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BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)


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Happy Almost Earth Day!

Earth Day is April 22 and hopefully you have something special planned in your stores to commemorate the day. For sure, sustainability is a hot buzz word today. Supermarkets around the country, big and small, independent and chain, are making it a part of their corporate mantra, trying to be more environmentally friendly, having a smaller footprint and minimizing energy costs wherever possible.

In Vermont (and elsewhere), one of the more popular ways retailers push sustainability at the store level is by encouraging consumers to take advantage of reusable bags. Shoppers can either bring their own or buy bags in the store. I have bags from just about every retailer I regularly shop – from supermarkets and farmer’s markets to BJs and TX Maxx.

My five Price Chopper bags live in my car, just behind the driver's seat. This way I always know where they are and keep them close at hand for easy use. I also have a bright orange one in my car from the Woodstock Farmer’s Market. Last fall, the market took a strong stance by starting a mandatory bag reuse initiative. Shoppers can bring their own bags, go without or, if they must have one, are charged 10 cents per bag – the proceeds of which are donated to a local food shelf.

In the program’s first six months, the number of bags the market used was reduced by 55 percent. Compliance was strong due in part to the large sandwich board at the entrance to the store, as well as a prominent poster in the window asking folks if they remembered to bring their bags. I try hard to remember to grab mine as I am getting out of the car each time I shop and feel horrible if I forget.

I was recently in New Jersey where I popped into the grocery store to stock up on a few must-have items I cannot find in Vermont (Kosciusko Mustard and Bongiovi Spaghetti Sauce, to name names). Once it was my turn to check out, I did what I always do and headed to the end of the checkout to help package my items. That’s when I realized the set up was designed so that as items were being rung, the checker was placing them directly into – gasp – plastic bags that were propped open on a round carousel type thing. I quickly informed her I brought my own bags. She stood there for what seemed like minutes, staring at me as though I were an alien from another planet.

As I looked around me, no one – not anyone in any of the lines nor in the check-out queues  it seemed opted to bring reusable bags. As I walked out of the store and headed to my car, all I could see was a sea of plastic bags parading out of the store. This would never happen in Vermont, I told myself. People are practically shunned, flogged and beaten if they don’t bring their own cloth bags to use.

So N.J. supermarket operators – I have to ask  what’s up with the love of plastic bags? It's not sending a very good message to your shoppers or to Mother Earth, is it?

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