When Victoria Hilkevitch Bedford goes shopping, she doesn’t go empty-handed; she carries reusable bags. It’s a habit.

“In order to conserve, you have to have a mindset,” says Bedford, a 72-year-old Bloomington environmentalist. “That’s the secret—thinking about what you have to do to avoid plastic in your daily life.”

Despite a 2016 state law prohibiting local bans on plastic bags, Bedford and three other women— Libby Gwynn, Felice Cloyd, and Sura Gail—are still fighting to reduce the use of disposable bags in the area. As organizers of Bring Your Bag Bloomington (BYBB), they educate people about the environmental damage caused by plastic bags, hand out reusable bags, and conduct workshops on how to make bags out of T-shirts.

“We don’t have much power,” recognizes Bedford. “We just hope people will change. In the absence of a law, a grassroots effort is necessary.”

The women were part of a group that created BYBB, which was formed in June 2014 by Bloomington’s Center for Sustainable Living. Its goal was to introduce a city ordinance banning the use of plastic bags by retail stores, or to add fees for their use. The state law prohibiting local ordinances stopped their efforts.

“We’re all still a little sad about that,” says Gwynn. “Now our only choice is to just try and do this one person at a time.”

Local stores and businesses have donated hundreds of reusable bags to help their efforts, and BYBB  has passed them out for free. The group hands out stickers for car dashboards to remind people to take their bags in with them when they shop. And Bedford says if she sees someone in a store without a reusable bag, she’ll give them one if they promise to use it.

The group’s website notes that an estimated 16 million plastic bags, which will take 1,000 years to decompose, are used in Bloomington every year.

BYBB organizers say T-shirt bags are easy to make, taking just 15 minutes and a pair of good scissors. Instructions can be found at

For more information on BYBB, visit