A unanimous motion was made by city councilors to put more time into the issue of banning plastic bags in Keene.

On Monday, March 21, City Council Member Terry Clark and local artist and activist Danielle Baudrand debated with other council members to get rid of plastic bags in Keene.

The debate was held on the second floor of Keene City Hall.

The debate was open to the public for members of the community to speak up and voice their opinions on the matter.

Clark said, “The plastic bag will come back in three weeks. We have to let staff collect some data, and probably what they’ll do is look at other towns that have enacted such language in their ordinances and see what is possible.”

He continued, “They will look at some of the towns nearby in Maine and Massachusetts who have enacted ordinances regulating bags and see whether their working or not working and the successes and failures of each one.”

Of the next debate in three weeks, Clark said, “I’m going to listen to what staff has to say. They’re going to look into things and see what’s possible and then weigh the options to see what’s feasible. I’m still going to stand my ground and say we need a ban.”

Clark also said that our society has to wean itself off of fossil fuels.

He said, “This is just an example of how dependent upon fossil fuels we have become. Our whole society is engrained upon them but we can’t keep kicking the can down the road and keep using these products when we know we need to get off of them as soon as possible. We need to start using alternative energy sources.”

Others that were present for the debate also sought to get rid of plastic bags. Current New Hampshire Representative and Member of the Science, Technology and Energy Committee Marge Shepardson said, “We are not yet running out of oil, but we will someday. Do we really want to be using some of our last gallons of oil to make plastic bags that we don’t need in the first place? I think it’s really foolish, it’s bad for the environment and we should get rid of them.”

She continued, “I want them to be banned for a number of reasons. One: I don’t think we should be making plastic bags or anything out of plastic that we don’t need to. Just from a resources point of view, it uses a tremendous amount of water, a tremendous amount of petroleum just to make these bags and they’re not getting recycled. So a second part of it is, is that they’re a danger to the environment, to animals, to humans as it gets into the food chain. Thirdly, it’s unsightly, it litters the landscape. I don’t like fishing them out of the rivers when I’m paddling, I don’t like seeing them on the roadways when I’m driving. I think we could do without them, and we should do without them.”

Shepardson said she  would like to see Keene be the trendsetter for New Hampshire. “We are such a green city, and we’ve taken the lead before with things like banning synthetic marijuana and the banning of smoking in restaurants. I’m hoping that we can do it again,” she said.

Artist and activist Danielle Baudrand also has hopes for the future. Baudrand said, “What I would like to see is us aligning this movement with the city of Portsmouth and also kind of rallying together trying to make this a stronger movement within the state. I think it would be great to get Keene and Portsmouth to both pass this. Then try to get the rest of the state involved because someone needs to be a leader and take on the issue.”

She continued, “I don’t know if my generation, but my daughter’s generation, or her kid’s generation will be the cleaner uppers. That’s why I think it’s so important for the youth to get involved because ultimately it is going to be up to them to clean it up unfortunately.”

Some children were present for the debate and stepped forward to voice their opinions. Grady Kalich Sampson, age 7, Maya Baudrand, age 10, and Habame Karabakakis, age 10, were all in favor of banning plastic bags. Baudrand said she really believed in what the kids were saying. Additionally, Shepardson said, “Danielle and I connected a couple weeks ago and this is the first event that we’ve been at together. We are meeting again soon and trying to move the project forward.” Shepardson continued, “I am really hopeful that the young people in Keene will help us with this effort, those at Antioch University New England, Keene State College and Keene High School.”

Clark said, “It’s like anything else, grassroots leadership. Things have to happen from the bottom up because they are not going to happen from the top down. At the top they’re all bought and paid for by industries and all the other special interest groups.”

Clark continued to say that he was pleased with the number of people that attended and care about the issue. He said, “That only motivates me further because it just tells me I’m on to something here, people do care about this, and it’s not just me.”

Further, Baudrand said, “I just would like to be in a community that is at the forefront instead of the back end…No action is just becoming part of the problem.”

Adam Urquhart can be contacted at aurquhart@kscequinox.com

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