Strawberry Park Elementary School students show off their reusable bags Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. The students asked the city council to address the use of plastic bags.

Photo by Scott Franz

Strawberry Park Elementary School students show off their reusable bags Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. The students asked the city council to address the use of plastic bags.

Elementary school students ask Steamboat Springs City Council to help reduce use of plastic bags


— As a crowd of doting parents snapped photos behind them, a class of fourth-graders told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night that the city should rethink the use of plastic bags.

“We have millions of barrels of oil to make these plastic bags, and after all that, we just throw away these plastic bags,” one student told the council. “We need to find a better way to use our natural resources.”

Another student in Katie Malone’s class at Strawberry Park Elementary School pointed out that towns and cities such as Telluride, Boulder and Carbondale either have banned or put a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags.

The students chose to research plastic bags and the debate surrounding them for a class project.

Here in Steamboat, talk of possibly restricting the use of plastic bags either by a ban or with a fee was put on hold in 2011 as city officials waited to see how they were received in other cities.

City Council members specifically are waiting on the outcome of a lawsuit brought in 2012 against the city of Aspen about the use of a fee on disposable bags.

The Colorado Union of Taxpayers brought that lawsuit against Aspen saying the fee was a tax that had been initiated without the approval of voters.

Union President Gregory Golyansky said Thursday the lawsuit remains active.

“Our lawyers are talking, and hopefully the Aspen City Council will see the light,” he said. “If not, there will be a fight.”

Because of the unresolved suit, Steamboat and local sustainability organizations remain in a wait-and-see mode.

City Council President Bart Kounovsky said Thursday that he appreciated the presentation by the class of students.

Other council members also enjoyed the visit from the students.

But Kounovsky said there still is no energy on the current council to schedule an agenda item on the use of plastic bags before the Aspen case is resolved.

Meanwhile, other cities are moving forward with the restrictions and reporting their results.

The city of Boulder reported in March that the use of disposable grocery bags in the city had dropped 68 percent in the first six months since adding a 10-cent fee.

The fee generated $136,753.

According to the Daily Camera, the city enacted the bag fees as a response to calls from student activists to ban the bags and to divert trash from landfills.

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Director Sarah Jones said her organization and Yampa Valley Recycles recently talked about the possible next steps for bag use in Steamboat.

“Someone was going to look and see what is going on in Aspen to see if maybe we can take the kids’ initiative and move it down the road and see what our options are,” she said. “I think the kids learned a ton about the process. I loved the kids’ enthusiasm because they don’t see all the hurdles, they just say we want to do this, let’s do this. I thought they did such a great job.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


jerry carlton 2 years, 11 months ago

Liberals run public schools. They have run them right into the ditch in the last 50 years. Steamboat is still on the shoulder of the road because you have better educated parents, involved parents, and more motivated students than large cities.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

The most annoying part of this debate is that the only the plastic bag which contains any number of other plastic bags and other plastic containers is considered bad.

The plastic bags which contain fruits and vegetables are fine. The plastic bags holding cheese is fine. The plastic bottles are fine. The plastic bag holding my whole wheat bread is fine.

But the plastic bag at the checkout stand is evil.

Personally, I'd be more impressed if the public schools taught critical thinking skills and not being politically correct lemmings. Oh well, I guess first step is learning how to do research to be a lemming so then they can later learn to do research on their independent thoughts. This sort of experience can be remembered later when having independent thoughts as a personal experience on how people in power that you've told to trust are also politically biased.

It is nice that they also learned a little public speaking and something about government.


Fred Duckels 2 years, 11 months ago

When they get to college they will have a leg up and can readily step into the latest condemnation of the Koch's over donating money to a hospital as opposed to finding a way to produce a better bong.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

I wonder if the research included that each plastic shopping bag costs about 1.7 cents and weighs about a quarter of an ounce. In terms of using resources, a plastic bag is similar as moving a passenger car about 100 yards.

Meanwhile, about half of the food produced is wasted. In the US, it is estimated that about 220 pounds of food per year is wasted in the house per person.


Ken Collins 2 years, 11 months ago

What I don't understand with all the comments except Mark's, is why do you guys have to think in terms of all or nothing? Your brains can't be that big. What the kids are doing is an incremental help of the earth's environment. Plastic bags are bad. They say it takes 1000 years to degrade. It takes oil to make them. Paper bags are better because they'll breakdown. Reusable bags are even better. Putting a charge on them, if that's what happens, is not a tax. It is a charge for a product. Here's a situation where local kids want to do something that helps the environment. Why don't you folks just stay out of their way. If you want to screw around with the environment, fine. But the next generation has the need and the desire to do something. Applaud them. This is not liberal v. conservative. It's smart v. stupid.


mark hartless 2 years, 11 months ago

Hey Ken, Are you ever gonna give me an answer to those last questions I asked? Are you gonna acknowledge that Democrats got a $100 million from a "contributer" to stop the KXL??? Or are you just gonna forget that and stumble off to this next gig??


Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Well some students are consciously being exposed to the bigger pictures to overcome the sometimes overly simplistic views they get in school.

For instance, students are rarely told that the British General Clinton held NYC and harbor when we won the Revolutionary War. Yorktown didn't militarily win the war. It convinced the British Parliament that they had no plan on how to win the war and they stopping funding it.

Personally, I rarely use the plastic shopping bags, but I also recognize that using or not using doesn't really matter.


Dan Kuechenmeister 2 years, 11 months ago

But hey, at least our kids will know that plastic is bad. "A 2009 study found that U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science, behind nations like China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Finland. Figures like these have groups like StudentsFirst, headed by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, concerned and calling for reforms to "our education system [that] can't compete with the rest of the world." And from the NY Times "In the United States, only 7 percent of students reached the advanced level in eighth-grade math, while 48 percent of eighth graders in Singapore and 47 percent of eighth graders in South Korea reached the advanced level. As those with superior math and science skills increasingly thrive in a global economy, the lag among American students could be a cause for concern."


Dan Kuechenmeister 2 years, 11 months ago

If our educators wish to promote a cause ie; plastic bags are bad, did you, could you turn it into a math and science project instead of or as well as a presentation before our political leaders. Then two things are accomplished. The "cause" is promoted which makes Ken Collins happy and there is math and science practice which in theory will benefit the students in the long run. We happen to use reusable bags as much as we can although we do have the meat we purchase placed in those nasty plastic bags if there is a chance of bacterial contamination of our reusable bags


Jeremy Johnston 2 years, 11 months ago

Here's a few numbers to think about. Since plastic bags were introduced (1977) estimated trillions have ended up in waterways, lakes, and oceans. 300 bags equals one gallon of gasoline. They take up to 1000 years to break down. Production of plastic bags emits .04 tons of CO2 per 1,000 bags. That's two times less than paper, four times less than compostable, and 171 times less than cotton canvas. If you can use that tote 172 times, only then will it be more eco-friendly. The average canvas tote is used an average of 51 times before it wears out or is retired. Other fabrics like bamboo or hemp are stronger than cotton and require marginally more energy to produce. Re-use your plastic bag at least once (halfing it's emissions) and then make sure it gets in the recycle bin at the store (keeping it out of the water and the landfill). Of course it's still made from non-renewable oil. The most sustainable option would be to sew your own tote by hand using salvaged cloth scraps or better yet- home tanned leather and sinew from an animal killed with a hand crafted bow an arrow. Or... how about no bags? Put your groceries back into the cart, out to car and into the house bag free. Might take a few trips but uber-sustainable.


mark hartless 2 years, 11 months ago

Ken is a great example of how religious environmentalists seldom see (or even want to see) past "the cause". Facts do not matter to these fanatics.

Paper bags come from trees. They take fossil fuels to produce.

Re-useable bags take more energy to produce, and who wants their groceries in grimmy dirty bags, so washing them takes fresh water and energy.

Plastic can be recycled, and many people use their plastic grocery bags many times over before tossing them out. I use mine for ice in my cooler. If not for them I'd be usind a ziploc bag which takes even more plastic and energy to produce. Many folks use them for small trash can liners, and take bundles of them to be recycled.

Any of that make it into Kes' thought process?? No chance!

Just like the FACT that the KXL pipeline is BETTER for the environment than the railroad cars currently being used is irreleve3nt to these geniuses.

Same thing when it comes to hybrid cars: A hybrid car gets great gas mileage of course, and for religious fanatics that's the "end of the debate"... it's "settled science".

However, a hybrid car also needs specialized battery components, which require the mining and processing of nickel, copper, and various rare earth metals. You hear that Ken??? MINING !!! Mining bad, hybrid good, right Ken?? Ever see a open pit copper mine, Ken?

They don't call them "rare earth metals" for nothing. But forget that because hybrids are "good", right Ken??

Mining costs energy and manpower, and has consequences for the mine’s local environment. Some of the metals and other components will have to be shipped across the oceans to the manufacturing facility (or maybe several times to different facilities). This drives the carbon footprint of the hybrid up.

None of any of this matters to people like Ken, it's a religion, period. They kicked God out of schools and now are preaching THEIR religion to a captive audience.

Absolutely shameful.


mark hartless 2 years, 11 months ago

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."

“How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”

All quotes from Adolf Hitler...


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.