Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You mean I can get paid for using reusable bags?

My baby girl has been sick lately. She’s had some nasty stomach bug that’s been giving her problems for about a week now, which has made changing her diaper *sarcasm alert* an absolute joy! The BRAT diet only worked marginally, and she’s about sick to death of eating rice at this point anyway. So it was time to visit to our beloved pediatrician. The doctor gave her a prescription which we filled at the CVS across the street. While we were there I decided to pick up a few toiletries and brought them to the check-out counter, where I saw something that interested me. CVS is now giving shoppers an incentive to bring their own reusable bags. It’s called the Green Bag Tag™ and you use it in conjunction with your CVS ExtraCare card. You buy the tag for 99 cents and attach it to your reusable bag (which can be any bag, even a reused plastic shopping bag). When you shop, the cashier scans your bag tag as well as your ExtraCare card and with every fourth visit you earn $1 in Extra Bucks. Adding to the environmental friendliness of it all, the tag is made of renewable corn-based material. Apparently they've been doing this for a few months now, but the store near our house either isn't doing it or hasn't introduced it yet, so I never knew about it until yesterday.

You might question whether this is just another form of “greenwashing” – you know, another company playing on the environmental sensibilities of its customers in order to make more money. Well, yes, I’m sure this new effort will bring in a lot of extra cash to the business since they’re charging a small fee for the tags and they’ll presumably save money on the cost of single-use plastic bags. But personally, I’m all for it. For people like me who frequent CVS (we go at least twice a week) it works because the tag will pay for itself pretty quickly. And after that, any amount of money I can save – however small that is – is helpful to my family’s budget. Those dollars add up over time! Plus the promotion will likely get more people to use reusable bags and possibly reduce the amount of litter caused by plastic ones.

For a while now, stores have given small discounts to their customers for bringing their own bags. Most grocery stores in our area do this, as does my favorite store, Tar-jhay (Target). Washington, DC recently started imposing a tax on single-use plastic and paper shopping bags. The tax funds city efforts to clean up the Anacostia River, for which the number 1 pollutant is plastic shopping bags. While I appreciate the effort on the part of the city of Washington, I’m not crazy about the tax because it makes the health of the river dependent on the very thing that’s hurting it the most. And does the government have to tax everything? Eh, I guess that’s a conversation best reserved for another blog.

At any rate, I’m happy that CVS has instituted this campaign. I most appreciate when businesses adopt holistically green practices such as powering their stores with renewable energy sources, stocking fair-trade merchandise, etc. But I commend CVS for doing something, anything, to help its customers live and shop more responsibly. Hopefully I won't have to use my Green Bag Tag™ to pick up any more prescriptions for sick babies in the near future.


elliott said...

great post! I wonder if we'll be able to track this someday like what Microsoft Hohm is doing for energy consumptions (you can now publicly see it by zip code) I know a local High School in Issaquah washington partnered with MIT to start tracking trasha and where it goes. It would be interesting to do something of the same with such a common item such as plastic bags.

Denise said...

Elliot, thanks! And that would be really fascinating if we could track that. I just get visions of the great Pacific garbage patch when I think of it, which really disturbs me. If we can make that kind of negative impact on the planet in such a relatively short amount of time, it's past time for us to start doing things differently. Ultimately, whether my trash is tracked or not,I'd like for there to be less of it to track in the first place, feel me?

Hilary said...

I keep my reusable bags in the trunk of the car and try to remember to take them in when we go shopping. More often than not, I'm crossing the threshold of the store, kiddos in tow, and then I remember, but I definitely go back. Farm Fresh will give you 5 cents off for every reusable bag you use when you check out and I think Trader Joe's and The Fresh Market have some kind of incentive, too. Plus those bags can hold more stuff, I think, which is what we end up coming out of those stores with anyway -- more stuff.