A recent study by Whole Foods Market estimates that reusable bag usage has increased by 300% in the year since it eliminated plastic bags at all of its stores. The company estimated that 150 million bags have been kept out of landfills over the twelve month period.
Whole Foods Market made the announcement last year that they would stop using plastic bags company-wide starting on Earth Day 2008. Since this announcement, public sentiment has been moving in the direction of eventual elimination of plastic bags at all grocery and retail stores, and municipalities (including the city of San Francisco) have begun outlawing or taxing plastic bag usage within city limits.
While this is definitely good news it’s important to remember that this was only a study of shoppers at Whole Foods, and only represent a small fraction of total grocery shoppers in the US. Also bear in mind that Whole Foods shoppers tend to be generally more concerned with food and environmental issues, and therefore are much more likely to use reusable bags than the population as a whole. Despite these caveats, this is still a step in the right direction.
Whole Foods officials initially thought that many people would simply switch to paper bags when plastic bags were no longer available, but were encouraged to find that many shoppers have made the switch to consistently carrying reusable bags. The company also makes cheap reusable bags (as cheap as $.99) readily available near the checkout area as an alternative to paper bags. And while Whole Foods may still have some objectionable qualities to some folks, it’s nice to see movement being made in a positive direction.
Remember when you shop that your impact goes beyond simply which foods you choose to buy. To state the obvious: organic produce grown in your own backyard is almost always a better option that conventional produce grown and shipped from South America, bringing your own reusable bags is almost always better than using plastic bags, and recycling the plastic bags you do use is certainly better than throwing them in the trash. Hopefully reusable shopping bags have already made their way into your grocery shopping routine, and if not, maybe they will in the near future.
Here is the link to the press release of this story directly from Whole Foods.
For additional information and alternative perspectives on plastic bags, please read Plastic Bag Fees Stalling for Economics or Politics or Wal-Mart May Remove 9 Million Plastic Bags from the Waste Stream – Big Whoop on Sustainablog.