The UCSB Bookstore kicked off Spring Quarter yesterday with Day Without a Bag, replacing single-use bags with free organic canvas bags for shoppers.

The day-long event commemorates the bookstore’s decision to begin substituting plastic bags with compostable ones later this month, making UCSB the first UC to ban single-use bags. The UCSB Plastic Pollution Coalition — formed by the Associated Students Coastal Fund, CALPIRG, the Isla Vista Surfrider Foundation and the A.S. Environmental Affairs Board last fall — advocated for the switch.

According to Kathi King, Development Activities Manager for the Community Environmental Council, 16 percent of Californians live in areas with plastic bag restrictions. Countries such as Ireland, Rwanda and the Philippines have passed bans due to their economic dependency on maintaining healthy marine environments.

“A free bag is not a free bag,” King said. “They’re used for just two minutes [and] then become litter in a landfill for hundreds of years.”

CALPIRG Ocean Campaign Coordinator Matt Gilliland said Santa Barbara is a significant source of synthetic pollution.

“Santa Barbara throws away 47 million plastic bags a year [and] California throws away 12 billion,” Gilliand said. “Of all that, less than 5 percent is recycled.”

San Luis Obispo county and Carpinteria outlawed plastic bags in all businesses except restaurants and those with a gross annual income below $5 million.

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Grant House said community participation and stewardship are essential to spurring change.

“You’d be surprised by how responsive your legislators are to activism and public involvement. It does make a difference,” House said. “As an elected official I can see peoples’ minds being affected by the efforts and leadership of the public.”