Whole Foods Will Eliminate Plastic Bags, Says "Bring Your Own"

Whole Foods says that by Earth Day 2008 they will be eliminating plastic bags and instead offer only paper bags or reusable bags made from recycled plastic bottles for $0.99.

You are invited to bring your own bags and get “a refund of at least 5 cents per bag.”

Do you like this idea?

We’re going all out for reusable! [Whole Foods] (Thanks, Corey!)

Comments

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  1. PinkBox says:

    I usually ask for paper from them anyway.

  2. DrGirlfriend says:

    I do like this idea. I hope it catches on. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

  3. shadow735 says:

    I think this a a great thing. I am pretty green but Will admit I need to get more green then I am.

  4. kimsama says:

    I love the idea of making everyone bring their own bags (I do already, and I enjoy the Whole Foods 5 cent bag discount — uh oh, do you think they’ll be getting rid of it?).

    But, the big problem I see is that those paper bags are also damaging to the earth. Yes, they biodegrade, but the bleaches and chemicals, as well as the massive quantities of water used to make them, and the pollution resulting from the energy used to make them all have poisoned me against paper bags. Why not eliminate all non-reusable bags (i.e. non paper and plastic bags, although, yes I know they can be reused for a while)? If you forgot your bags, the reusable bags they sell are cheap. And knowing you’d have to pay for a slightly more expensive reusable bag might make you remember your own more.

    Reusable cloth all the way!

    P.S. I should add that I do reuse plastic bags about a million times before I recycle them. They seem to hold up better to reuse than paper (which gets moldy or breaks on me).

  5. Pinget says:

    Good for them. I hope the idea spreads quickly.

  6. smitty1123 says:

    Screw that! I haven’t bought a trash bag in years because of grocery store bags, and I damn sure am not going to start now.

  7. nutrigm says:

    yeah.. bring your own bags… and how will this not increase shoplifting? Stupid wholefoods, they act like they’re saving the whales or something! lol

  8. Nothing Can Kill the Grimace... says:

    As a former grocery store employee, I’ll be interested in seeing what this does in terms of increased queue time waiting to checkout. Ten extra seconds for a paper bag might not seem like much, but it adds up very quickly.

  9. rustyni says:

    Hmm. Maybe this will help my fight against the annoying plastic bags that attack my windshield every time I get on the damn interstate.

  10. MDSasquatch says:

    I once saved my paper bags and took them back to the grocery store to reuse them; I was looked at like some sort of a whacko or cheapskate.

    Now, I get em and throw them away; let time, water and the seagulls worry about them.

  11. I think it’s long overdue. Many places in the world have always charged you for bags, or have started doing so. Time for us to catch up.

  12. Mr. Gunn says:

    If they’re going to do it, they need to go all out reusable, not paper only. We periodically bring all our paper bags back to them, and only occasionally shop without out reusable ones.

    They do give 5c back for each reusable bad they fill, BTW.

  13. DrGirlfriend says:

    @nutrigm: Because doing something environmentally friendly has to always be on the scale of saving an entire species? We can’t, you know, do something on a smaller scale than that?

    And because shoplifters don’t already bring their own backpacks or stuff crap into their jackets?

  14. DCvision says:

    trick to use at Whole Paycheck… bring a bunch of your own bags, but only buy enough groceries to fill 1 or 2 of them.. they still give you the discount for each bag you bring in…and it’s 10cents a bag…

    • Jen Frey Brett says:

      @DCvision: Not true. I used to be a CS Supervisor at Whole Foods and they will only give you the bag refunds on the bags that are actually used. The store I worked in (in PA) gave a 5 cent refund for re-used bags, but that may be a regional thing.

  15. MameDennis says:

    I usually ask for the paper ones (they’re ridiculously sturdy, and I re-use the heck out of them). But I really like having the option of plastic for stuff that’s prone to leak or spill–say, a roasted chicken.

  16. Now if giant assholes like Wal-Mart would start doing this, THEN the impact would be great.

    Until that day, I’ll take these small steps as they come. Nice job, Whole Foods.

  17. sleze69 says:

    This is just another way for a company to save/make money in the name of environmental friendliness.

    $1/bag? That’s RIDICULOUS for bags that probably cost $1/100.

    • Jen Frey Brett says:

      @sleze69: I swear I’m not trying to defend Whole Foods, but I am setting the record straight. Those re-useable bags they sell (the food-themed ones) actually make no profit for the company. They break even, at best.

  18. VeeKaChu says:

    @smitty1123:I’m with you; plastic grocery bags serve a multitude of secondary purposes, and the Whole Foods plastic bags are both ample and particularly sturdy compared to the tissue-like bags from the major chains.

  19. wesa says:

    Regarding SMITTY1123’s comment: if you recycle, compost, and shop right, you won’t need garbage bags. We’ve lived without garbage bags for over a year now.

  20. teh says:

    @sleze69: $1 for a reusable bag. $.05 for a disposable bag.

    I hope this catches on with other grocers and other businesses. I had fun confusing the poor checker at Target yesterday when I told her that I had brought my own bag.

