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Changes in the Bag

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A few months back, we ran a story in our print magazine, SN Whole Health, about how supermarkets are selling more and more reusable bags. A couple of retailers sent us samples for the photo shoot, and after the issue printed I ended up taking home a dark red bag sent to us from Ukrop’s Super Markets in Virginia. “Sure, why not?” I thought at the time. I guess I felt obligated, since I usually try to do what I can to help the environment.

resusebags.jpgWell, the concept of kicking plastic started to grow on me, and now I use the canvas bag whenever I go to the supermarket. It’s even got a nice crease going right down the middle where I fold it and stick it in my work satchel every day.

It seems reusable bags are starting to grow on a lot of people. And supermarkets are doing a lot more than just increasing their stock — they’re aggressively marketing the bags and using them as a vehicle for eco-friendly positioning. Earlier this week, Tesco’s Fresh & Easy joined the list of retailers who plan to give away bags as part of their Earth Day activities. In addition to the standard canvas tote, Fresh & Easy also offers a $0.20 reusable “bag for life,” a 100% recyclable bag that the store will replace for free if damaged. Chalk one up for Target, too, who bundled their colorful red bags along with Vanity Fair’s latest “Green Issue.”

Offering free and reduced-price bags is a brilliant idea right now. Consumers and the industry, it seems, are starting to develop a less-is-more attitude toward eco friendliness. Just look at the increasing number of products being made with reduced packaging. State and local governments are also getting praised for imposing bans and taxes on plastic bags. Right now California is weighing a $0.25-per-bag fee, and Seattle’s mayor has said he wants something similar.

The only hiccup I’ve experienced in this whole process comes at the register, where most cashiers automatically start throwing my groceries into plastic bags. “Wait!” I often implore, trying not to seem too pushy. A lot of times they’ll look at me like I’m crazy, but I don’t mind.

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