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Canvas bags hang from the ceiling in the class of Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School science teacher Thomas Edwards in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, April 14, 2014. The bags are part of an educational effort that stems from a city ban on plastic bags that went into effect in January and the environmental reasons behind the ban. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

PITTSBURG -- One bag at a time -- that's the idea behind an initiative that gave 3,000 reusable bags to students and staff at the three middle schools in the Pittsburg Unified School District in hopes of making the world a greener place.

The large canvas bags are part of an educational effort stemming from a city ban on plastic bags that went into effect in January. Since then, science teachers at Martin Luther King Jr., Hillview and Rancho Medanos have explained the environmental reasons behind the ban to students while providing them with the reusable bags that include the phrase "Our actions count one bag at a time."

Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School science teacher Thomas Edwards stands with his seventh grade students, from left, Jaime Salinas, 13; Christina
Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School science teacher Thomas Edwards stands with his seventh grade students, from left, Jaime Salinas, 13; Christina Ta, 13;Estefany Paredes, 12; Tiffany Martinez, 12; Diana Ramos, 13; and Alma Delacruz, 12, as they hold canvas bags in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, April 14, 2014. The bags are part of an educational effort that stems from a city ban on plastic bags that went into effect in January and the environmental reasons behind the ban. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

In exchange, students pledged to make choices in their everyday lives that result in the least environmental harm, to cut down use of plastics such as water bottles, and to ask at least five other people to make the same efforts.

"Dolphins get sick, and they could die. That's why I took the pledge," said seventh grader Tiffany Martinez in explaining what can happen when discarded plastic bags drift into the world's oceans. Like many of her fellow students who learn about science from teacher Tom Edwards at the MLK campus, she used a waterproof marker to decorate her bag with pictures and phrases such as "Our future should be bright and clear."

Tiffany takes her bag grocery shopping, and people have signed it after she persuaded them to buy a reusable bag instead of using a paper bag in the checkout line.

Seventh grader Estefany Paredes drew circles with lines across the front of plastic bottles on her bag. "Aluminum bottles are better. People won't throw them out to the ocean," she said.

Edwards, who also heads the science department at the MLK campus, helped obtain a $12,000 grant from Pittsburg and Mt. Diablo Recycling that paid for the canvas bags.

Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School seventh-grader Alma Delacruz, 12, searches for her canvas bag in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, April 14, 2014.
Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School seventh-grader Alma Delacruz, 12, searches for her canvas bag in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, April 14, 2014. The bags are part of an educational effort that stems from a city ban on plastic bags and the environmental reasons behind the ban. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

"We gave them the reasons why the ban was coming into effect. That was the missing piece. They knew (plastic) bags were going away. Now they know the consequences. They were able to walk out of the room and make a difference," he said. "They signed the pledge to join the army of the earth."

And while stores in Pittsburg can no longer give customers plastic bags, Thomas likes to point out what kind of difference a reusable bag can make.

Those 3,000 reusable bags given to students and staff at the three junior highs hold two or three times what a plastic bag can hold. If each bag was used on shopping trips three times a week, they would take the place of more than a million plastic bags over the course of a year.

Canvas bags hang from the ceiling in the class of Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School science teacher Thomas Edwards in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday,
Canvas bags hang from the ceiling in the class of Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School science teacher Thomas Edwards in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, April 14, 2014. The bags are part of an educational effort that stems from a city ban on plastic bags that went into effect in January. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

One bag at a time.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.

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A decorated canvas bag is displayed in the class of Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School science teacher Thomas Edwards in Pittsburg, Calif., on
A decorated canvas bag is displayed in the class of Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School science teacher Thomas Edwards in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, April 14, 2014. The bags are part of an educational effort that stems from a city ban on plastic bags. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )