The Watershed Institute teamed up with local students to help propel the passage of a plastic bag ban in Hopewell Borough as part of the youth-driven movement to raise awareness about climate change and other environmental issues.
On Jan. 2, about a dozen fifth graders from Hopewell Elementary School and Watershed staff joined voices that urged the Hopewell Borough Council to finalize a ban on distribution by businesses of single-use plastic bags. The Council voted unanimously to have the ban go into effect on Earth Day (April 22, 2020).
The Borough Council enacted an ordinance in November 2018 that directed the town’s Economic Development Commission to create an education program “to encourage the transition away from single-use plastic bags.”
Erin Landis, the Watershed’s River-Friendly Coordinator, worked with the borough to create such an education campaign over the past six months as required by the ordinance. Erin also coordinated with teachers and students at the Hopewell Elementary School and reached out to dozens of small businesses in Hopewell about the ban.
She had several meetings with members of Hopewell Elementary’s fifth-grade Green Team, which is guided by teacher and STEM facilitator Helen Corveleyn. The Green Team has been working in their school and with the broader community to reduce waste, especially plastic waste. The students’ energy and passion for this issue resulted in about 50 pledges from Hopewell Elementary families to reduce single-use plastic in their lives.
As part of the solution, the Watershed has given out more than 650 free, reusable bags to businesses to distribute to their customers. Erin also handed out another 150 free bags directly to consumers at community tabling events, such as the Hopewell Harvest Fair and the school’s Back-to-School Carnival. The Shepherd Foundation, a local nonprofit, gave a generous donation to cover the costs of these bags. Plastics are made from petroleum and bags and bottles can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, often breaking down into smaller, harmful microplastics.
Along with giving out more reusable bags in 2020, the next step includes posting signs in Hopewell Borough parking lots to help remind people to carry reusable bags into stores while shopping. Already several businesses have posted placards in their windows with similar reminders. Several sandwich boards will also be available to place outside of shopping malls and at Farmers Markets, Cruise Night and other borough events.
To facilitate the transition, the Watershed Institute is providing reusable bags to Hopewell businesses. Pick one up when you make a purchase at the following locations: Village Express, Michael’s Bakery & Deli, Hopewell Valley Bistro & Inn, China Wok, Hopewell House Wines & Liquors, Tomatillos, Hopewell Pharmacy and Hopewell Theater.
Be sure to join the movement wherever you live! For more information, please contact Erin Landis at [email protected]