Bookstore makes the switch from plastic to cloth

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Now you can save Earth while buying your textbooks and coffee mugs at the University of Calgary Bookstore by giving the old plastic bags a wave good-bye.

Starting last week, students can opt-out of plastic and buy cloth bags for two dollars apiece. The bookstore is phasing out its plastic bags in the next months.

U of C Bookstore manager Brent Beatty noted the bookstore's switch should significantly reduce the amount of plastic bookstore bags discarded. The cloth bags are even made out of environmentally friendly materials and are designed to reduce waste in landfills.

"The bags are made of a bio-degradable, non-woven material, and are also azo free," said Beatty. "Azo is a type of dye that is used to colour fabric that has some nasty byproducts."

Beatty explained that since the cloth bags went on sale, the campus community has found them very useful.

"I see many students bringing them back and reusing them around town," said Beatty. "In September at the Calgary Farmers Market, I actually saw many of the bookstore bags being used."

The U of C's Office of Sustainability sustainability coordinator Jo Wright, said the switch would help the university's wider goals, such as U of C president Harvey Weingarten's commitments to reduce the university's solid waste by 50 per cent by the end of 2008.

"It shows how commitment and a small change can make a [big] difference," said Wright. "It is essential as part of University of Calgary's journey towards sustainability that we create opportunities for everyday action for students, staff, and faculty."

EcoClub president Julie Labonte agreed.

"The EcoClub is really pleased to see the Bookstore take this initiative," Labonte explained.

She noted she's excited to look for further steps towards sustainability.

"We also hope the rest of the university continues to move forward on the path to a truly sustainable campus," she said.

According to Beatty, the bookstore has given out 12,000 fabric bags away since Sep. Almost 3,000 bags have been sold since the beginning of the winter semester. In previous years, students used 120,000-160,000 plastic bags.