Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on April 19, 2013

I have become a kind of a connoisseur of reusable bags since Aspen City Council passed a plastic-bag ban over a year ago.

I’ve tried out bags made out of recycled plastic bottles, which are sturdy, but not easily compacted when you’re not using them. I’ve used bags that are lined with a silver, thermal layer intended to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. I’m not a fan of those either, because the bag’s technology seems unnecessarily advanced and not very effective considering there’s no way to close the top.

By far, the best bags I’ve found are the ones that are made by Equinox, a company that sells outdoor camping products. Equinox’s Ultralight Tote Bags are made out of nylon and silicone, they weigh less than an ounce and can carry over 100 pounds. They also fold into a small pouch when you’re not using them, making it easy to tuck them away into your purse or pocket and pull out if you happen to swing by the store on a whim.

I grew up in Miami where using reusable bags for shopping and recycling in general is as foreign of a concept as skinning up a mountain. For example, Miamians understand in a broad sense what recycling is and they get that they should probably be doing it. But they have no sense of urgency about it. If you happen to toss your soda bottle in the trash no one shoots you the evil eye or launches into a rant about the environmental harm of single-use plastics. Generally, nobody really cares.

In Aspen, things are different. The city has a car-share program made up of a fleet of hybrids that locals can use at their leisure instead of opting to buy their own gas-guzzling vehicles. At special events, there are always three trash bins. One is designated for compost, one for plastics and a third for actual trash — the differences of which would be lost on an average person from Miami. At Belly Up, people are paid to go through the trash after shows to separate any recyclable items that were thrown away.

None of those things happens in Miami and I think it’s fair to say they don’t happen in most other American cities either. What makes this town unique compared to the rest of the world is that the importance of being environmentally conscious permeates our culture. Although the local government spearheads the effort through “green” programs, people here genuinely want to do the right thing partly because it also happens to be the cool thing to do. I have plenty of friends who show off their reusable bags, water bottles and coffee cups arguing one style over another practically on a daily basis.

That’s why, regardless of what reusable bag style you chose, they’re all winners. At the end of the day, you’re making the conscious choice to do the right thing, and, at least in Aspen, you might even get a high-five for doing it.

Get Your Own
Equinox tote bag upstairs at Carl’s Pharmacy