The Bag Monster wears about 500 plastic bags — the number of bags used annually by the average American.
On a late summer day in 2010, 70 monsters marched through the streets of San Francisco. These monsters, covered from head to toe in layers of plastic, were not out to startle Californians or spook young children. They were on a mission to educate the public about the dangers of single-use bags to the environment.
Because the average American uses about 500 to 700 plastic bags per year, the Bag Monsters each donned this many bags to help spread their message to the people of San Francisco. Among them was original Bag Monster Andy Keller, an artist and activist from Chico, Calif., who organized the event.
According to the National Cooperative Grocers Association, each year 100 billion new plastic bags are created for Americans’ use, the manufacture of which requires 12 million barrels of oil. Plastic bags contribute greatly to debris in our oceans, and Greenpeace reports at least 267 different animal species (including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish) are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of plastic marine debris.
Keller began his crusade visiting farmers markets with an enormous ball of plastic bags to help him spread the word. One day, he wore the bags instead, and thus Bag Monster was born. In August 2010, he took his show on the road. In each city he visited on the nationwide Bag Monster Tour, Keller perched himself on a pedestal in his Bag Monster costume, surrounded by a sea of about 45,000 plastic bags — the average amount an American uses in a lifetime.
The tour is over, but Keller continues to spread the word, interacting with audiences and creating reusable-bag converts. To learn more, visit the Bag Monster Blog.
Lindsey Siegele is the Senior Web Editor at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on Google+.