Exit Plastic Bags, Enter Marketing

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reusable_bags.jpgWhole Foods Markets will stop using disposable plastic grocery bags on Earth Day, April 22, 2008. Banning plastic bags is undoubtedly good for the environment–is it also a boon for Whole Foods?

According to the Whole Foods Market website, Americans toss out about 100 billion plastic bags annually (we recycle a pitiful 0.6% of our plastic bags), crowding landfills with an energy-consuming product (it takes 430,000,000 gallons of crude oil to make the 100 billion bags) that lasts for at least 1,000 years. Whole Foods estimates that their action will save 100 million plastic bags in 2008, alone.

By drawing attention to their company policies that are good for the earth, Whole Foods also gets some good press. Was this part of their plan?

I could not get anyone at Whole Foods to answer this question, but I spoke to Jonathan Netzky, a green business owner, and the one of the founders of a sustainable business network, the Business Association for a Sustainable Evanston, or BASE, to which I belong. BASE is working on creating a cerification system for member businesses, a way of differentiating a business as being environmentally friendly.

Part of the certification involves pledging to ban the sale of plastic water bottles in an individual business. For the members of BASE, banning plastic water bottles not only helps the environment, it also promotes our business association and the indvidual businesses that make choices that have a positive impact on the environment.

“We are creating a certification,” Jonathan Netzky said. “Businesses can choose to participate and do something positive,” he added.

Green businesses should practice what they preach by engaging in commercial practices that do not harm the environment. “It’s irrelevant what they preach; what is important is what they do,” said Jonathan.

So if you give a discount to shoppers who walk or ride a bike to your store rather than drive, or bring in reusable containers to take home bulk food, keep up your business practice–and tell the world you are doing so, as long as it’s truly a green business practice. Jonathan Netzky points out that while Whole Foods had used branded plastic bags to market themselves in the past, they are now using the absence of plastic bags as a marketing tool.

“It’s a way of doing something postive for the world,” Jonathan said.

There is nothing wrong with green marketing, as long as it is truly green. Who knew that banning plastic bags could have so many uses?

About the Author

In trying to find the most effective way to help other people reduce their carbon footprints, Sarah turned to one of her favorite activities: writing. She started a green business, chicagogreenlife.com, to help her clients plan newsletters for their eco-friendly businesses. She also started her blog, mygreenerlife.blogspot.com, to provide useful advice to anyone who wants to lead a more environmentally friendly life. She also regularly contributes to www.afreshsqueeze.com, to let other Chicagoans know about eco-friendly stores, restaurants, and events. Sarah, an internal medicine doctor, works part-time in community health centers in the Chicago area. She graduated from Barnard College and Columbia University, and she lives in Evanston, IL, with her daughter and her husband. Stop by some time for some delicious, sustainable food--Sarah and her husband love to cook and entertain--any extras will end up outback in their composter.