  21. @sleze69: The bags they are selling are probably thicker and more sturdy than the flimsy plastic bags you usually get. So you can re-use them a lot. If you think about it, if you buy one bag, in 20 trips, it pays for itself. I got a bunch of cloth bags when my old company got bought out by BofA. I keep them in my car, and bring them in when I go shopping and get $.02 back.

    As for paper, all paper goods/old mail/boxes in my house get shoved in a larger cardboard box, and tossed into my fire pit about once every two months. Let’s see an ID thief send in ashes to get a credit card.

  22. full.tang.halo says:

    this all sounds like a bunch of tree hugging hippie crap to me… jk

  23. smitty1123 says:

    @wesa: Yea, I think neither my neighbors nor my apt manager would be too happy with me setting up a comost heap in my apartment.

  24. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @kimsama: Whole Foods paper bags are very eco-friendly: no bleaches or other non-biodegradable treatments.

    @ksf4: Long lines aren’t really a problem at Whole Foods: they seem to be mindful of this and open registers freely.

  25. theblackdog says:

    What’s the problem with this? Ikea started charging for their plastic bags over a year ago and it hasn’t been an issue here. Where they were smart was that they also cut the price of their reusable blue bags in half.

    Nowadays I use those blue bags for all of my trips to the grocery store, which has just started selling reusable bags as well.

  26. Charles Duffy says:

    @sleze69: No, these aren’t $0.01 bags; they’re sturdily built and quite nice. They’ve been doing this at their primary location in Austin for quite some time now, and as a customer it WORKSFORME.

    (Conveniently enough, I was given some ChicoBags for Christmas; this has been an excuse to use them).

  27. Hoss says:

    Love the idea. I wish every market would give you paper unless you ask otherwise. My motives are combletely selfish — paper is easier to carry and does not roll around the back of my SUV. Also, we put any recycleables like newspaper in the bags.

    I hate feeling like a snob asking for paper

  28. Charles Duffy says:

    @full.tang.halo: Hey, it’s Whole Foods. What do you expect?

  29. madanthony says:

    I used to have piles of plastic bags that I never knew what to do with.

    Then I adopted a cat. Now I have to scrounge for plastic bags for putting her poop in when I clean out her litterbox.

  30. mac-phisto says:

    considering the detrimental impact that plastic bags have on the environment (both in production & disposal), i think this is awesome.

    i don’t know what their paper bags are like, but i’ve noticed a dramatic drop in the quality at my local food store. if they went paper only (or byo), i might be inclined to shop elsewhere (or actually remember to bring those tote bags that i forget every time i go grocery shopping).

  31. jeff303 says:

    @DCvision: Or just keep making several trips into the store, each time purchasing one item and reusing the same bag. Voila, 10 cents off every item!

  32. MeOhMy says:

    I always like the “Bring your own bag” idea. People won’t get on board if they are not forced. Ikea have started selling regular plastic bags for a nickel or one of their weird tarpaulin satchel things will run you something like 75 cents. I also have some of the Trader Joes totes.

    The only tough part is remembering to bring them!

  33. DCvision says:

    and another point… all those conventioneers @ CES, AVN, NAB etc…grabbing the swag… those bags are usually sturdy and durable, and can be used perfectly for groceries…

  34. GothamGal says:

    I already bring my own tote to Trader Joe’s and if I go over, I always get paper. This is a great idea, I hope it catches on.

  35. JMH says:

    @MameDennis: You’ve bought to mind a similar concern for me: I like to have raw meat (chicken especially, less concerned about fish) bagged separately in case its packaging is leaky, which I guess won’t be an option now.

  36. Chris Walters says:

    The Steve’s C-Town in my neighborhood started selling $1.99 (maybe $2.99) nylon bags a couple of months ago. I bought one and bring it with me when I shop now. It folds flat so it’s easy to carry, and holds about as much as 2-3 overstuffed plastic bags without sagging. I’m impressed by how well the bag is made and actually wonder if there’s anything “green” about its materials at all. I’m not sure I would have ever bought one if they hadn’t been for sale right there at the supermarket, so I’m glad they did this.

    When I bought it, the cashier and bag boy smirked and exchanged glances–look at that crazy yuppie/hippie/etc. being uppity!–but I’ve seen a few other people using them on recent visits.

  37. overbysara says:

    love it.

  38. jaredutah says:

    My only concern would be sanitation. An earlier post mentions leaking meat juices….so now bring that bag back to the store, hoist it up on the conveyor belt and say, ‘Use this bag!’….now, I’m behind you in line so I drop the pound of bulk gummy worms I’ve been carrying around the store becasue I don’t want to ruin the environment by using a bag for them and now my gummy worms are marinating in meat juice…gross!

    I think it’s a good idea, but there are some issues that will need to be worked out….is all I’m sayin’

  39. freshyill says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee:
    The lines at Union Square get very big, but they’ve got such a great system for handling them, that they move very fast. The colors/numbers/big monitor system is fantastic. I hope other stores start using it.

  40. forever_knight says:

    good for them. i hope this catches on.

  41. freshyill says:

    @overbysara: I’m not sure about Whole Foods, but most grocery stores l’ve been to have plastic bags available at their meat/deli departments. If Whole Foods does too, I’m sure they’ll keep these around just like they’ll probably keep them in the produce department.

