“Paper or Plastic?” will not be an option at any checkout line in Paia come April. For three months, the town and all 93 merchants will be plastic bag-less. Merchants will provide “Bio Bags,” made from 100 percent GMO-free cornstarch and offer reusable bags for sale.
Local resident Heather Riley pushed the effort, making Paia the first town in the state to go completely plastic bag-free. Riley estimates that during the trial period, Paia will not release about 117,000 non-biodegradeable bags that could end up on roads, parks and in the ocean.
“It could take more than a thousand years for a plastic bag to go away,” Riley said. She believes it’s best to use your own reusable bag when shopping. Lacking that, there’s the “Bio Bag,” which breaks down in just 45 days when put into compost.
To ensure that Paia remains bagless for at least the three-month trial, Riley teamed up with many of Maui’s artists (and local celebrities like Woody Harrelson and Jack Johnson) who used reusable bags as canvases. They’ll auction off the works to raise at least $10,000, which will be put toward purchasing both reusable and Bio Bags. At press time, Riley has raised 30 percent of her goal.
The auction lasts until Feb. 23, and you can see many of the bags on display at various galleries throughout Paia Town. Here’s what a few of the artists had to say about the movement and their work:
I participated because I thought it was a great way to create awareness–the simple thought that you can do a lot for the environment by just remembering your own bag when you go shopping.
My influence in my artwork is the female form, so I painted a figure somewhat enjoying the great outdoors, butterflies and bag-free.
I have a two and a half year-old and a five and a half month-old and we’ve gone through this project together, making me and them more aware of the future. Keeping our parks and beaches clean by picking up a bag when we see one on the ground and using our own whenever we can.
When Heather approached me with the idea, I thought it was a great way to bring attention to the problem we have with waste. By becoming aware we can help eliminate this small part of our overall footprint. You don’t really need them [plastic bags] and the convenience has consequences.
Our impact on the ocean and the land is great enough. I was honored to have the opportunity to be reminded and retrained about the choices we make on a daily basis. If we can do it in Paia, I’m sure it can be done island-wide.
I painted one of my favorite subjects: cats. I wanted to paint something that might be in the bag and then I thought, what about a “cat out of the bag?”
Thus the subject. As to style, I have been painting in a much looser way lately. I have been inspired by the controlled chaos of Jackson Pollock’s work, so I used a similar technique of splashes and dribbles to create the piece.
Painting one of the bags for the auction was a no-brainer. Any help I could give and being able to participate was an honor. We have alternatives [to plastic] and we have choices that do not damage the environment. To sit on our hands and do nothing about the damage we do is not acceptable to me.
We as a community need to get back to looking and caring for each other and also look at what we do in our daily lives and how what we do, and choices we make effect our islands and our planet.
At first, I just couldn’t find the time to actually paint something because I’m under a lot of pressure and can take months to complete a piece. But I am seriously concerned about Hawai‘i’s environment as I’ve found my home here, so I decided this fundraiser was far more important than anything else.
The image I used on my bag was the Earth Mother. It’s an image I have been working with a lot lately. Ecologically, I have always thought she needed a face and a voice and so when this image came through, I thought, this says it all. Pay attention; be mindful. We can’t be unconscious anymore. We have to give back to our planet and help to restore the delicate balance that is our beautiful world.
For more information on the going plastic-free, the auction and the artists, or to place a bid before Feb. 23, visit www.nomoplasticbag.com. MTW