One-hundred billion.

That's the number of plastic bags thrown away by Americans each year, according to the Worldwatch Institute. These trashed bags are found in landfills, curbsides and, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, floating downstream to the ocean.

Linda Goodyear displayed pictures of discarded bags at Weed Beach, Cove Island, Post Road and several other sites around Darien as she handed out free reusable shopping bags in front of Stop & Shop on Heights Road on Saturday. And she wasn't the only one.

Residents were doing the same thing in front of Palmer's Market on Heights Road and Shaw's Supermarket on Old Kings Highway from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

"Our purpose is just to get people to start thinking about it," Goodyear told a shopper at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Though she originally planned on tabling outside the grocery store for another hour, she had already given away all of her 100-plus bags -- donated by Stop & Shop and the Darien Nature Center -- and was beginning to pack up.

About half of the Saturday morning shoppers who entered the store on Saturday walked past her, trying to avoid contact, she said. The other half seemed interested in the statistics she had to offer about the adverse effects that plastic bags can have on the environment.

"We're just giving out information," she said. "We just want people to start thinking, and to be aware of what the use of plastic bags does to our world."

Goodyear is one of several Darien residents who have recently come together to create a new Web site in town, The site offers plenty of statistics, some of which Goodyear was able to spout of to Saturday shoppers.

"What better time to get out the message than the week before Thanksgiving, when people are in the store, going shopping?" said Nina Miller, one of the creators of the Web site.

Miller's goal is to encourage Darien shoppers to bring bags with them to the grocery store.

"It's education," she said. "It's getting the bags from your house, into the car and from your car into the store."

She said that her goal does not include a plastic bag ban, like the one recently instituted in nearby Westport. Her group submitted a question at the League of Women Voter's debate last month, asking selectmen candidates whether they would support that kind of a ban; the answer was no. Education would be a better use of the town's resources, the candidates responded.

"We knew education was probably the right way to go," Miller said. "There are higher priorities in town, like jobs and health care. We decided, let's educate people about the use of plastic and paper bags, and the fact that there's a force in town that would really like to see it changed."