  42. AceKicker says:

    I’ve got so many plastic bags kicking around I couldn’t come close to using them up again in 10 years if I never got another one again. I’ve got no good way to get rid of them besides just throwing them out. I’d be willing to put up with a little bit of inconvenience if I wouldn’t have to stockpile plastic bags anymore.

  43. DrGirlfriend says:

    At my local grocery stores, they have small plastic bags that they use to wrap meat products in. Like, no a full-sized bag, but just big enough to fit one of those foam cointainers of chicken or whatnot. Since those would be used on a lesser scale than a full-sized bag (since not everyone is buying meat every single time), that might be a compromise.

    Or, you could grab a plastic baggie from the produce section and take it with you to the checkout.

  44. suprnate says:

    The best deal for reusable bags are those big blue bags from IKEA that you can buy for I think $0.59 or $0.69. One bag holds almost a whole cartful of groceries. They’re very durable.

  45. jamesdenver says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    Yup. In Europe it’s 25-50 cents for every bag at some markets…

  46. 4dSwissCheese says:

    The paper bags take several times the energy to make than the plastic ones, and so end up using more oil on net. Oh well, at least they biodegrade, I suppose.

  47. holocron says:

    We usually bring our own bags. However we often ask for paper. Why???

    Because the stupid city of Minneapolis REQUIRES me to separate my recycling into paper bags which must then be put into recycling bins. Dumb.

  48. trujunglist says:

    Finally.

  49. copious28 says:

    Everyone is touching on the subject: I believe Ireland banned plastic bags, or made them cost. The problem was that everyone was using them for secondary uses, like trash bags, etc. So, when their source was limited, the sale of garbage bags went up dramatically.

  50. kellsbells says:

    @jamesdenver: Actually it’s that much at almost EVERY supermarket. People just grab the fruit crates or palette boxes from the macaroni and cheese display and use them. Saves time, resources, and it’s sturdy. I have always advocated having to pay for bags. It’s part of the reason I carry a GIANT purse.

  51. MeOhMy says:

    @jamesdenver: The grocery I was using in Berlin didn’t even have plastic bags. Your only option was to buy a canvas tote for 2 euro!

  52. Jamie Beckland says:

    This is great news! It’s time we joined Ireland, and declared that rampant plastic bags will no longer be our national flag.

  53. ancientsociety says:

    Excellent news. The wife and I have a ton of reusable bags @ home, the problem is that we keep forgetting to bring them.

    The only thing that could make Whole Foods 100% perfect is that they need to start selling some Mickles.

  54. jamesdenver says:

    @kellsbells:

    Yeah when I walk or bike over to the store I have my large messenger bag. Unless it’s raw chicken I just throw my stuff in there.

    Much like the “you must take a bag” articles – there’s simply no reason to take something you’ll throw away 10 minutes later.

  55. EYESONLY says:

    @DRGIRLFRIEND: If you have a lot of plastic bags stockpiled, check around local supermarkets–tons of them take old plastic bags for recycling. Look for a big bin usually somewhere near the entrance.

  56. UpsetPanda says:

    Who has a Shoppers Food Warehouse around them? Pretty much the ghettoest named grocery store but they had a great idea in that they gave you paper bags but you could also reach behind you at the massive pile of boxes that were used to ship products. Voila, instant reusability.

  57. jharrell says:

    Problem is that paper bags require a percentage of new or nearly new fiber as each time the paper has been recycled the fibers shorten at the new bag becomes just a bit weaker. Plastic bags are the only way to go. Plastic can be recycled nearly indefinitely. Just place a redemption value on all bags and play it out like aluminum cans. Anything would be better than placing heavier reliance upon paper and the trees they come from.

  58. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Where are the cheap reusable bags coming from? China? Some sweatshop employing illegal immigrants in Texas? A child-labor-exploiting dirt-floor factory in the Middle East? Who knows, really?

  59. falc says:

    @AceKicker: one thing you could do with your bags is find a grocery store that has a recycling bin. my local Acme has one.
    also, as far as reusable bags i have been using them for a while now and it does make the check-out time go slower. thus making lines longer. i guess you take the good with the bad, but its for the best.

  60. lovelygirl says:

    Good! I love this! More stores need to step up and encourage re-usuable shopping bags. Whole Foods sells bags for $1 each, how can you top that price?! They can be used over and over and they have lovely designs also.

  61. nutrigm says:

    @DRGIRLFRIEND that is my point exactly. Most shop owners are wary of the fact that people who carry backpacks/plastic bags into a store are more likely than not shop lifters. Call it whatever-profiling you want but it works. Now that pretty much everyone going to wholefoods will be carrying their own bag into the store all I can say to them is “Good luck looking out for the shoplifters”!

  62. FeeBeee says:

    I bought one of those reusable bags at Whole Foods last week. It’s huge! What would have required at least 3 plastic bags all fit into the new bag, including a bottle of wine and roll of paper towels.

    Don’t know what I’ll use for kitty litter disposal if plastic bags disappear completely, however…

  63. missbheave (is not convinced) says:

    This is a great idea! Make us all responsible for the negative externalities of pollution and energy consumption that result from plastic bags.

