Over the past year, we have taken a much closer look at the use of plastic bags, conducting surveys, researching issues, and engaging in wide-ranging and helpful conversations with members and employees. What we’ve learned is that the widespread use of plastic bags, and the potential damage it does to our planet, is something a lot of people care about. In particular, our members are asking about this and looking to our co-op to take a leadership role.
As a result, I’m excited to announce today that we’re going to be making a big change to our operations over the coming year, a change that reflects our role as stewards of the environment.
Beginning immediately, our co-op will initiate a plan to reduce our dependency on plastic bags, with an end goal of phasing out plastic bags at our Front End checkouts completely by the spring of 2020.
This is a unique challenge, one without a clear blueprint for moving forward. That means we will be the innovators here. Let me offer a few reflections on what brought us to this point and why it’s so important.
Why are we doing this?
Phasing out plastic bags is just another step in our co-op’s long history of member-driven environmental leadership. For many years we have offered our communities unique environmental programs, often before the ideas caught on more broadly. Today our recycling programs include cork recycling, e-waste recycling, #5 plastic recycling, paper recycling, and more. Each year we divert tons of organic material from the landfill through our food-waste reduction programs. And most recently, over the past two years, we have been honored by the EPA for our efforts in the sustainable management of refrigeration, leading the nation in that regard.
In short, environmental sustainability is part of who we are. Our Co-op Ends direct us to preserve, protect, and restore the environment as best we can. Eliminating plastic bags is a natural part of that effort.
Why are we doing this now?
This isn’t a rash decision. We’ve been thinking about this for a long time and asking our members to guide us. We recognize that plastic bags are just one small part of a much larger and more complex problem. Restoring the health of our environment requires widespread systems change in many different areas. But every step matters, and our members want us to be a part of the conversation in our community.
Why will it take a year to implement?
Operationally this won’t be easy, and it’s important that we don’t put an undue burden on our members and employees along the way. Phasing this plan in gradually gives us time to understand the issues, break down barriers, and help find solutions.
Are all businesses going toward this?
Not yet, but that may be coming. Earlier this month, the New Hampshire House passed a bill that would restrict the use of plastic bags in the state. If signed into law, the legislation would bar New Hampshire restaurants and food retailers from offering complimentary single-use, carry-out plastic bags.
The easy thing would be to wait and see what happens with the legislation, then act accordingly when we have to. But often the right thing to do isn’t the easy thing to do. I want us to be proactive and do this the right way.
Where we do we go from here?
I know we have the collective genius to make this happen. I’m confident that in the year ahead, we can figure this out as a team. In the meantime, all voices are important. We have more than 20,000 members, and they have many different points of view. This is important to keep in mind.
To me this isn’t a matter of simply doing the right thing, but doing the thing right. Our Ends call for stewardship on the environment, but they also call for respecting diversity. If we’re going to be a broad and inclusive cooperative, we need to respect that we have conscientious members and employees with a wide range of opinions. Though sometimes we have to draw a line, on many issues, there’s room for all of us.
In this case, I believe that as a cooperative, what we can agree on is that we have an opportunity here to take a complex issue, break it down into manageable steps, and implement it correctly. As part of that, all points of view will be important as we work on this together.
My thanks to all of our members for your interest and engagement on this issue. Please know I’m here to talk more about this and answer any questions you may have. You can reach out to me anytime. My door is always open.