Shorewood — A group of Shorewood residents is encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags to local stores.

Shorewood residents JoAnn Early Macken, Linda Frank and Rosie Bredeck are in the beginning phases of their education campaign, called Bring Your Bag Shorewood. The campaign is being conducted in collaboration with the Shorewood Conservation Committee and has been endorsed by the Shorewood Village Board.

They have created a Facebook group, Bring Your Bag Shorewood, which has 101 members.

Their next project is to get local businesses to hang a poster in their store windows urging customers to use reusable bags. The group is planning to send an email to local business owners and distribute the posters with help of volunteers.

The initiative started when they read an article about a similar effort in Wauwatosa. The Shorewood activists have been meeting with their Wauwatosa counterparts to raise public awareness of reusable bags, with the hope of eventually influencing public policy.

Shorewood and Wauwatosa are unable to adopt local restrictions on public bags, due to a law passed in March by the state Legislature. That law prohibits local governments from regulating the use of plastic bags, paper bags or other containers. It also prevents local governments from attaching a fee to the use of plastic bags.

Reusable bag advocates in Shorewood and Wauwatosa are, however, hoping to build a statewide coalition with the hope of someday taking statewide action. They are in the process of creating a website, called Bring Your Bag Wisconsin, that includes microsites for the Shorewood and Wauwatosa efforts, as well as Fon du Lac and other communities that have been operating independently.

'We're trying to reach other communities who might be working on the same thing so we are not starting from scratch,' Macken said.

Plastic bags, Macken explains, are more likely to become litter, getting caught in trees and lakes. Discarded plastic bags also pose risks to birds and animals, she said. Plastic bags are made from oil, a non-renewable resource, and they are not recyclable or biodegradable.

'Carrying groceries home from the store in a plastic bag is not the best use of a non-renewable resource,' Macken said.

The idea of encouraging reusable bags is not new in Shorewood. In 2008, the Shorewood Conservation Committee led an effort to distribute more than 6,900 green bags to every home and rental property in Shorewood. The effort was the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

Shorewood residents interested in distributing posters are encouraged to email or messaging the Bring Your Bag Shorewood Facebook group.

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