This past summer the city of Westminster instituted a law restricting businesses from distributing single-use plastic bags in certain circumstances. Other cities and state legislators are considering similar “bag bans.” I was in California two years ago and cities there took this leap long ago. Even at Yosemite National Park, if you want a bag to carry your goods away, they offer you a nice one you can use again and again, and you pay for it.

I did some research for a project some years ago and became very much aware of how grossly irresponsible we are as a people in how we manufacture, consume and discard pretty much everything. Over the years I have tried to be better, leave less of a footprint. I often fail, but sometimes I’m successful in changing habits.

I tried compostable garbage bags. They started to decompose before I even took the trash out — #fail. I bought reusable straws to take to restaurants, but never remembered to take them out of my purse to wash them between uses and it got gross — so technically #fail, but now we just drink out of the cup and still try to avoid the plastic straw.

What has worked for us? We use refillable water bottles instead of buying bottled water, we used soap bars instead of soap that comes in plastic bottles, we use our own reusable bags for shopping, we refill hand and dish soap dispensers instead of buying the disposable ones, we have glass bottles for household cleaners and make the solution with a tab of soap that dissolves in water. Even Dove is on board with refillable deodorant containers. That’s potentially a dozen deodorant containers I won’t be adding to landfills this year.

I know: It’s easy to think that a couple deodorant containers or a few straws aren’t going to make a dent in this country’s trash issues (and trash is a huge, expensive problem everywhere). And I don’t think I can fix the problem, but I do think I can be less of the problem. I’m also making an effort to spend my money with companies that are working to make products with a smaller footprint — less packaging, more reusable products.

I have a ridiculously long way to go, there are so many ways I could be doing better, but I’m trying to make changes that I’ll be able to stick with. So I appreciate Westminster’s bag ban. In the grand scheme of things the impact will be small, but if everyone is taking a few baby steps here and there, collectively we’re taking leaps and bounds. Tell us how you’re reducing your footprint at


Kym Byrnes