Doctors Donate ‘Bag It’ Film to Montrose Schools
by Samantha Wright
Sep 13, 2012 | 1691 views | 1 1 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MONTROSE – The Curecanti Medical Society recently purchased and donated 15 copies of the edited, educational version of the movie Bag It for Montrose’s RE-1J school district, in the hopes of exposing students to the health consequences of the overabundance of plastic in the environment.

“We feel that a healthy community needs a healthy environment, and that having children become aware of the overall impact of the use of plastics in our lives will help them understand this concept,” said Patrick O’Meara, DO, a member of the Curecanti Medical Society.

O’Meara praised the groundbreaking 2010 film Bag It, which was produced by the small Telluride-based film production company REEL THING, as “...a great review of plastics we accept on a day-to-day level without really understanding where those items come from and where they go when we are done with them.”

The Curecanti Medical Society is comprised of doctors with medical practices in Montrose, Gunnison, San Miguel and Ouray counties. “The physicians in our organization tend to be more interested in the environment,” O’Meara explained of the group’s activism. “Most of us live here because we love the outdoors, and taking care of the environment is part of that. Plastic is a significant problem in our society.”

With the new school year just barely underway, the Montrose School District hasn’t decided yet how it will utilize the Bag It videos and accompanying curriculum materials, said Mindy Baumgardner, the district’s communications and special project coordinator.

“Our biggest thing right now is ensuring the year gets off to a smooth start,” she said. “We have a lot of new initiatives we need to fit into our instructional time.”

Timing wise, the videos could be used to lend context to a larger movement underway in the Montrose community to implement a plastic bag ban, headed up by local activist Lori Syme. The Montrose City Council plans to hold a work session on the matter in October, which the managers of local big-box chains and grocery stores have been invited to attend.

O’Meara credits Syme with inspiring the Curecanti Medical Society to get on board with the issue of single-use plastics.

“Lori is a real dynamo,” he said. “She’s really passionate about the issue.”

Michelle Hill, the producer of Bag It, said she would be “over the moon” if Montrose succeeded in joining the growing number of towns across the nation and world implementing policies that limit single-use bags. (Click on the “Track the Movement” tab at ChicoBag’s website, to see an interactive map showing how the movement is spreading across the globe.) “For me personally that would be the most tremendous success of our film, because this is our neighborhood,” she said.

Telluride was the first community in the nation to pass a bag-free ordinance on the coattails of the film’s success. It will be a bigger challenge for the City of Montrose to kick the single-use bag habit, with its big box stores and more conservative outlook, Hill predicted.

Hill is delighted to see her film being used more and more as a teaching tool in schools both locally and across the country.

The educational version of Bag It has been edited to be more appropriate for school-aged children. “The original version is rated PG,” Hill explained. “There are definitely some jokes in it that are inappropriate for a young audience, and there is a live birth.”

Those bits have been edited out of two shorter, educational versions of the film geared toward younger and older students – the 65-minute version, missing the jokes and the live birth, and on the same DVD the 45-minute version geared toward younger students, that is also missing data-heavy chapters on health and the ocean.

“Honestly, the three different versions work for whatever schools or community groups have time for,” Hill said. “We think they’re all good.”

Educating students about the effects of plastic on their health and the environment could play a vital role in changing the overall cultural perception on the issue of single-use plastics, Hill said, comparing it to the tobacco issue of a generation ago.

“Honestly, I feel like students are such a valuable asset for getting parents to change their habits,” she said.

Students are perhaps more adept at changing their own habits, as well. That’s why the Bag It movement is launching a project called the Bag It Plastic-Free Schools Contest this fall.

The contest culminates in March 2013 with a competition to see who has been most successful in their plastic reduction efforts. Winners will go to a youth summit for plastic pollution in California next fall or spring.

Part of Bag It’s success has been that it gives people an issue they can get behind. “People realize, ‘I can’t figure out the world’s oil and gas problems, but I can start with this. I can take my own bag to the store,’” Hill said. “We feel in our office that a sense of personal empowerment starts with small steps.” 

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September 13, 2012
Good luck reducing the use of plastic in Motown. These aren't the most open minded folks. I'm guessing the school board is going to hear from a few of them about what's being taught, and it will not be to praise them.