  64. johnva says:

    @jharrell: I think the point is that they are heavily pushing people to use reusable bags, not just switch to paper. They are making it very cheap to get a reusable one and then paying you to use it. The paper is probably just there to make sure that people have an option if they absolutely insist on not bringing a reusable one or if they forget.

  65. Alexander says:

    Somebody needs to come up with a “Plastic Bag Offset Credit” scheme stat!

    1) Sell “offset credits” to make people feel good about themselves.
    2) ???
    3) Profit!

  66. UpsetPanda says:

    I’m going to make it a practice to not use bags when I go grocery shopping. First off, if I’m buying enough stuff that it won’t fit into a duffel or bag I have in my car, then it is feasible that I would need plastic or paper bags. But if I’m buying that much stuff anyway, why shouldn’t I just load it all into a cart and keep enough duffel bags and use those to take the groceries into the house? It might take a touch more time, but then I’m not using a ton of grocery bags.

    But I actually reuse grocery bags to clean out my rabbit’s cage, so maybe I can’t do this all the time.

  67. DriverB says:

    @madanthony: I used to do that too, but now I use these bio bags instead. It was pointless to be using Feline Pine, which is degradable (unlike more kitty litters) and then scooping it into a plastic bag. I use the ‘doggie’ size and they work great so far.

  68. billcinjersey says:

    so when they save money but not supplying plastic bags, do we go out and buy plastic/paper bags to line the garbage can at home? Do we toss garbage without the use of a liner bag?

  69. Brad2723 says:

    First of all, paper doesn’t degrade in a landfill either. The only way to efficiently dispose of paper is to either recycle or compost it. Plastic bags can also be recycled and don’t need to end up in our landfills either. European grocery stores charge you for bags whether they are paper or plastic as a way to encourage reuse.

  70. spinachdip says:

    @Brad2723: I use the paper bags from WF and TJ’s for paper recycling. So yeah, you’re right, but it’s not that big an issue as long as people do the whole reduce-reuse-recycle thing.

  71. ianmac47 says:

    This sounds nice in theory, but not so much in practice. First of all, plastic grocery bags are great for bagging up recyclables like cans and bottles. Paper bags are great for newspapers and magazines. But aside from that, Whole Foods already charges a premium for their products, and I don’t appreciate being charged a premium for the bags to carry away the premium priced product. Ultimately, this just means more orders from Fresh Direct.

  72. johnva says:

    @Brad2723: This is exactly what Whole Foods is doing. They charge more for people who don’t bring reusable bags. The only difference is that they don’t offer disposable plastic bags now.

  73. RumorsDaily says:

    Awful idea. I won’t be shopping somewhere that fines me for not bringing my own bag. How does this help consumers? Don’t reduce the usefulness of your store and pretend you’re doing me a favor. People can already bring their own bags, no reason for the store to punish those of us who don’t want to… unless they don’t want us to shop there.

  74. johnva says:

    @ianmac47: I bag recyclables like cans and bottles in paper bags all the time, and then recycle the bags at the same time. Why do the bags need to be plastic for you to do this?

  75. tape says:

    @Teh – oh, the LOOKS I get at Target.

    “I don’t need a bag for this one item.” Huh?
    “Just put that one item you were going to put in its own separate bag in the single bag with the other four items I bought.” What?
    “I don’t need bags, I’ll just put these small items in this sizable storage bin I’m also buying.” Errr?
    “I’ve brought a canvas bag, I don’t need a plastic one.” Uhhh?

    Also, a fairly stupid thing that happens all the time is in the self-checkout register at my local Stop & Shop. I will bring an assortment of canvas bags to put my groceries in, but an employee will come over and start bagging my groceries for me into plastic bags. This one woman in particular does it every time I am there and she is working, and every single time I have to yell at her “please stop, I’ve brought my own bags” (which I have prominently and obviously placed at the end of the conveyor belt), and every single time she looks at me like I have seven heads even though this exchange between her and I has happened at least once a week for the last 4 months.

  76. johnva says:

    @RumorsDaily: How are they punishing you for not bringing your own? You can still get paper bags for free…you just don’t get the $0.05 discount (which I think is perfectly reasonable since you are costing them more money by taking bags). Anyway, the reusable ones are nicer anyway (they hold more and are stronger). We actually use ours for carrying all kinds of things that aren’t just groceries.

    I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t have shopped at Whole Foods anyway. I saw the signs about this at Whole Foods the other day, and asked the cashier about it. She said the response has been overwhelmingly positive from their regular customers, at least in her experience so far.

  77. tape says:

    @Rumorsdaily – if you don’t like this idea, then don’t try to shop in any other civilized country on Earth, because everyone but the U.S. does it.

  78. superborty says:

    The only problem I have with this is the paper bags are smaller than they were 2 years ago. Can’t put as much into one bag. Less useful afterwards around the house too. Also not sure I want any items that are slightly damp in paper bags or they could break apart when I get home.

  79. camille_javal says:

    @JD: Bad news – they’re now just called “Shoppers,” and they have plastic bags – no boxes that I could see when I went to the one in Lorton, VA, when I was home for xmas. It’s all un-warehouse-y, too. But they do have ridiculous “combine 10 various items for $10″ deals.

