YMCA Campers Create Reusable Bags for Local Business Give Away

Princeton YMCA campers are helping to reduce single-use plastic bag use in Princeton. A drawing of a reusable shopping bag

As part of Hometown Hero Week at the YMCA, August 15 - 19, the YMCA has teamed up with Sustainable Princeton's BYOBag campaign, Hoagie Haven and Jazams to distribute 100 reusable cloth bags to shoppers. The bags are being decorated by YMCA summer campers.

Sustainable Princeton provided the bags, thanks to a grant from the Princeton Merchants Association's Waiters' Race.

The bags will be distributed, free of charge, at Hoagie Haven on Wednesday, August 24th to the first 50 shoppers after 11:30am. A 10% discount will also be given to any customer who brings their own reusable bag throughout the day.

Local toy store, JaZams, will also give away 50 free bags to lucky shoppers.

The goal of the BYOBag campaign is to encourage the Princeton community to bring their own shopping bags and help save 1 million single use plastic bags from landfills by June, 2012.

Support your local BYOBag Businesses

The following local businesses have signed the BYOBag pledge to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags, cutlery and other products they give away.

Three colorful cloth bags

  • The Alchemist & Barrister
  • the bent spoon
  • Blue Point Grill
  • Blue Ridge Mountain Sports
  • Chez Alice
  • CoolVines
  • Cox’s Market
  • The Ferry House
  • Green Design
  • Hinkson's The Office Store
  • Hoagie Haven
  • Holsome
  • House of Cupcakes
  • Image Arts
  • jane
  • JaZams
  • Jordan's
  • Labyrinth Books
  • Reusable mugs and cups on a table


  • Learning Express
  • Lululemon
  • Luxaby Baby & Child
  • McCaffrey’s Market
  • Mediterra
  • Milk Money
  • Modern Nails and Spa
  • Mortgage Master, Inc.
  • Nassau Street Seafood.
  • Olive’s
  • Princeton Farmers Market
  • Princeton Record Exchange
  • Princeton Soup & Sandwich
  • The Princeton Sports Bar & Grill
  • Salon Pure
  • Shop the World at Salty Dog
  • Small World Coffee
  • spruce
  • Triangle
  • Whole Earth Center
  • Witherspoon Grill
  • Zorba's Grill

Please remember to Bring Your Own Bag, cup, container or cutlery when you visit them.

BYOBag Campaign: summary for March-July 2011

In March 2011, Sustainable Princeton launched a campaign to substantially reduce usage of single-use shopping bags and other single-use plastic items in Princeton. Logo for Sustainable Princeton BYOBag campaign

The issue

Plastic items like bags, cutlery, bottles and cups all take energy to produce and transport. Then we use them just once. After use, most of us throw them away rather than recycling them.

Many of these discarded items don't make it to landfills. Instead, they litter our roadsides, woods and beaches. They clog storm drains and contribute to flooding. Some of the land-based trash washes into our seas and oceans where it mixes with plastics thrown overboard from boats. Several oceans contain massive areas of floating plastic, where plastic is more common than plankton.

Plastic items take a long time to break down, and some items are more degradable than others.

Some of the items can trap, tangle or be eaten by wildlife, as can some of their breakdown products, some of which may be toxic. All kinds of wildlife are affected, including birds, fish, reptiles and mammals. Toxic breakdown products such as pthalates can enter the food chain.

What you can do

Trees festooned with discarded plastic bags

Very often, you can use reusable bags, bottles, cups or cutlery instead of the single-use disposable plastic versions. It's extremely easy to:

  • Remember to bring your own bags when you go shopping.
  • Invest in a reusable bottle.
  • Bring along your own cup and utensils.
  • Recycle whatever plastic you do end up using.

Many Princeton businesses have agreed to support the BYOBag campaign, which is great!

What sustainable Princeton's been doing

So far, the campaign has drawn public attention to the issue of unnecessary plastic bag use via events such as:

  • A "flash mob" song-and-dance event on April 29, 2011 in Hinds Plaza.
  • An open-air Yoga event on May 14, 2011 in Palmer Square.
  • A party in Hinds Plaza on June 9, 2011. Trees were decorated with plastic bags to illustrate just how many throw-away bags the average American uses in a year (500, of which only about 3% are ever recycled). The Stone Soup Circus gave a performance using discarded plastic bags as costumes. Attendees were encouraged to sign a pledge to bring reusable bags for shopping. The launch was given prominent coverage in local news publications, including a Town Topics article publicizing the event, an editorial supporting the BYOBag campaign in the Princeton Packet and a letter of thanks in Town Topics from the event organizers.
  • A screening of the film "Bag It" on the evening of June 9, after the party. This award-winning movie examines the environmental and health consequences of our society's prolific use of plastic, especially in products that are only used once (such as bags and bottles).

A group of people holding BYO Bag signs

If you have ideas for other BYOBag campaign events, please contact us.

The campaign is also encouraging local businesses to sign a "BYOBag Pledge".

Thanks to Princeton municipal governments for passing a joint resolution supporting the BYOBag campaign.

This Town Topics article summarizes how the campaign arose in early 2011.