Mandatory Bag Reuse Program Huge Success at Vermont Specialty Food Market

November 14, 2016

Woodstock, Vermont (November 2016) – A mandatory bag reuse program instituted by a Vermont independent specialty food market six months ago dramatically reduced new bag use by 55 percent!

Six months after implementing a groundbreaking reuse bag policy, Woodstock Farmers’ Market, a year round market, reports it used 36,400 new bags compared to 65,800 during the same period in 2015.

Admitting the mandatory BYOB (Bring You Own Bag) policy could have been a potential business risk, the owners said it was the right thing to do for the environment. The co-owners now express their astonishment over the overwhelming success of the program.
“We purchased 36,000 fewer bags than we did within that same period as last year,” said Patrick Crowl, co-owner and founder. “That's stunning. The cost savings is great and imagine the impact on the environment if more businesses did what we did.” 

From May through September 2016, the market used 36,400 new bags compared to 65,800 during the same period in 2015.
“I didn’t know what to expect when we implemented BYOB,” said co-owner Amelia Rappaport, who spearheaded the program. “We all agreed that it was the right thing to do. We knew that other communities had successfully adopted the policy so why not us? What we found is that the majority of customers are happy to reuse bags. Our BYOB program motivated them to adopt the habit of bringing their own bag. There were some grumpy customers, but after our cashiers told them that 100 percent of the money charged for the bags went to the food bank, most came around.”

"We experienced some blowback,” said Patrick Crowl, founder and co-owner. “But early on, the feedback from our customers was mainly positive. We were willing to take the risk and they respected our commitment to taking a stand on reducing waste.”
When customers do not bring in their own bags, Woodstock Farmers’ Market charges a nominal 10 cents for a large bag and 5 cents for a small bag, with 100 percent of those fees donated to Woodstock Community Food Shelf, a local food bank. A total of $1,830 has been donated so far. There is also a Bag Library where customers leave bags that can be borrowed by those who forgot to bring in their bags.

Wanting to reduce unnecessary waste and aid efforts to protect the environment, Woodstock Farmers’ Market instituted the innovative bagging policy urging customers to reuse and recycle paper and plastic bags, or purchase reusable grocery and produce bags. Since the program started 3,430 reusable bags have been sold.
Plastic produce bags are still available at no charge, however the Market urges customers to “Shop Naked” (meaning use no plastic bags at all) or consider purchasing convenient 3B Bags -  reusable nylon mesh produce bags with a drawstring, at $.89 each for a small bag and $.99 for a large bag. Rappaport said the mesh bags have the added benefit of allowing produce to be rinsed off while still contained in the bag. Over 600 mesh bags have been sold from May – September.

Rappaport advised any other retail businesses adopting the reuse bag policy to:

  • Advertise the program extensively well in advance of implementing it.
  • Donate 100 percent of the bag fees to a favorite local charity.
  • Train the cashiers who interface with customers thoroughly. Provide them with reasons why the reuse bag policy is good for everyone.
A statement by Woodstock Farmers’ Market on its website said, ”It’s true that paper bags are easy to recycle, but they have a high environmental cost to manufacture. This includes the release of heavy metals and greenhouse gasses into the environment. While we don’t have plastic bags up at our registers, our plastic produce bags are also problematic. While theoretically they are recyclable, we cannot recycle them in our area.”

Consider that the average American uses between 300-500 plastic bags per year and only using them for an average of 12 minutes before throwing them out. That adds up to 100-150 billion bags used last year in the US alone. Many cities across the country are looking at measures to reduce and eliminate single-use bags in stores. In fact, many countries around the world have gone bag-free for years. Last year Woodstock Farmers’ Market used a total 146,800 individual paper bags.

“We thank our community for helping us launch this ecological campaign,” said Crowl.

# # #

Woodstock Farmers’ Market - a year round, indoor market - is a trusted source for specialty and fresh foods, prepared foods, wine, beer and garden products delivered with outstanding service.

Among many accolades Woodstock Farmers' Market was named Business of the Year 2016 by the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce and in 2009 it was named “Retailer of the Year” by Specialty Food Association.

Hours of operation: Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday 7:30 – 7; Friday 7:30 – 8; Sunday 9-6.Closed Mondays www.woodstockfarmersmarket.com (802) 457-3658

Contact Information:
Karen J Irvine

Woodstock Farmers’ Market
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