Numerous grocers in California, which arguably leads the U.S. when it comes to "green" initiatives, are celebrating Earth Day today by offering reusable shopping bags to shoppers at greatly reduced costs -- and in the case of many retailers for free.
For example, all day today, El Segundo (Southern) California-based Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is giving customers one of its free reusable canvas shopping bags in return for making a purchase of $10 or more in its stores in California (Southern and Bakersfield), southern Nevada and Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona.
The Fresh & Easy reusable canvas bags normally sell for 99 cents each.
>Supervalu's Inc.'s Albertsons chain in Southern California is giving away free reusable shopping bags at its stores in Santa Barbara, Calabasas and Southgate. Employees of the chain are also volunteering their time to assist in cleaning four state parks in San Diego.
>KV Mart, a Southern California-based privately-held supermarket chain, is going Albertsons one better in the free bag giveaway department: It's giving out a set amount of free reusable shopping bags in all of its Southern California stores today.
>Reno, Nevada-based Scolari’s Food & Drug, a family-owned supermarket chain, is giving the first 100 customers at each of its stores a free reusable shopping bag today.
>the upscale, Southern California-based Bristol Farms chain, which also is owned by Supervalu, Inc., is giving shoppers in its Southern California (and its one store in San Francisco in Northern California) supermarkets a free, high-quality reusable shopping bag for purchases of $25 or more made in its stores today.
>Another upscale Southern California chain, Gelsons, has created a special Earth Day 2009 limited edition reusable shopping bag which it's giving free to customers who buy $25 or more worth of groceries in its stores all day today.
>Modesto, California-based Save Mart Supermarkets (about 230 stores), which operates Save Mart banner supermarkets and Food Maxx banner discount warehouse stores in Central and Northern California -- from Bakersfield south to San Joaquin County in the north -- and Lucky banner supermarkets in the San Fancisco Bay Area, Sacramento region and other parts of Northern Califronia -- has teamed up with the makers of Tropicana brand orange juice in an Earth Day reusable bag extravaganza in all of its stores.
For each 128oz bottle of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice customers purchase (the juice is advertised all week for $6.29 each in Save Mart-owned stores), they receive three free "Save Mart" reusable canvas shopping bags. The cross-promotion with Save Mart is part of Tropicana's "Save the Rainforests" campaign, in which the brand is donating money towards saving and preserving the rainforests.
>Safeway Stores, Inc. which operates supermarkets under the Safeway, Vons, Pak N Save and The Market banners in California, Nevada and Arizona, is giving shoppers a free, high-quality reusable shopping bag with purchases of $50 or more in its stores all day today. We're surprised Safeway is requiring such a high minimum purchase, since in the past the retailer has actually given reusable bags away for free. Maybe next Earth Day?
In addition to the reusable bag promotions and giveaways, numerous California-based supermarket chains are doing other good "green" deeds today for Earth Day.
>Sacramento, California-based Raley's Family of Fine Food Stores, which operates 133 supermarkets under the Raley's, Bel-Air, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source (warehouse stores) banners throughout Northern California and northern Nevada, is opening its "greenest" store today. The store is located in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Petaluma. The Petaluma Raley's banner supermarket has received a "gold" rating by LEED, the organization that certifies "green" commercial buildings in the U.S.. The only rating above "gold" is LEED's "platinum" rating.
The Petaluma store also employs state of the art refrigeration systems and a new induction lighting processes that dramatically decrease the amount of energy use in a building. Raley's says it is the first supermarket chain to use the new induction lightling system in the U.S.
Raley's is conducting all sorts of Earth Day activities at the Petaluma store grand opening, as it is at all of its 133 supermarkets.
>Natural and organic grocery chain Whole Foods Market, Inc. is holding a vitual Earth Day 2009 festival in its stores in California, Nevada, Arizona and elsewhere throughout the U.S. (and in Canada and the United Kingdom). Among those activities include giving away free trees to shoppers, selected free reusable bag giveaways, and partnership promotions with numorous local environmental and community organizations for Earth Day 2009, along with numerous other "green" activities.
