We all know about bringing your own reusable bag for groceries when you shop, right? What about bringing your own bag when you pick up your takeout order at a restaurant? No? Ashley Workman says she wants to change that.
"Essentially, my main goal is to try to raise awareness to bring your own bag to a restaurant to get your to-go order or takeout," Workman says. "We have never been offered an alternative to plastic bags for pick-up and I want to change that."
Workman has put together a new event called Bring Your Own Bag Festival and it will take place from noon-4 p.m. Dec. 14 at Forsyth Park. The event marks the kickoff for Workman's week-long campaign to raise awareness in the food and beverage industry to bring your own bag.
Workman says she's not one to cast blame on anyone for using plastic bags, and even admits her role in mindlessly handing out take-out orders in environmentally hazardous plastic bags.
"I've been bartending for 14 years," she says. "We dish out these bags and we accept them as customers. I want people to make the connection that they bring a bag to the grocery store but never bring it to the restaurant.
"This is not a smear campaign - I have to look at myself, too. It's made me more aware that ... there's got to be a better way to use our resources."
The event at Forsyth Park looks to be a fun party featuring free concerts from three local bands, The Accomplices, The Train Wrecks and The Charlie Fog Band, a dodgeball tournament and a wide range of informational booths along with raffles for prizes. Many of the booths will be manned by Workman's target audience, local restaurants.
She says she has been pounding the pavement for months trying to get restaurants to participate in her movement by offering guests a 10 percent discount for using their own bags for to-go and take-out orders the week of Dec. 14-22. She has also sold her custom-made reusable totes to restaurants as a way to fund her endeavor.
She took the idea behind her new business, Treehouse, a small apparel company where she turns her own photography into heat transfers to put on clothing, and put that same creativity into making bags.
"I've been making lots of bags," Workman says. "I've been collecting logos from restaurants to put on these totes and they pay me for the bags and then distribute them to customers."
Workman says she has about eight restaurants on board so far and all participating restaurants will have a booth at the BYOB Festival to meet and greet attendees and talk about the environmental dangers of using plastic bags.
She says 12 billion barrels of oil are used each year to make plastic bags and they pose a huge danger to marine wildlife.
"I live on Tybee and every day driving to work, I see plastic bags in the marsh," she says. "They are trash when people give them to you and that's why they end up on the side of the road.
"The idea of the single-use bag is that it is valueless. We have to at least offer alternative packaging. If you have a cool bag you can offer customers as an alternative to plastic, they will take it. I think restaurants should be held accountable and everyone should realize plastic bags are vessels that should be eliminated."
Workman says she has always been passionate about the environment and has wanted to do something big like this since she graduated from Armstrong State University two years ago.
"This is a home-based operation," she says. "It feels bigger than me, and I am thankful I have the time to address it."