In following plastic bag ban news around the state of California for the past few months (and it is a busy arena), we at the Sonoma County Bag Ban Campaign have come to recognize that we AGREE with a lot of what the opposition maintains in their numerous lawsuits or threats thereof.

Stephen Joseph is the very busy lawyer for The Save the Bag Coalition, threatening lawsuits wherever whisper of a bag ban crops up, from Santa Monica earlier this year to little Fairfax back in 2007, when that frontrunner made the gentle move to a voluntary ban, thereby completing an effective end run. In that threat of lawsuit, the coalition maintained that the proposed .05 paper bag fee would not have been a sufficient deterrent toward reusable bags.   We agree, but don’t throw the ban out with the bathwater.

This coalition wants to make sure that no additional harm is going to be done to the environment in enacting such legislation.  We agree!   There are as many or more reasons to NOT use paper bags, as the greenhouse gas emissions from paper bag usage is triple that of plastic.  The emphasis on plastic bags is due largely to their being nearly weightless as they blow, float and degrade, eventually, into microscopic detritus in our natural world. However they insist that every city and county prepare its own Environmental Impact Report, where one report could suffice.

Marin County maintained in enacting their county ordinance earlier this year that an EIR should not be necessary, as it is tautological (or obvious) that a plastic bag ban can do nothing but good. They were sued for being too literal and not spending enough money.   Marin responded, to quote the late, great Supervisor Charles McGlashan, “Bring it on!” and we to the north wait to see if this “Categorical Exemption” holds up in court.

At the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency meeting on May 18, “Single Use Carry-out Bags” led off the morning, with a comprehensive presentation by agency staffer, Patrick Carter.   In it, Carter shared three possible avenues for bag ban movement, but happily, the group consensus sided solidly with a county-wide ban.  The staff will decide all the details to include in said ordinance, but we encourage a fee of .25 on paper bags to encourage reliance on reusable bags.  

There will likely be an allowance wherein shoppers buying groceries with food stamps would get their bags free. Many stores gave away reusable bags during Earth Week this year and with the number of totes already in existence, there will be ample for everyone once the sustainably fueled habit is fully underway.  They’re doing it in Bangladesh, Botswana and Brownsville, Texas -  we can do it here!

  1. Write an email to your city council representative saying “Ban plastic bags;” elaborate a bit!  If you live in the unincorporated part of the county, write to your Supervisor.
  2. Write a more extensive old-fashioned snail mail letter. These are said to “count for” seven votes.
  3. Give FUN reusable bags as gifts, and branch out to include small bags for produce and bulk purchases.   On the website, there are instructions for how to store produce once you get it home in your reusable cloth bags.
  4. Attend a city council meeting and speak out during public comment.   We can give you full direction on city council participation -  write to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
  5. While you are at all this, focus on reuse and get ready for and act on our next Styrofoam/polystyrene ban.
  6. Bring your own to-go ware and coffee mug out into the world, your own containers out for bulk shopping.


The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition believes it is vital that we rely on reusable bags. We agree.  They want these reusable bags to be made of polyethylene, petroleum-based.  Our sweet revenge will be to rely on cloth bags every time we shop.