Jane Newman was direct with her words when talking Saturday at Cortland’s United Presbyterian Church about environmental pollution from plastic bags.
“Plastic bags are terrible pollution and the ocean is being polluted by them,” she said Cortland’s United Presbyterian Church. “Face it, if we pollute the whole ocean, we all die.”
Newman is working to reduce the number of plastic bags ending up in the ocean as one of the Green Bag Ladies of Cortland County by creating and giving away free reusable bags made from cloth.
“It helps me to feel like I’m doing a tiny, tiny bit of help,” she said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates 8.8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans each year — somewhere between 15 and 51 trillion pieces of plastic. In fact, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” if it were superimposed on North America, would cover an area from Montreal to South Dakota,including all of the Great Lakes and as far south as Washington, D.C.
Founded in 2008 by artist Teresa VanHatten-Granath, the international Green Bag Lady project has its volunteers make bags out of donated fabric and give them away for free in exchange for shoppers to stop using plastic bags, the Green Lady Project website states.
The United States has 47 chapters of the project and additional 40 chapters are worldwide, according to the website.
Cortland’s chapter was founded in 2016 and has produced 1,200 cloth bags since its inception, volunteer Christa Chat eld said. The group has been working on the first and third Saturday of each month after the state approved a ban on flimsy plastic bags that goes into effect March 1, Newman said.
Bags are given out to local organizations like Cortland County Community Action Program Inc., schools, libraries and sometimes at festivals, Chatfield said.
“People get very excited. They go, ‘I want this one, I want that one.’ It’s a fun shopping event for them. And then they’re always saying, ‘Are you sure we can’t pay for this?’” volunteer Ellen Wright said.
“They’re all more colorful than the reusable bags you get anywhere else,” Chatfield said.
For Chatfield, the group gives her an outlet to sew items for a cause bigger than herself.
“I have a place I get to have my sewing energy go to,” she said. “I get to make something that I enjoy doing and also doesn’t clutter up my house. It goes to somewhere useful.”