By Alliance Operations Director & CLI grad Dawn Webster
The issue of plastic bag waste has appeared in the news many times lately – National Geographic devoted their cover story to it, news broke that a whale died in Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, and a plastic bag was found in the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the ocean. Other mountain towns, cities, states, and entire countries have banned single-use plastic bags. While a global issue, many of us in Jackson saw that we were woefully behind and have had our eyes on making local change.
I joined the staff of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance in 2014, and this past fall, participated in the Conservation Leadership Institute (CLI). Though my job as Operations Director at the Alliance does not involve advocacy, I wanted to learn how to affect issues I was passionate about both within and outside of my professional life. As our CLI groups were choosing issues to work on, I joined two other women in the class to jump into the fight against single-use plastic waste.
We quickly discovered a local group (including several other past CLI graduates!) working on this issue, and joined forces to work on an ordinance to reduce plastic waste. A similar effort in 2011 ended in improved advocacy efforts and increased use of reusable bags, but no ordinance banning single-use plastic bags.
Through CLI, we learned how to effect change by setting a goal, recruiting like-minded individuals, and communicating with local decision-makers. By building on the work other individuals and the Town of Jackson did in 2011, organizing additional people to express their support, and holding many meetings with local business owners and elected officials, we were able to bring this issue to the Town Council on May 21. The Council unanimously voted to direct Town of Jackson legal staff to conduct research and draft sample ordinances.
The next steps are a reading of the first draft ordinance at Town Council on August 20, and hopefully the passing of an ordinance that greatly reduces plastic waste in Jackson. If you’d like to be informed of future progress of the ordinance, and find out how you can help, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you’re passionate about this or any other issue, I highly recommend the Conservation Leadership Institute to help fuel that fire, learn how to advocate effectively, and meet other amazing people making change in Jackson.