  80. MBZ321 says:

    I work at a grocery store, “W-Mans” and have heard our store will go through about one million plastic bags on a busy Saturday or Sunday (and x that by 73-odd stores and you see that this is a huge problem). I can’t imagine how many of those bags are being tossed in the trash (even though we do have recycling containers for them). I’m sure the process of recycling them is not eco-friendly either.
    We also offer reusable bags which are made from recycled plastic, are huge, and FIT CORRECTLY on the bag racks. I cannot stand it when people hand me tiny, awkward tote bags because it is almost impossible to efficiently bag. I love the customers that bring back “paper in plastic” bags to reuse because I simply have to unfold them and fill them up again. Anyway, I wish we would do away with plastic just because they aren’t strong to begin with and a customer ends up having to make several trips from their car to their house.

  81. shadow735 says:

    Plastic bags cannot be recycled indefinitely, they can be recycled a great many times but eventually they become to brittle to be recycled at which point they can be used in the manufacture of other products. Other then metals most items that are recyclable only have a finite amt of times that they can be recycled .
    While plastic has many many advantages over bags in the sense of a smaller environmental footprint, its main draw back is it doesn’t bio-degrade.
    The best alternative is to get natural cloth bags. You can reuse these over and over and they bio degrade and are more green then paper. As for leaky foods I doubt that meat areas will get rid of plastic bad for your meats. Even so Cloth bags can be washed. Stick it in the wash with bleach it will kill the bacteria and clean the bags.
    For those that think it’s a stupid idea take a good long look at your life. One day you or your kids will be looking at a planet full of trash and limited resources because people like you didn’t take a few extra minutes to try to be green conscious.
    If you think your small action wont make a difference your are wrong. Because if you combine your actions with 1 million others it can become a flood of change.

  82. jurisenpai says:

    @madanthony: I use “World’s Best Cat Litter” for my kitteh, which is flushable and lasts for ages. It is so much less wasteful than using clay litter, and I find it smells much better and lasts longer than conventional litters.

  83. Anonymous says:

    I always take a big blue Ikea bag when I go shopping. Doesn’t matter if it’s Target, Ralphs, Trader Joes, or… Ikea. I’ve got about six of the dang things. Two live permanently in my trunk, and the rest I keep in the linen closet because I use them as laundry bags.

    My dad made a joke about me using the things for both groceries and laundry. I immediately asked him: “do you use the same loofah on your face as you do your nuts? Because most of my food is prepackaged, and my produce is in those super thin cellophane bags. You should really think about being more hygenic.” He didn’t think that was funny.

    I’ve since given a couple of the bags to my mom and she uses them for everything.

  84. croeso says:

    Whole Foods is taking chain wide what they already have to do in San Francisco. All chain food stores have to use paper bags by law. The bags being used are all larger and heavier than the old paper bags and have handles on them. The ones used by IGA state on them that they are made of 100% recycled materials. Everyone also sells the reusable grocery totes for 99 cents. Any change has it’s pluses and negatives. I shop at Walgreens (The law only covers grocery stores) more often to get more plastic bags to reuse for kitchen trash.

  85. what a stupid idea. I hate paper bags. Stop and shop has a “recycle your plastic bags” bin now, why don’t they just do that? Paper bags are really inefficient to carry and not everyone will be up to buying bags. It’s a horrible idea for them.

  86. KJones says:

    How about a folding shopping cart with wheels?

    They compact into a small space, will fit into most car trunks when full, and are dozens or hundreds of times more reusable and durable than even a cloth bag, let alone plastic.

    Obviously some will be afraid of looking like an old granny, but which is more important: the environment or what people think of you? I’ve used the same one for about two years and it’s only now starting to look bad (one tie-wrap holding metal bars together).

  87. johnva says:

    @AbstractConcept: You don’t think most Whole Foods shoppers can afford to pay $1 for a reusable bag?

  88. badgerette says:

    Costco has these fabulous reusable bags, like Ikea bags, but made of printed tarp material. Three of them for 3.49. They have webbing handles and they are massive. I’ve started taking them everywhere I shop. I love them. Right now Washington state has a bill up that would prohibit plastic grocery bags – I hope it passes. What WF is doing is a good thing.

  89. burgundyyears says:

    Meijer (at least the one nearest to me) now sells the reusable bags (I think they’re made from recycled plastic? They feel almost textile-based) for 99 cents each. Very sturdy. The trick is remembering to take them with you into the store when you go shopping.

  90. kimsama says:

    @jurisenpai: Ooh, sadly, flushable litter is actually bad for the environment, because it releases Toxoplasma gondii into water systems, which can threaten marine life. (To clarify, it’s not the litter itself that causes the problems, it’s the cat feces).

  91. ribex says:

    I shop at Shaw’s and Stop & Shop, which both sell (or at least sold) these bags: [www.earthwisebags.com] They are the nonwoven polypropylene bags that I am increasingly seeing at other stores. I saw a few at a Wal-Mart yesterday – black in color. I own 10 bags in total which is enough for a huge shopping trip. Each bag holds as much as 2-3 plastic bags.