Whole Foods also announced today that it plans to dramatically increase its use of alternative energy at its distribution facilities and stores, including putting solar panels on many of its natural and organic foods supermarkets.
>Wal-Mart also announced today it plans to significantly increase the number of its stores that have solar power systems on panels. The majority of the new stores Wal-Mart will be adding the solar panels to are in California and the Western U.S. Selected Wal-mat stores also are giving away free reusable shopping bags today.
>Southern California-based supermarket chain Stater Bros (based in the Inland Empire region). and Arizona-based natural foods chain Sprouts Farmers Market, which has a number of stores in Southern California, have both announced they are making a financial and corporate involvement committment tothe U.S. National Park system in the Western U.S. That committment is to help preserve and conserve the National Parks, which are a true American heritage and treasure.
>Los Angeles based Superior Grocers, a multi-store independent, is providing water and fresh fruit to volunteers participating in a tree planting event in the Sixth District of Los Angeles.
>Rainbow Natural Market, a high-volume natural foods cooperative supermarket in San Francisco, is holding an Earth Day 2009 festival in and outside its store today. The event consists of numerous informational and educational booth on topics like local foods, recycling and more. There's also local and organic food tastings, demonstrations of ways to "green" the home, and other pro-environment kinds of activities.
The examples we've listed above of what grocers based in California, the Western U.S., and elsewhere in the country are doing for Earth Day 2009 are merely the tip of the iceberg. Other chains and independents are doing similar and other activities, all designed around the Earth Day conservation and "green" theme.
In California, the California Grocers Association (CGA), the Sacramento, California-based food and grocery industry trade association for chains and independents, has played a major role in encouraging its grocer-members to sponsor reusable shopping bag promotions and giveaways today.
The trade group is committed to playing its part in getting more California shoppers to use reusable bags at its member's food and grocery stores. CGA members include most all of the leading chains and independents with stores in California.
"Using reusable bags is one of the easiest and most effective ways to have a positive impact on our environment," Ronald Fong, President and CEO of the California Grocers Association (CGA), said today. "On Earth Day 2009, we (the CGA) intend to increase reusable bag awareness and educate consumers to the benefits of their use."
"Grocers have sold reusable bags for years, Fong says, but it wasn't until the passage of Assembly Bill 2449 – California’s statewide plastic bag recycling bill – in 2007, and the increased worldwide focus on sustainability, that reusable shopping bags moved into the environmental spotlight."
The law requires supermarkets in California to sell reusable shopping bags, along with placing recycling bins in their stores for shoppers to return single-use plastic carrier bags to from home.
As Fresh & Easy Buzz reported in this April 16, 2009 story [Two New Bills in California State Assembly Would Put 25-Cent Per Bag Fee on Both Single-Use Plastic and Paper Carrier Bags], new proposed legislation is currently making its way through the California State Assembly in Sacramento that would levy a 25-cent per bag fee on all single-use plastic carrier bags and paper grocery sacks shoppers request in supermarkets, chain drug stores and convenience chain stores in the Golden State.
This proposed legislation, some version of which looks likely to pass this year, makes the effort by California's grocers to promote reusable bag use by customers in their stores all the more important on this Earth Day -- and beyond.
Of course, if a consumer behavior change would take hold, in which more shoppers bring their own bags to the store with them, such legislation wouldn't be needed. After all, in the larger scheme of things it really is up to each one of us as consumers and shoppers to use reusable bags and thus contribute to decreasing the use of non-renewable energy sources, isn't it?
Later today Fresh & Easy Buzz will publish a suggested, simple program, that if implemented by grocers in California and elsewhere we believe could lead to a dramatic increase in the use of reusable shopping bags by shoppers. Of course, that program, like any and all others, will require consumer cooperation and participation in order to work.
Happy Earth Day 2009.
[Editor's Note: Information about the reusable canvas shopping bag pictured above is available here.]
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>March 8, 2008: More UK Retailers Jump On The 'Banish The (Plastic) Bag' Campaign.