NYC GSA/Hewitt Ban the Bag Conference

Sat, 03/02/2013 - 10:00



written by the Hewitt School Student Earth Committee

As one of the founding members of the Green School Alliance and winner of the Fall Green Cup Recycle Challenge, Hewitt has always been concerned with environmental issues. This year the Earth Committee, our environmental club, has made a commitment to spearhead a campaign to convince City Council to either ban or impose a fee on plastic bags in NYC. Whereas many see New York as one of the world’s premiere cities, environmentally, it is at the back of the pack. Many cities and even countries, both internationally (ex. China, Mexico City, Ireland ) and nationally (ex. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Malibu, Southampton)  have already banned single- use disposable bags or imposed a charge for them. All of them report that the ban has improved the environment. To quote a resident of Washington, D. C. “It just becomes a way of life, and I certainly don’t see as many plastic bags as I used to just rolling down the street.” To see a complete list of countries and cities with some sort of ban or fee on plastic bags, go to  for the latest information.



“Plastic bags are designed to be used only briefly, yet they persist in the environment forever,” states Jennie Romer – founder of All of us in NYC have seen them in all the wrong places- in a tree, rolling down the sidewalks, clogging up waterways, or perhaps even endangering marine life. However, as we receive our purchases in plastic bags, we rarely think about whether there might be negative consequences to our actions. We are sometimes even proud of the fact that we re-use them to carry something else in or to line our garbage bins, but not enough thought is given to whether we should take them in the first place. We rarely think about the environmental impact of this seemingly small act that we engage in every day. Where do they go? What is the effect on the environment?  Much research still needs to be done, but one thing that is clear: reducing overall single-use bags is beneficial to the environment. That is what a lot of cities are doing by adopting laws regulating these bags. For example, one widely cited study published in the journal Environmental and Resource Economics in 2007, found a reduction of about 94% in plastic bag usage in Ireland after imposing a bag tax of $.20. (




The environmental problems caused by plastic bags are only going to get worse. As students, we represent the future, and it is our responsibility to make good decisions that will affect our generation and generations to come. Our goal is to empower students and provide them with the tools that they need to convince City Council that an ordinance to ban or charge a fee for plastic bags would be in the best interests of all New Yorkers. We CAN make a difference. Recently, students at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado were instrumental in convincing their City Council to ban the bag. We can do it too. There is power in numbers. 


Sea Birds and Sea Turtles mistake these bags floating in our oceans for jellyfish and eat them. The bags block the digestive system, preventing the animal from eating, so they literally starve to death.



On Saturday, March 2nd, the Hewitt School will host a student conference. The conference will address:

  • Reasons for supporting the ban
  • Strategies for launching the initiative in the GSA schools
  • A plan to convince City Council to either ban or impose a fee on plastic bags.


Participants will view the documentary “Bag It”. The day will also feature a student moderated panel of experts who have experience with banning initiatives, including:

  • Jennie Romer - Founder and Director of Instrumental on banning the bag in San Francisco.
  • Ron Gonen - Mayor Bloomberg's newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Recycling and Sustainability. Founder of Recyclebank.
  • Stiv Wilson - Communications and Policy Director of the 5 Gyres Institute.
  • Eric Goldstein - New York City Environment Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
  • Maite Quinn of Sims (they handle solid waste and recycling for NYC)

Click HERE to register for the EVENT and for details.

Each school will select several of their attendees to be student moderators. Each moderator will be assigned one panelist, and it will be their job to research that panelist and come up with intelligent questions. The moderators will meet on a Saturday before the Conference to review their questions and make sure that they are not repetitive, etc.

The day will culminate with break-out groups (also run by student moderators) to discuss how the GSA can be a real force on this issue.

Registration for the Conference will begin in early January.

RIGHT NOW we can set a good example and make a difference by refusing plastic bags from stores and shopping with reusable bags.

A litter fence stops the flight of plastic bags at the Yolo County Landfill northeast of Davis.
Ramin Yazdani/Courtesy photo

An all too familiar sight



At the Conference a petition or postcards, which may be more visually effective, to City Council to either ban or impose a fee on plastic bags will be distributed to each school. Schools that cannot send representatives can find the petition on the GSA website. When there is a hearing for the approval of an ordinance on plastic bags, students can attend the City Council meeting and bring the petitions from the GSA.  It is important that all students sign the petition to show that we are an important group of environmentally responsible citizens of NYC.  We are the future, and we must have a say in that future.  Here is the link to the petition…….

Coming in January >>


                                                 The wrong way to shop.                               The better way!


Also consider participating in the BagIt Plastic Free School Contest