    One of the BIGGEST benefits to me is that they have those awesome shoulder straps which makes carrying groceries into the house a simpler proposition. The second biggest benefit is that they have a hard insert for the bottom of the bag which keeps the bag from being all floppy and is a significant improvement over any bag I’ve seen for sale at Whole Foods.

    Yes, they are made in China. But I’d rather buy one of these once if it keeps me from using hundreds of plastic bags over the course of its lifetime. I keep them folded and rubber banded together (3-5) and keep them in another tote in my car since I don’t always plan my shopping trip in advance.

    I think what WF is doing is great, even though I can’t afford to shop there very often. I hope more stores will follow suit. Actually, (sadly?) Wal-Mart making this kind of announcement would have a much more tremendous impact.

  92. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @badgerette: If those big totes are the ones I’m thinking of, I think someone here in Houston passed them around to homeless people so they can carry their meager belongings around with them and not have to steal a shopping cart. Interesting idea.

  93. Schmanz says:

    Wow, Whole Foods found a way to make more money by making their customers pay for something that used to be free — Genius! And those customers feel right proud of themselves for having less convenience.
    Yes, and the hippies will feel even better if they can force everyone to carry around an old musty canvas bag!

    I guess I won’t be stopping in Whole Foods for a quick lunch to go anymore — soup in a paperbag doesn’t sound like a good idea.

  94. Amelia Subverxin says:

    I caved and bought one of the $0.99 reusable bags a couple weeks ago. I felt it was a little bit bigger than the paper bags and it was easier to carry everything in one bag instead of juggling two plastic bags.

  95. shanaynay says:

    Oh, for the love of God. People, plastic is technically recyclable, but very little of it actually IS recycled, because new plastic is cheaper than recycled. Most to-be-recycled plastic grocery bags get barged over to China and either incinerated (noxious products) or landfilled.

  96. jurisenpai says:

    @kimsama: I’ve actually heard that feral cats pooping in the wild are by far the biggest vector of Toxoplasmosis into the marine ecosystem.

    My cat is indoor only, and as only 2% of infected cats shed the spores at any one time, I feel that the odds of her transmitting the infection (if she even has it)are low.

    Plus, I live far away from the ocean watersheds and worry much more about overcrowded landfills than sea otters.

  97. Joafu says:

    Does anyone else remember a few years ago when plastic was prefered because paper bags came from trees? In grade school, we’d get stupid pamphlets saying how many trees are destroyed each year to supply paper bags to grocery stores. I bet in another ten years, people will switch back to plastic because paper bags cause cancer or some bull.

  98. shanaynay says:

    Plastic and paper are about equally destructive. Plastic takes more resources initially, and less to recycle, with paper taking fewer resources initially, but with recycling a much more resource-intensive process.

    However, plastic will be around effing forever, swirling around in the damn ocean, and at least a paper bag will biodegrade. If I manage to forget my reusables and absolutely cannot get by without a bag, I take paper.

    Trash bags can be purchased, people. They even come in nifty recycled plastic.

    And remember that plastic can only be recycled once, and it’s actually a “downcycling.” A plastic bag doesn’t become a new plastic bag when it’s recycled — it becomes that plastic decking, or plastic park benches, which are then landfilled, as they can’t be recycled. Same thing happens with most plastics — they get mixed up and the quality/purity declines, so they hit the landfill in fewer “generations.” Paper, on the other hand, gets seven cycles, which is better than any plastic.

    But its far and away best to avoid both. It’s really not that difficult to grab a bag on your way into the store. Then, after you unload at home, hang the bag on the garage door handle, or whatever, to remind you to put it back in the car when you next go out.

    It’s like anything else. People say oh, no, it’s too hard, it’s too inconvenient, I couldn’t possibly, but it’s less hassle than dealing with all those accursed, flimsy, holey grocery bags.

  99. chiieddy says:

    I’ve been using my own bags from Stop & Shop for a few months now. S&S has a system where you use your shopper card to check out a hand scanner. As you shop you scan the item and place it in your shopping bag. When you get to self checkout, you scan your card again and put back the scanner which is read into the register. You pay and are done. Fast and painless. Plus, I don’t have to worry about some bagger putting my bread on the bottom. They perform random bag checks to make sure you’re not thieving. :)

  100. chiieddy says:

    Also, IKEA has quietly started to charge for their bags. Last time I went, I had purchased some storage containers and used them to haul out the stuff (no furniture in this trip). No bags, no charge.

  101. Whoyaa says:

    “Paper or plastic?” “Oh, I’m writing a check.”

  102. Schmanz says:

    @chiieddy: Bingo, this isn’t about saving the environment — it’s about making money. I think that asking paper or plastic is the most customer-centered way. I use the plastic when ever I have something that may spill and recycle them for disposing kitty litter. The paper ones are good too.

    I just laugh that people somehow think any business is in it for anything else my $$. Then again they are the same ones who thing all plastic bag users/producers must be EVIL and the musky canvas bag users are SAINTS.

    By the way, the shelter I volunteer at would like all the extra plastic bags to use for picking up doo-doo. Unless, of course people think using their unbleached canvas sacks would be more environmental.

