Howick Rotary in Auckland took the initiative in changing from the use of single use plastic bags and replacing these with an environmentally friendly alternative.  This is a decision that is pragmatic, thought out and of actual additional benefit to their community. This is typical of a club that prefers to lead rather than follow.
Each year Howick Rotary hold a hugely successful Bookarama that ticks many boxes for community involvement and meeting community need directly and through the funds raised.   This project is a huge event that takes many months to organise.
Early in July, as they started their planning for the October event, member Ian Fox became concerned the club was contributing to the proliferation of single use plastic bags. All who came to Bookarama were handed a plastic bag or two as they came through the door. With the rapidly growing public awareness and sentiment against plastic carry bags as being environmentally toxic Ian looked for possible alternatives. He was keen to avoid the possibility of any negative perceptions being directed back to Rotary and also show that Rotary can take a positive lead with respect to environmental issues.
Ian became the catalyst for change, laying out his rational for this to the club Board in this way:
  • It is clearly evident there is currently a strong movement away from using single use plastic bags. This is seen in supermarkets and also in many retail outlets where customers are regularly asked whether they do wish a bag or not.
  • We have observed through the media the devastating effects single use bags have on our environment and as such we should be concerned over their continued use.
  • In my opinion we are close to a ‘tipping point,’ when it will be considered highly unsociable and unacceptable to use single use plastic bags. They have been to a degree phased out in some countries and I would expect them to be phased out here also in the not too distant future.
  • As Rotarians, a community group with strong social and community values, we should be seen to be taking the lead in any programmes that help protect the future of our environment.
  • Distributing single use bags at Bookarama would send a negative public message suggesting Rotary does not take these clearly identified environmental concerns seriously.
This was at a stage where supermarkets had only just announced the phasing out of plastic carry bags and well ahead of the NZ Government policy announcement on this topic.
Ian further noted the significant environmental involvement in the community by the club through several projects of which the largest is their Mangemangeroa Walkway conservation and planting activities over many years.  He did not want to see the club doing something in another aspect of their club service activities that was contrary to their environmental ethos.
The reaction of the Board was immediate and decisive, displaying strong leadership; this proposal was accepted as a “no brainer”. 
Therefore, the Bookarama was not just an opportunity to raise funds, but also to demonstrate the club’s strong support for the environment and the growing movement to phase out single use plastic bags.  This also provided the opportunity to promote Rotary within the community by providing as a replacement, cotton bags with the Rotary logo clearly on display.
Member Bill Charkow then became the person to make this change a reality through his extensive research into alternatives using his contacts in business to identify a supply of cotton, short handled bags, similar to the new Countdown bags.  Better still, through his negotiation skills he managed to secure 2442 bags in assorted colours that were the end of a line at a very keen price.  These were then printed with the Rotary logo and the message “Howick Rotary - Caring for the environment” plus their web address so they could be contacted.   
This then made the bags suitable for any project although most will be used for Bookarama with a half set aside for the 2019 event meaning there is two years’ supply from this initial order. At the Bookarama the bags will be handed out for free to those purchasing multiple books and these will be supplemented for larger quantity purchases by cardboard boxes.  Purchasers then will have a readily available bag for future Bookaramas and their future replacement of reading and listening material.
Howick Rotary additionally decided to use 500 of these bags for walkaround at the market in Howick in early September.  They will be handing these out for free to help profile the club, their care for the environment and because each bag would have a promotional flyer for the Bookarama, encourage people to that event the next month as well.
The Bookarama is:
10-14 October 2018
In the basement of the Howick RSA 15 Wellington Street, Howick
Further details and hours: