sustainability Committee

  1. This idea just ain’t fully cooked. Merchants might be for this, so they don’t have the minor expense of providing consumers with designer bags to portage purchases. But, as a consumer, I’d be a little unhappy if I were to pay full retail for some items downtown, then have the merchant tell me they won’t give me a bag to use. Do the merchants think their customers will be pleased with this sanctimonious attitude of “bring your own” to save the world? I also don’t like the idea of government using its power to forcefully change the lifestyle of shoppers, no matter how well-intentioned. If the merchants want to get consumers to change their behavior, give them a discount for bringing their own bags, don’t look to government to solve the problem.

    And while I get the whole concept of people wanting to reduce the impact on the environment, I have to ask… honestly, does anyone reading this really believe that the typical Rye family is a model for others to emulate when it comes to reducing the impact on the environment? How many extra large SUVs can you count around town? How many of your neighbors cut their own grass with a push-reel grass clipper? How many rake their own leaves using a rake? Who, aside from a handful, walk into town or to the train station? Who do you know cleans their clothes with a washboard and hangs the laundry on a clothesline? Does anyone in Rye really think their “eco-lifestyle” would stand up to serious scrutiny against 99% of the rest of the world? Even 99% of the rest of the country? Are we supposed to get the warm fuzzies that we’re “earth-friendly” by not using plastic bags – that somehow that significantly offsets our carbon footprint? Who wants to be dictated to by a small minority of individuals, who, however well-intentioned, will impact virtually every shopper in the downtown area? If you really want to contribute to reducing your carbon footprint, stop drinking bottled water, sell your car, down-size your house to 15% of what you currently own, bathe just once every two weeks, wash your one set of clothes once a month, eat half of what you do now, cut your spending by 80%… only please, do it somewhere far away, because I don’t want to see or smell anyone who’s so religious about reducing their footprint – and neither, I bet, do you.

    Let’s face it, the only way to be truly carbon neutral is to be dead. Simply by existing, we consume. It is not a sin, it is not a vice, and government shouldn’t tell us how to live our lives.

    I also wish people would also understand that passing an ordinance in this town isn’t terribly effective – just look around and count how many people are driving while texting or talking on cell phones, and keep your ears open for leaf blowers any summer day, and you’ll quickly realize that too many people ignore laws that inconvenience them. If this idea were to pass, most shoppers will ignore stores that inconvenience them by not providing bags, and go to stores that do (driving their big SUVs in the process). In the end, it is the merchants who will suffer.

  2. A well written criticism, Matt. When I first read about this initiative in the City Council agenda, I was concerned that someone was trying to make life even harder for the local merchants. I continue to think that’s the case and that the merchant’s who have signed on are being bullied to do so by a loyal or vocal customer(s). Your thought on merchant’s reduced costs had not occurred to me, but makes sense. Maybe we’ll see the return of paper as an alternative?

    But another thought does occur and that is the skeptical argument of a City Council that can’t seem to get anything else done is going to turn to “feel good” (for some voters) issues that make no material change to the quality of life in Rye. It would be far easier to pass the suggested ordinance than

    – consistently enforcing local traffic safety laws (and publishing the stats for all to see)
    – fixing City snow clearance policies so that already overburden property owners aren’t required to clear both the naturally fallen snow AND the snow moved City moved by the City on to sidewalks and intersection entrances
    – maintaining and marking crosswalks.

    Of course, this council should get credit for trying to clean up the old CVS lot mess from the last administration. The sooner that’s out of the way the better. But please, current and candidate Council members, don’t try to use “feel good measures” to create the illusion of progress.

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