Thursday, May 1, 2008

Follow Whole Foods Market’s Lead on Bags

With all the attention being given to the green movement, I think it’s time retailers got serious about reducing the use of plastic shopping bags. Just the other day, I went shopping at Target and the cashier used nine plastic bags for my order (a few, it should be noted, were filled with only one or two items). Once home, the bags were destined to sit in my kitchen cabinet—with at least 20 others.

But a message printed on the Target bag caught my eye: “California shoppers: Please return [this bag] to a participating store for recycling.”

That got me thinking. I know that it is not easy to start a citywide—let alone statewide—recycling program. But here’s a much simpler idea: What if grocers, mass merchandisers and drug chains took a lesson from Whole Foods Market and not only banned plastic bags, but also rewarded customers for bringing their own?

Whole Foods shoppers are encouraged to bring any bag from home, paper, plastic, or fabric, to carry groceries. And their proactive efforts earn them a refund of approximately $0.05 per bag.

You don’t have a bag? No problem. The grocer sells reusable bags, created from recycled plastic bottles no less, for $0.99.

If more retailers took advantage of similar programs, they could make that much stronger of an impact on the environment, and get shoppers in on the action.

I can’t imagine that I am the only one who is tired of being bogged down with plastic bags. And statistics show that only 1% of these bags are recycled worldwide anyway.

If all shoppers did their part–and got rewarded for it in some way—I’m willing to bet that one important component of the green movement would surely get underway that much quicker.

—Deena M. Amato-McCoy

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