West Coasters had a blast making bags at a Stitch’n’Beach session on Saturday.

Surfrider aims to eliminate plastic bags in Tofino

“It’s a great way to get involved with the community, have fun, meet others and perhaps find a way to volunteer that you hadn’t before."

With plastic straws just about pushed into extinction, Surfrider Pacific Rim is now setting its sights on eliminating plastic bags.

The foundation has dropped a challenge on the West Coast to create or donate 1,000 re-useable bags by the time the Pacific Rim Whale Festival closes on March. 24, according to Surfrider chair Michelle Hall. In an email to the Westerly News, Hall explained the bags will be dished out for free at the Tofino Co-op as part of a ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ campaign aimed at encouraging locals and visitors to cut down on, and think about, their single-use plastic consumption.

“We have so many participants from the Mayor sewing bags at home, to Tin Wis donating 50 pillow cases, kids cutting out patterns and our wise sewing machine masters offering tutorials,” Hall said.

“This community is one that is ready to give up the disposable lifestyle and help be the educators to our visitors and celebrate with each other when we reach our goals. This ain’t a one man job and we have lots of stoke happening for this challenge right now. The Pacific Rim Whale Festival and Tourism Tofino are the biggest supporters. How much more confident could we get with this kind of backing?”

She encourages anyone interested to check out Surfrider’s weekly ‘Stitch’n’Beach’ groups, held every Saturday at Tourism Tofino’s office from 10 a.m. To 1 p.m.

“It’s a great way to get involved with the community, have fun, meet others and perhaps find a way to volunteer that you hadn’t before,” she said.

Anyone with re-useable bags to donate, can drop them off at Green Soul Organics, Merge, Caravan, or Ucluelet Secondary School.

“If you are a business you can donate linens and pillow cases,” Hall suggested. “If you have material to donate or a sewing machine to loan, or want to just help cut patterns out, perfect. Come to Stitch’n’Beach, everyone is welcome.”

Hall said the idea came to Surfrider through the foundation’s public Facebook forum where several online fans cited the success of a similar campaign happening in Australia dubbed ‘Boomerang Bags.’

She said Surfrider hopes Tofino can “move away from plastic bags, and become a plastic bag free town,” through raising awareness of the impacts single-use plastics are having on the environment and encouraging people to make a change in their daily routines.

“We are faced with over 100 decisions a day that involve plastic, remembering to bring a reusable bag is a simple way to reduce the amounts of plastics we have been addicted to,” she said.

“Decreasing the amounts of waste going to landfill and the amounts of marine debris and litter found on our beaches is obviously an immediate outcome. Long term? The West Coast prides itself on being a community of environmental defenders, lets take that opportunity to become the educators and the solution and not add to the plastic pollution.”

The final Stitch’ Beach group will be held on March 24 at the Tofino Legion and the event will include  a special film screening of  ‘A Plastic Ocean.”

“There will be a juicy panel discussion afterwards with guest panel including Mayor Josie Osborne and Ucluelet Aquarium curator Laura Griffith Cochrane, some local groms and a special guest,” Hall said.

The film event is by donation and everyone, including kids, is welcome to attend. Surfrider’s next beach cleanup is scheduled for March 11 at Wick Beach.

Anyone looking for more information can reach out to Volunteercoordinator@pacificrim.surfrider.org.


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