I work for a natural foods store and I run the Green Team there. I wanted to share with you one of the tactics I've employed to reduce plastic use in the store. I made some signage with my friend/co-worker Rebecca Miller in an attempt to reduce plastic-bag use in both the produce and bulk departments. I told my close friend Tatiana Burdiak from I GO TOPLESS about my signage ideas, and she shared with me a Plastic - Free Produce Campaign by Anita Horan in Australia. How awesome is that! Green minds think alike.
I posted photos of the signage we made on instagram and tagged Anita, and Anita shared it with her community, which was amazing! I received so many requests for these signs, that Rebecca and I were inspired to make some without my stores branding for anyone to print and use. These signs would be excellent additions to local farmers markets and/or grocery stores, and can help reduce plastic bag pollution. These signs are also gentle reminders that small changes in our consumer habits do make a difference. As consumers we have the power to reduce plastic pollution, and boycotting single-use plastics is a great place to start.
Boycotts rule. The more people get behind them, the more effective - positive people power is real! Plastic pollution negatively affects all of us, and we all contribute to it, which means that each of us is the solution. Saying "no thank you" to plastic is brave, and a call to action for climate justice! We live in a linear economy that promotes a single-use consumer mindset. Using compostable or biodegradable to-go ware is a bandaid and not a solution to the problem--it reinforces the habit of disposable convenience. Replacing these things that we use every single day for reusable alternatives makes a difference. If we forget our reusables, paper and biodegradable bags are a great alternative to plastics; however, bare in mind that they are still a single-use commodity that creates waste.
I see a ton of single-use plastic bags at farmers markets and individually bagged items. This is a major bummer, as one of the traditional benefits of shopping at a local farmers market means less packaging. It is possible for the consumer in this situation to approach vendors at the market and share with them other options besides plastic bags. If vendors still want to offer a bag, paper or biodegradable bags are great suggestions instead of plastic.
The average American family uses 1,500 plastic bags per year. Each year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags, and approximately 5 trillion plastic bags are produced every year worldwide. If you are to lay these bags side by side, they would encircle the earth 7 times. It's obvious that this is a serious issue. Plastic bag use in the produce/bulk departments of grocery stores in California is out of control. We banned the plastic grocery bag here which has made an incredible difference, but LOOPHOLE, this does not apply to plastic produce/bulk bags.
You guys, I've seen a single mushroom get its own plastic bag more times than I can count (3 years ago that was me with tomatoes). The average shopper in the store where I work uses 5-10 plastic bags for each fruit and vegetable group. What?! It hurts my heart when I see this mindless waste going down.
To help reduce this pollution, Rebecca and I increased paper bag dispensaries throughout the produce department, with signage encouraging customers to bring their own bag, or use to choose paper instead of plastic. This coupled with the No Bag Needed signs, has already reduced plastic use and has sewn a little seed of awareness, that will hopefully blossom into a beautiful habit change, and inspire others to update their consumer mindset.
NO BAG NEEDED
Nature has amazing packaging, so fruits and vegetables like bananas, avocados, lemons, cabbage, mangos, potatoes, etc. in a plastic bag is totally pointless. Plastic never biodegrades because it is not part of natures food chain, which means that all the plastic that has ever been produced still exists. Plastic photodegrades into tiny little pieces that we can no longer see called microplastics. These microplastics pollute our planet, and biomagnify up the food chain, which negatively affects our health. If you're buying loose spinach, spring mix, arugula or mushrooms, I get that a bag is necessary, which is where the reusable cloth produce bag comes in extra handy! If your grocery store does not sell reusable produce bags, I urge you to ask them to start, and to cross merchandize them in the produce and bulk departments.
BRING YOUR OWN JAR/BAG- BULK
Bulk food does not arrive at the store package or plastic-free; however, once placed in the bulk bins, the consumer has a very important choice to make. Will they continue the cycle of waste and get their bulk food in a single-use plastic bag? Or will they bring their own jar/bag and end the cycle? It's one of those moments where we can all choose to reduce our primary waste, which makes a tangible difference. In order to encourage this behavior change, Rebecca and I increased paper bags in the bulk section, and displayed signage encouraging people to bring their own bags and jars.
I hope that you find these signs useful, or as a starting point to make your own signs depending on the needs of your local farmers markets and grocery stores. Also, please check out Anita's Plastic Free Produce campaign - she has some great signage linked in her instagram profile.
If you do plan on printing these signs and putting them up anywhere, please communicate your intentions with the store manager/vendor and always ask permission first! In my store, I was instructed to laminate the signs, because it gets very wet in the produce department, and paper would be destroyed in a couple hours. I'm currently looking into biodegradable laminate options for the store.