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posted Jun 9, 2016, 11:10 AM by Jeanne Newstrom   [ updated Jun 9, 2016, 11:10 AM ]

New strategies are needed to reduce usage of single-use plastic bags in Itasca County.  The BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) committee of Earth Circle has worked hard to influence Grand Rapids City Council to ban plastic bags from large food markets and big-box stores [the local WalMart uses 5000 per week, not including holidays].  Unfortunately, the city’s legal team nipped the project in the bud, claiming the city didn’t have the power to impose a ban.

I visited with Pat Helmberger, co-chair of the BYOB committee, to learn more about their initiative [June 7, 2016].  What originally caught Pat’s attention and generated her motivation (three years ago) was the horrific descriptions of  “garbage islands” and the effect of plastic on marine life.  She began educating herself and got involved with Earth Circle [Earth Circle is a nonpartisan environmental group that meets on the third Saturday at Grand Rapids Public Library at 2 pm].

The BYOB committee has actively promoted their cause by ~
  •  providing reusable bags and reminder stickers to “to take me shopping”,
  • putting up reminder signage at stores,
  • taking a door-to-door survey and distributing information,
  • petitioning for a city ban on single-use plastic bags,
  • creating Earth Day events,
  • having discussion with civic leaders and giving power point presentations at government and civic organizations,
  • writing letters to the editor,
  • teaching at the Water Legacy Student Summit,
  • showing the movie “Bag It” and donating the movie to Grand Rapids Public Library.

Here is a link to Bag It The Movie:


The BYOB committee has received funding from Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Blandin Foundation, and Lake County Power; additional support has come from Cub Foods, Ogle Market Place, WalMart and the DNR.

Pat’s favorite websites for learning about plastic bag usage and keeping up on environmental concerns are ~

Pat looks forward to a new food market coming to Grand Rapids,ALDI, because the company does not provide free bags; a customer has to bring their own or buy some.  See what's coming:  https://corporate.aldi.us/en/newsroom/ 

Photo: Pat Helmberger and Barb Veit collecting signatures for a ban the bag petition to be presented to the Grand Rapids City Council by the BYOB subcommittee of Earth Circle.
taken March 5, 2016 by J. Newstrom