Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Salad Days for Going Green or do as San Francisco Does?

I trawl around looking for neat tidbits about green living and sometimes they come from the most interesting places. I do love food, and I'm a regular reader of Michael Bauer's Blog in the San Francisco Chronicle website. Today he has a really good blog post about a tidbit from Nielsen Research's Phil Lempert, called Why San Francisco's ban on plastic grocery bags is important? where he discusses the impact that San Francisco's plastic bag ban will have. There are two really interesting facts that come from Lempert's post:

In San Francisco alone, last year there were about 180 million plastic shopping bags distributed -- which, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment and Worldwatch Institute took roughly 774,000 gallons of oil to produce.

that's a mind boggling statistic. Think about it, if the S.F. population is 744,000 (U.S. Censue estimates) and it's not a particular large city, think of places like New York and Los Angeles. Let me put into some other terms, the cost of the raw oil for those plastic bags is 1.7 Million dollars at $94 a barrel of oil. Anotherinteresting tidbit about what Britain's Tesco is doing with reusable bags:

While the opposition to the ban cite higher prices for consumers, that tact just isn't going to work this time. I know of no shopper who actually finds the typical plastic bag useful or comfortable. We have lived with them when we have no choice. But choices are abundant. Reusable canvas totes, compostable bags made from corn starch, paper bags made from recycled paper are all better options. Tesco's new Fresh & Easy stores actually offer shoppers canvas tote bags "for life" after the initial purchase price of $1 -- they will replace it for free if it breaks.

Now Tesco is often compared with the same disdain that many on this side of the pond hold for Wal-Mart, but it is interesting to see the leadership position they are taking. We see the same with stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. The other day I saw Safeway with a bag of their own highlighting their "Organics" label.

I find it difficult now to not grocery shop without my O'Reilly and Associates Mac OS X conference bag, yes it tags me as a geek, but then you can't fight your inner nature. :) People internalize the habit of having their bag, and bags are available when needed. I only wish my newspaper would stop using the plastic bags.

I hope Lempert is right that this is the start of a trend....



At 7:35 AM , Blogger Green Bean said...

I hope other cities hop on board and join the plastic bag ban and not just at supermarkets but everywhere. Generally, grocery stores are happy to pack my reusable totes. On my rare excursions to Target and other stores, though, I've literally had cashiers ask me what I want to do with the tote. They are really confused which signals to me that even though more and more people are bringing their own totes to buy food, people need to get into the mindset of also using those totes for other shopping.

Also, yesterday, I had the strangest experience. I brought my Whole Foods bags to buy some staples at a local grocery chain. They immediately whipped out their own reusable tote with their logo on it and packed my groceries in that - handing me back the Whole Foods totes empty. I guess I was too surprised to argue and it's not the worst thing in the world, I'll pass those totes on to people I know who still don't BYOB.


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