Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No plastic, mo' money

In December, Whole Foods took away plastic bags as a carry-out option in its Austin store. By April, plastic bags will be banned from all nationwide Whole Foods stores.

How can you take your Whole Foods purchases home this summer?

1) Use paper bags (still provided by Whole Foods)
2) Use reusable bags (nylon or canvas, sold by Whole Foods)
3) Carry them (not recommended)

The Whole Foods brand is organic in nature to begin with, so this move is already well-tied to the parent company's core values. However, one can't help but think the move is also rooted in the financial benefits of both eliminating cost (no longer buying gazillions of those bags as an operating cost) and a nice incremental top-line revenue bump and profit on something that most customers will likely buy (the nylon/canvas bag sold at a high markup).

Jan 31 Update

EcoGeek makes a compelling argument this morning for why plastic bags are actually more environmentally-friendly than paper. To quote them:

Whole Foods' moving over to 100% recycled paper is actually going to be worse for the environment.

Creating recycled paper, it turns out, is a much more energy-intensive process than creating plastic bags. That's why grocery stores prefer you take the plastic. Plastic is also much easier to ship, as it takes up way less space in packing, and they weigh far less per item of shopping you take home with you. And while we might worry that all that plastic is coming from foreign oil, the amazing thing is that even with all the billions of plastic bags we use every year, they constitute about 0.03% of our oil use in the U.S.. Obviously not the most pressing problem we've got.

Check out their full rationale here.

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