  103. martyz says:

    Bah. What’s a few bucks more to their $50/lb for “organic” fruit.

    But I do applaud Whole “Lotta Money For” Foods and hope more companies follow suit in helping our damaged planet, in some small way .

  104. Lee Jones says:

    We do most of our shopping at Whole Foods and Henry’s Market. We already bring our own bags as a means of being responsible stewards of the Earth. This move by Whole Foods is a logical extension of their desire to promote eco-friendly services and it probably saves them money, too. Makes sense to me, and I agree with it.

    The bags we bring, however, are sturdy, woven nylon bags. We also keep two insulated bags for frozen goods. The bags go back to the car’s trunk after each shopping trip. It both limits our consumption and gives us a means of reducing waste. Good move, all around.

  105. dheerajs says:

    When I go shopping I ask for Paper AND plastic, and I usually take a couple extra plastic bags and force feed them to some puppies as I leave the store. Gimme a break people. If Whole Foods really wants to make a difference, start a shopper rewards program where to start, your customers get a FREE CLOTH BAG (instead of a rewards card) with a unique bar-code on the bag. If you want to save some money, bring the bag to scan. End of problem. Replacing flimsy plastic with more durable plastic is like putting premium instead of regular in your car. Horaay! You’ve solved the global energy crisis!

  106. bdslack says:

    Most countries (England etc.) are charging a tax or eliminating plastic bags altogether. In parts of Africa they joke that the National flag is the plastic bag. These bags never degrade and get into the ocean. They are eaten by fish that die and rot, and then the bag is released and kills again and again. I think they should charge $1 a bag and donate the money to help the environment. Usage will drop by 98% and the rest will be money well donated. I always say “no bag” and people look at me funny when I just grab what is on the counter and walk out of the store. Like I need a plastic “thank you” bag for my pack of gum and bottle of water…..

  107. TangDrinker says:

    If you need bags, make friends with a librarian. Vendors love to hand out “book” bags – even though nothing is printed in books anymore (joke!) – and most of us have tons hanging around in our offices. Since none of us make much money, they also come in handy when shopping at the original “bring your own or buy our bags” store – Aldi’s.

  108. shanaynay says:

    @Dheerajs: the reusables sold by stores are traditionally made from recycled soda bottles, so it’s not wasting a bunch of new plastic. That’s left to those here who are going to continue to take the regular grocery bags. :)

    It’s kind of pointless, it seems, to constantly be posting about green stuff on Consumerist. 75% of posters crap on whatever the effort is, and the rest of us make most-likely-futile attempts to talk sense to the “why should I care? It’s not like one small thing will make any difference, so why should I be inconvenienced?” crowd. A site like Consumerist is probably not the place, what with the emphasis on consumption and such.

    So, Meg, I fear that you waste your time.

  109. MARTHA__JONES says:

    I love this idea, plus Whole Foods has the best reuseable bags of any store out there – they hold tons, they are sturdy, last forever and they have long handles.

  110. czarandy says:

    Pretty silly. Oh well, I guess I just won’t shop there anymore.

  111. Willhemakeit says:

    @kimsama: I got a free reusable cloth bag from Concentino’s Market… can I use that?

  112. anyanka323 says:

    It’s a good idea in theory and might work for Whole Foods, but it’s not going to work at Wal-Mart, Meijer, Target, etc. Most people who shop at those stores probably don’t go into Whole Foods because of the price. I can’t imagine the average Wal-Mart shopper willingly paying for plastic bags that they previously were getting for free or remembering to bring the reusable bags.

    As far as plastic bags for the meat and produce, most grocery stores including TJs do have them. However, a lot of people do not bother to use them to bag their meat and fruit.

  113. coold8 says:

    Ha! Glad I don’t shop there. I wanted to take a camera outside and watch the hippies struggle with their worm covered organic tomatoes when they forget their bags, good job Al Gore, for making something hilariously amusing out of something so simple!

  114. Keter says:

    My SuperS has been selling washable fabric bags (possibly made from recycled plastic) for nearly a year now…$5 for 4 bags (all I need for a grocery shopping trip). They have a nice paper bag look and a plastic sheet that fits in the bottom for stability. IKEA sells their big blue bags (all recycled plastic) for $0.65…I have two of those, and they are useful for all kinds of carrying chores. I also bought a nylon bag from the Container Store that zips into a tidy carrier that fits perfectly in my purse: it gets used several times a week for miscellaneous purchases. I find I have to explain myself all the time to checkout people who are looking for a price tag on my bags!

  115. ZugTheMegasaurus says:

    I work in a store that just got bought up by Whole Foods (hi from Ideal Market if any Boulderites are in here) and this seems sort of pointless. The bakery, cheese, deli, and meat departments all package things in plastic bags (depending on the item). And those are bags that are far less reusable than the big ones you get at checkout. Lucky for us, probably only 1 in 6 customers or so even takes a bag upon checkout.

  116. Angryrider says:

    At least I don’t shop at Whole Foods.
    I’m okay with using getting plastic bags so I can reuse them. It’s just that some people don’t know how to manage their own waste. Everyday in the city I see plastic bags flying around because of some idiot(s) who refuse to dispose of it properly.
    If there’s one type of plastic bag I’m against, it’s those flimsy ones. Man, they are REALLY useless.

