A giveaway of nearly 20,000 reusable bags will be presented to holiday shoppers at more than 50 locations throughout Los Angeles County, including several sites in Santa Monica, as part of the third annual “A Day Without a Bag” Thursday, December 17th.

The event, organized by Santa Monica-based environmental group Heal the Bay, is sponsored by the city and county of Los Angeles.

A coalition of major retailers, local governments and regional environmental groups has formed to organize “A Day Without a Bag,” which urges consumers to forego environmentally harmful one-use plastic or paper grocery bags in favor of reusable totes.

Local retailers Fred Segal Santa Monica and the Banana Republic’s Third Street Promenade store will also be participating in the event through in-store promotions or giveaways, as well as local Ralphs, Albertson’s and 99 Cents stores.

“This year we have more than doubled the number of cities in the county that are supporting ‘A Day Without a Bag,’” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “It reflects the growing groundswell in Los Angeles for reusable bags, which not only save the environment but taxpayer dollars as well, especially in a time of drastic budget shortfalls.”

California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year just to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste, according to Heal the Bay. Less than five percent of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year in Los Angeles, with the remainder clogging landfills, littering public spaces and harming animal life when the bags infiltrate waterways, the organization says.

Spurred by the success of previous Heal the Bay events, community groups throughout the state have launched their own “A Day Without a Bag” campaigns.

The cities of Santa Monica, Malibu and Manhattan Beach have adopted pending ordinances that prohibit retail establishments, restaurants and vendors from providing single-use plastic bags to customers.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban plastic bags by January 1st if a statewide user-fee on plastic or paper bags has not been established by that time.

Los Angeles County’s “Brag About Your Bag” campaign began on November 15th and will have distributed more than 50,000 bags at dozens of supermarkets by the time of “A Day Without a Bag.” Grand prizes, including a lunch with Los Angeles Lakers forward and campaign spokesman Luke Walton, will be announced at Heal the Bay’s “A Day Without a Bag” media event in downtown Los Angeles on December 17th.

Giveaway locations in Santa Monica include:

Santa Monica Public Library

Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.; 1704 Montana Ave.;

Fairview Branch, 2101 Ocean Park Blvd.; and 2601 Main St, Santa Monica;

Fred Segal, 500 Broadway, Santa Monica;

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, 1600 Ocean Front Walk.

For a map of all giveaway sites, http://healthebay.org/nobagday/2009/baggiveaways.asp/.