Santa Monica will join the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in officially making Thursday, December 20th, “A Day Without a Bag” — at least those bags that aren’t reusable.

The Santa Monica City Council unanimously adopted a resolution at its meeting Tuesday, November 27th, declaring December 20th “A Day Without a Bag.” City Councilman Kevin McKeown made the motion, at the request of Heal the Bay.

The purpose of the day is to “encourage holiday shopping with reusable tote bags rather than single-use plastic and paper carry-out bags, in the interest of sustainability, reduction of landfill and protection of the marine environment.”

Heal the Bay is organizing the event in conjunction with Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles, a dozen or so community groups and a handful of major retailers, including Whole Foods.

“It’s a coalition of governments, retailers and community groups who are encouraging holiday shoppers to forgo the use of one time use disposable bags, whether that be paper or plastic,” says Matthew King, spokesman for Heal the Bay.

King stresses that A Day Without a Bag is really about education and action.

“It’s people taking a concrete step to improve the environment, to save energy, because these bags use a significant amount of energy,” he says.

King points out that California spends $250 million a year to collect and dispose of one-time-use bags.

“They’re an enormous issue at landfills,” he says. “They take up a lot of space. They wind up in the marine environment; they threaten marine life because they don’t degrade in the ocean. These bags are blowing in our parks, on the freeways; they’re all over the place.”

As King notes, many of these bags end up in the ocean, harming and killing marine life.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “more than 100,000 whales, seals, turtles, and birds die every year as a result of plastic bags.”

McKeown thinks now is the perfect time to take action.

“The holiday season is one where people are probably using more of the bags than usual and yet it’s one where there’s a greater opportunity to decide to carry your own bag,” he says. “I’ve personally made myself go back out to the car to get a bag when I find myself walking to the store without one, and after you do that a couple of times, you remember.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the United States each year. One hundred billion of those are plastic shopping bags.

And only one percent of plastic bags were recycled in 2000, according to the EPA.

Every year, an estimated 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are reportedly consumed worldwide — more than one million per minute.

Paper bags are used less frequently by consumers, but take up more space in landfills than plastic bags — and are also said to produce more air and water pollutants.

Additionally, in 1999 alone, 14 million trees were cut to produce the ten billion paper grocery bags used that year alone in the U.S.

Many believe that reusable bags are the answer to protecting the environment.

“I think this is huge,” said Mayor Richard Bloom of declaring December 20th A Day Without a Bag. “I think the idea of transitioning ourselves from single-use bags to multiple-use bags, much like other countries have done for many years, resolves the paper versus plastic debate and is much more important.

“There’s a real consciousness change that has to take place. I’ve been trying to do it over the last couple of months.”

“I’m happy to support this,” he added. “It’s a movement and we really need to grab hold of it and be an important part.”

King and Heal the Bay hope the day will educate and motivate consumers to change their everyday ways and adopt more sustainable habits.

“We hope this day gets people thinking and adopting more earth-friendly practices,” he says.

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