plastic bagsWhen you just want to get away from it all, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Vacation! There are so many places to choose from, each one seemingly better than the next. An exotic destination certainly has its appeal, as does a jaunt to a European locale steeped in history and architectural wonder, but sometimes hitting the slopes a little closer to home is precisely what the doctor ordered. New Hampshire’s Wildcat resort may boast the most impressive vertical in the New England region and California’s Big Bear Mountain the highest lifts, but skiing enthusiasts claim that both still pale in comparison to the great wide-open majesty found in Telluride, CO. The box canyon-nestled, waterfall-flanked region — once the site of several prolific gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead mines — is now home to a quaint historical town, relatively affluent population and world-class 2,000-acre ski resort with 125 runs. With sweeping views of majestic mountain peaks jutting out from the horizon, almost always graced with pristine (and seemingly blindingly white) powder, the region takes great pride in the gifts that Mother Nature has bestowed… which is why it’s hardly surprising that plastic bags have been given the evil eye in recent years. Considering Telluride’s brisk tourism industry and constant influx of visitors who embrace a, shall we say, “vacation” mentality, plastic bags have made their mark on the region, but certainly not in a good way. Meanwhile, in nearby Aspen and Mountain Village, city officials have shared similar complaints, resulting in a 2008 eco-inspired competition in which all three towns were charged with putting their best foot forward by reducing their per capita plastic bag consumption. The winner? Telluride, with 140,000 fewer plastic bags used by area residents and visitors — a figure that was so inspiring that it spawned a larger plastic bag reduction goal among mountain towns in Colorado (as well as others), yielding 5.4 million fewer bags passing through consumer hands. That little victory has prompted Telluride to set its sights even higher by implementing an all-out plastic bag ban, which officially came into effect on March 1, 2011 — not a big eyebrow raiser considering its involvement in the award-winning film, Bag It, which National Public Television aired earlier this spring. The recent Telluride ordinance actually gives supermarket bags used to contain bulk items and meat a big pass, but food-based retailers are nevertheless required to offer 100% recyclable paper alternatives with a minimum 40% recycled content at 20¢ a piece. Unlike other global regions, however, the skiing resort is exercising some leniency with regard to retailers using plastic bag stock they already had in their possession rather than merely just disposing of it, which would be a blatant waste of resources. This eco-effort has triggered other areas in the mountainous region to follow suit, including Carbondale, Basalt (which recently voted in favor of a plastic bag fee at its grocery stores) and Snowmass, with the latter presently calling on residents to offer their take on whether they think a 20¢ fee on one-time use bags is agreeable. It seems as though various officials throughout the Colorado skiing region are trying to coordinate their efforts in order to bolster their plastic bag ban commitment, even though places such as Basalt insist that they will move forward in the event that neighboring communities end up dragging their heels. Elsewhere in the state, Breckenridge, concerned about triggering dissatisfaction among its visitors when informed that they’ll have to cough up a fee to use a plastic bag, is instead leaning toward rewarding residents and visitors who use reusable alternatives (plus making greener shopping bags readily available for hotel guests). Baby steps though they may be, this tentative decision is better than being immobilized by maybes and quite possiblies. In all of the aforementioned cases, one common thread remains: a clear awareness that the key to a greener future lies in governmental action, widespread eco-education and citizen participation. Plastic, it turns out, isn’t as fantastic as it once seemed.