Whole Foods Market: Bagging Profit for Purpose

What do you think about Whole Foods Market’s plan to bag disposable plastic grocery bags in their 270 stores on this coming Earth Day, April 22? Can corporations on the greener side of the aisle like Whole Foods Market truly put purpose before profit?

I’m voting a cautious “yes.” Maybe the tides are slowly turning when Whole Foods can successfully mix education and advocacy into our routine shopping experiences, from showcasing produce from local family farms to reminding us that how we transport the product home is just as important as what we buy. Bagging plastic bags illustrates that going green and protecting our food system reach beyond the choices we throw in our shopping cart. Like nature, and as we talk about in our book, ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits, we need to be mindful of how all our actions integrate and work holistically together. In a country where we pass through the check-out aisle infinitely more times than the voting booth, retailers possess the potential to serve as change agents through their choices and actions.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though.  Once again, America is trying to keep pace with the rest of the world.  Countries from Ireland to Australia have taken steps to ban plastic bags.  Even the Chinese government just banned certain types of plastic bags.  Turns out that getting rid of plastic bags reduces harmful effects on wildlife and cuts the need for increasingly more expensive oil. In China’s case, the ban will save 38 million barrels of oil according to the Chicago Tribune. Decrease waste, help the environment and improve the bottom line — now that’s classic ecopreneuring.

About the Author

Lisa Kivirist embodies the growing “ecopreneuring” movement: innovative entrepreneurs who successfully blend business with making the world a better place. Lisa is co-author, with her husband, John Ivanko, of Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life, capturing the American dream of farm living for contemporary times. Her latest release, ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits is a compact, dynamic tool kit for a fresh approach to entrepreneurial thinking, blending passion for protecting and preserving the planet with small business pragmatics. As a W.K. Kellogg Food & Society Policy Fellow and Director of the Rural Women's Project, Lisa champions a voice for women farmers and rural ecopreneurs through media, speaking and advocacy work. Lisa runs the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast in southwest Wisconsin, completely powered by renewable energy and considered amongst the “Top Ten Eco-Destinations in North America.” Her culinary focus on local and seasonal cuisine – with most ingredients traveling less than 100 feet from her organic gardens to B&B plates – earned recognition in publications from Vegetarian Times to Country Woman and inspired her cookbook, Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity. In addition to feature writing for publications such as Hobby Farm Home, Mother Earth News and Wisconsin Trails, Lisa is the lead writer for Renewing the Countryside, a non-profit organization showcasing rural entrepreneurial and agricultural success stories. Lisa also penned Kiss Off Corporate America: A Young Professional’s Guide to Independence. Lisa shares her farm with her husband, their young son, a 10kw wind turbine and a colony of honeybees.
  • Stores in America should charge for the bags. That’s the only way EVERYONE, not just the environmentally-oriented, will start bringing their own bags. Other countries have been doing this long time ago and it’s now a matter-of-fact for them.

    If you charge just 5 cents, it’s not a burden to the poor, but people will start paying attention. IKEA already does this. My initial reaction was a bit of surprise the first time around, but that’s just because I live in America and haven’t gotten used to it.

    With that said, it would be sad to see the 10cent refund per bag from Whole Foods, not that I would stop bringing my own bags to grocery stores if they stopped the practice.

  • I’m a big fan of Whole Foods. Love them. Their prices are coming down too. Wish we had one in Gangneung, South Korea! Ah, the organics and nice in-store cafes… will return to them at some point.

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  • It is about time Whole Foods joins the real world with their pricing. They display beautifully and have superior looking produce, but even the conventional produce is sometimes 300% higher than at regular grocery stores. Some of the exact same brands and items are almost double the price compared to Trader Joe’s. The price gauging has me turned off.

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