  117. madrigal says:

    I’m sorry a bunch of you are outraged because bringing your own bag is just soooo inconvenient for you.

  118. vladthepaler says:

    That’s a shame; I use their plastic bags for my trash. Other grocery stores use much smaller plastic bags, which don’t work as well.

  119. vladthepaler says:

    You can complain to Whole Foods about this new policy by going to:

    http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/contact/contact.html

  120. evilqueensofia says:

    OK, those of you who are whining should really stop.
    This is such a tiny step in the right direction. I’ve been using the same NET bags for the past 15 years. Originally only Stop and Shop carried them for $2.98 each, I bought two and when they began wearing our a couple of years later I bought a couple more. Then I found PURPLE nylon net bags at the $1 store. They are all washable if they get meat juices on them and they fit in my pocket when I go to shop. The REAL issue now is to get all the producers to stop with the CRAZY amounts of packging that everything comes in. Although the plastic boxes are coded for recycling, how many are ACTUALLY ACCEPTED FOR RECYCLING? Our Hudson Valley recycling center accepts only plastic bottles with screw tops, if they took all the other packaging I would have almost no garbage at all. For the fun of it sometime, take home your groceries, empty them from their packages and see how much weight you would save without the packaging. AND when you buy one thing from a place like Home Depot that is already in packaging, why would you need another bag to put it in?

  121. seanSF says:

    Is this a good idea?? Yes, yes, yes! Buy a pack of heavy-duty nylon bags for $20 (or less) and bring them with you. (I like these: [www.delight.com] ) And when you leave a store with only an item or two, try those old fashioned carrying devices called your hands.

  122. rcsfca says:

    I live in San Francisco; our groceries stores are required to bag your groceries in paper bags. I think this is great! Because I never has any use for the small plastic bags. The paper bags i use for keeping my recycling…

  123. Alger says:

    The last time I let Whole Foods use a paper bag, the handle tore off halfway to my car in the parking lot, dumping my groceries (cans!) all over the pavement.

    Not to mention that we can recycle plastic bags, but have to throw out the paper ones because cockroaches can be hidden in them.

  124. SayAhh says:

    It’s a terrible idea! Well, nobody said saving the environment was easy!! So you’ll have to reuse your bags. Big deal! A little inconvenience goes a long way. I went to Taiwan a few years back and they recycle EVERYTHING! As an American, it seemed totally silly to me, but it makes a lot of sense: instead of charging people CRV and having them toss Coke bottles in the trash (or on the street) anyway, you DON’T charge them anything and make it illegal to dispose of them irresponsibly, e.g. not placing them into “recycle only” trash bins or taking out the “recyclables” when the collection truck comes (a-la trash truck on trash days).

    Allow me to be blunt, but it’s impossible for even homeless people going through your trash to pick up every unrecycled bottle/can. In Taiwan I noticed that there are TWO receptacles everywhere there is a trash can: one for trash, and one for recyclables, not unlike certain college campuses, such as UC-Irvine, which had three “trashcans” (trash, glass, plastic) last time I visited there.

    If we don’t start recycling/phasing out plastic materials from our behavior, bees won’t be the only dwindling species on Earth.

    For your reading pleasure:
    [marine-litter.gpa.unep.org] World’s_largest_landfill.pdf
    [en.wikipedia.org] Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  125. ghostofczolgosz says:

    According to a memo that employees received, Whole Foods will be giving away hundreds of reusable tote bags (the 99 cent ones made from recycled plastic bottles). This should be on Earth Day (22 April 2008) or just before. So if you are one of the first couple hundred customers on the bag giveaway day, you can get one of these bags for free.

    Also, in response to some of the previous comments, the paper bags can be reused for many of the same things that people use the plastic bags for (i.e. dry household trash). If paper bags cannot be recycled in your area or you don’t want to reuse them for groceries, try bringing them back to Whole Foods and ask an employee to put them in the cardboard baler because brown paper can also go in the bales. I did this for a customer once.

  126. gfinakoma says:

    At my WFM you can also donate the 5 cents to the charity of the month. We live in a upper class area, however, you’d be amazed at the amount of cheap people who take it off their bill.

  127. jenxhope says:

    @DCvision: I work at whole foods and we ask you how many bags you used, not how many bags you bring in.

  128. jenxhope says:

    @Schmanz: it’s not about making money at all. granted, you can buy a bag at whole foods to reuse but you can also bring in your own from somewher else. using plastic bags to pick up poop is easy and convenient, but plastic bags take years to break down and indeed hurt the environment.

  129. jenxhope says:

    @sleze69: well then don’t buy those bags, bring your own! problem solved.

  130. jenxhope says:

    @anyanka323: target and walmart are actually encouraging people to use reusable bags right now. i saw them recently and i was very glad. it will take longer to catch on, but at least they’re trying.

  131. jenxhope says:

    @coold8: i can’t wait for you to get some terrible disease from eating your conventional vegetables. it will also be interesting when one of your pets swallows pieces of plastic bags that someone threw on the ground and you have to pay $2,000.