Written by: Hannah Rion
Center for Sustainability Education and Outreach Assistant
Did you know that your locally owned Paul Smith’s College Bookstore was banning plastic bags before it was even cool? If you have visited the college’s bookstore recently, you may have noticed that they no longer offer plastic bags, and have not done so for some time now. In fact, during the Spring 2019 semester, they made the conscious decision to deplete their last shipment of plastic bags and discontinued purchasing them all together. This was enacted as a result of thorough research done by Diana Lyng-Gliddi, bookstore manager. Diana first heard of the Bag Ban law, officially referred to as the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act, when it was being tossed around in New York state legislature about one year ago. She was aware that this was the second time the bill had been up for discussion and had a feeling it would in fact be passed this time−she was right!
Any student who has purchased textbooks within the last year knows that the bookstore has changed the way they package textbooks. Originally, books were given out in boxes; however, in order to get ahead of the ban Diana discontinued the purchase of these boxes as well and began searching for a reusable bag that was both affordable and of good quality. She started reaching out to several companies, requesting samples of bags. She admits that the bookstore does not have the buying power of large retailers, which is why she dedicated a great deal of her time finding a bag that would last for the duration of a student’s time at the college and would not break the bank doing so. This search led her to the purchase of 1,500 reusable bags. In just under a year, the bookstore has already sold or given away roughly 1,000 bags. These bags were also given away with the purchase of textbooks during each of the last two semesters. Now the bags are available for purchase at $2.00 each in the store.
Diana shared that much of her reasoning for making the decisions she did came from the desire to make it a, “way of life” and “lifestyle change”. During our interview, she spoke on New York State’s option for counties to decide whether they wish to charge consumers five cents for paper bags. The money generated from this charge would then be allocated to low income communities to purchase reusable bags for individuals. Franklin County is not involved in this promotion and Diana found that this practice may impede consumers from fully transitioning to this new lifestyle. She strongly believes that not offering the option of paper bags gives people the push they need to remember their reusable bags.
When asked about any foreseeable challenges of the bag ban, Diana voiced her concern that any new visitors, on days like prospective student days or orientations, may not have a bag with them. Optimistically, she hopes that these customers will already be acclimated to this change and embrace the reusable bags. Lastly, she advised that as Graduation approaches, students should give visiting family and friends a pleasant reminder that the bookstore no longer has plastic or paper bags for purchased items.
In order to further promote this project, the Center for Sustainability will be handing out roughly 50 of the reusable bags throughout the Saranac Lake community. Giving away the bags at various grocery locations in town will not only provide consumers with a generous gift, but will also promote the college. It is the office’s hopes to share the story of the bookstore and encourage other businesses to take similar approaches on the bag ban.