12 Minutes

Bag Photo from Save Our Shores

Twelve minutes is the average use time of a plastic bag…and by now, most of us know that these lightweight bags — even when placed in trash cans — can be blown into gutters and end up in creeks and storm drains, and eventually into the bay and our ocean.

So it is great to hear about city after city in California, continuing to ban the use of single-use plastic bags!

Bans at Bay Area cities will help keep plastic bags from ending up in our bay.

The plastic bag ban for the city of San José — largest city in the Bay Area and third largest in California — took effect on January, 1, 2012.

Kristin Giammona pulls out her reusable bag to pack her groceries at the Lunardi's market in San José, Calif. on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. Helping her at right is cashier, Chris Silva. San José's ban on the use of plastic bags goes into affect beginning on 2012. (Gary Reyes/ Mercury News)

San Jose residents are getting use to bringing their reusable bags for grocery shopping (and grumbling when they forget and have to pay for paper bags).

There are exemptions…and the San José plastic bag ban does not apply to restaurants, so you will still get plastic bags and Styrofoam containers when getting take out or food to go.

Which means, it is up to us – the individual consumers  — to change our habits to further cut plastic bag and Styrofoam box use.

Despite the exemptions, some restaurant owners are taking it upon themselves to use environment friendly food packaging.  If you are interested in ideas for a restaurant environmental policy, please view my post on California’s foam packaging ban and click on the link to Gayles Bakery & Rosticceria.

The city of Monterey’s plastic bag ban takes effect in June, 2012.

The challenge — for all of us really — is remembering to bring our reusable bags with us when shopping.

In Monterey, we spotted these signs at the Whole Foods parking lot at the Del Monte Center center last year.

More recently, we saw the same reminder signs now up at the Pharmaca / Trader Joe’s parking lot, in downtown, Old Monterey.

With the work that environment and conservation groups around the Bay Area — and beyond — are doing to clean up our shores and oceans, photos of wildlife entangled in plastic bags or other plastic material, will hopefully be a rare thing, or even better, forever in the past.Additional Plastic Pollution Resources and Related Links:

Save Our Shores website – Plastic Bag Ban Fact Sheet Over the last 30 years, Save Our Shores has been responsible for key accomplishments such as preventing offshore oil drilling in Central Coast waters, helping to establish the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, preventing local cruise ship pollution, and bringing together diverse stakeholders to find common solutions to ocean issues

Earth Resource FoundationI AM THE PROBLEM, I AM THE SOLUTION” – Founded in 1999, Earth Resource Foundation (ERF) is an environmental educational non-profit organization developed to empower the general public with the resources to make environmentally  sustainable choices and changes.

Save The Bay (San Francisco) is the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay.  Save the Bay was founded in 1961, as “Save San Francisco Bay Association” by three East Bay women who were watching the Bay disappear before their eyes.  Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Esther Gulick set out to stop the City of Berkeley’s plan to double in size by filling in the shallow Bay off-shore. They mobilized thousands to stop the project, and their resounding victory was repeated on Bay fill projects around the region.

Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF) Charles Moore founded AMRF in 1994 to focus on the “coastal ocean”, specifically on the restoration of disappearing giant kelp forests and the improvement of water quality through the preservation and re-construction of wetlands along the California coast.

The U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA’s) Marine Debris Program Marine debris is everyone’s problem. It is a global problem affecting everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales.

Marine debris also comes in many forms, from a cigarette butt to a 4,000-pound derelict fishing net.

World Watch Institute – Vision for a Sustainable WorldWorldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals and the environment.  With its work, Plastic Pollution seeks to put plastic pollution at the forefront of global social, environmental and political discourse.

Keep Monterey Clean – Litter is a problem in our community.  Monterey County is one of the most beautiful spots in California yet a trip on area roadways can reveal medians, roadsides, and parking lots strewn with litter. Litter is not only an eyesore, it poses health risks, impacts our coastal waters and is costly to cleanup.   The Monterey Regional Waste Management District has created this website to help solve the problem and to recognize the great work many businesses and civic groups are doing to help keep Monterey County clean.