Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Fare ditches plastic bags for good

Just in time for Earth Day - which, yes, is today - Asheville-based specialty grocer Earth Fare is eliminating plastic grocery bags at all 17 of its locations, including those in Ballantyne, SouthPark and Rock Hill. The chain has long made a 5-cent donation to local nonprofits for each reusable bag used in a shopping trip, but customers without reusable bags will still have options: The chain will continue to offer recyclable paper bags and grocery boxes, it said in a news release (although if anyone can tell me what a grocery box is, I'd be interested in knowing).The aim, unsurprisingly, is to be more eco-friendly and reduce the amount of plastic clogging landfills, oceans and roads.

Though fairly unusual for a Carolinas company, there's plenty of precedent for Earth Fare's move: Retailing giants Whole Foods (which still, alas, does not have a Charlotte location) and Ikea don't provide plastic bags for their customers, either. Ikea goes a step further and requires customers to use a reusable bag, if they're using one at all - I definitely once left the University City store with an armful of goods, having forgotten my reusable tote. Trader Joe's also generally steers clear of plastic bags.

Some cities, meanwhile, have taken action themselves to reduce plastic bag use, with what they say are noticeable reductions in bag waste: In 2007, San Francisco instituted an outright ban on plastic grocery and pharmacy shopping bags, while Washington, D.C. this year began charging shoppers 5 cents per disposable shopping bag, paper or plastic. These steps haven't gotten underway without grumbling, with D.C. residents in particular grousing about their city's measure, one of the strictest and most comprehensive such rules in the country, applying to stores that sell food and/or alcohol. (So, yes, that'd be 5 cents for even a paper bag at the liquor store.)

Back in Charlotte, Earth Fare will be hosting a celebration in its stores to mark its transition, giving away more than 5,000 reusable tote bags. The Ballantyne store will hold an event from 4 to 7 p.m. today, with local vendors and children's activities