“Green” is now the new low-carb. Green is good for the planet, consumers are happy to help the planet, therefore consumers should be happy with anything labeled by a retailer as “green.” And so the exploitation of the newest craze begins. But just because something looks green and sounds green, doesn’t mean that the retailer bragging about it is green-motivated at all.
Plastic bags are a hot green retailing topic. Personally I will be glad when stores – particularly grocery stores - stop using plastic bags. I have always found them to be the most flimsy, inefficient, customer-unfriendly method for toting merchandise – particularly groceries – available to mankind. So, yes, it is good that plastic bags are leaving both the retail scene and the environment.
Here’s my question… Who decided plastic bags were a good idea in the first place? Retailers who were completely unconcerned about the environment made plastic bags the standard because they were much more concerned about their bottom line. So, please excuse me if I hold my applause for the elimination of a retailing practice that was started by ecologically irresponsible retailers in the first place.
Whole Foods set the green standard for bagging long ago. They have encouraged the recycling and reuse of bags for as long as I have been shopping there, and they have been paying back the customers who bring their own bags for years. They didn’t start their reuse-recycle practices because it was the hip green trend of the day, but because one of their core values is to “care about our communities and the environment.”
From a consumer point of view, the Whole Foods standard is much different than the ride-the-green-train retailers who are charging customers for bags – like IKEA and Marks & Spencer – or using the green movement as an excuse to sell expensive logo-plastered tote bags like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
Last week, the city of Los Angeles joined the city of San Francisco by passing a law that will ban the use of plastic bags in retail stores by 2010. It’s interesting that the plastic bag bans are starting to come from the government. The implication is that retailers will not make the change themselves unless forced to. And yet, as they make the government-mandated move away from plastic, it will be interesting to watch retailers proudly declare themselves “green.” Mandated compliance is a celery-tinted move at best, and doesn’t really deserve full-blown green respect.
Green retailing is a positive thing. And if the only way the planet can get green is through government coercion or fad exploitation, then so be it. The retail industry should be concerned, however, with how long the public will be fooled by those retailers who are passing out green-colored glasses with one hand and reaching into shoppers’ wallets with the other hand to finance their own green image. Not long enough, I predict. Because already “retailers who care about something besides money” is starting to be the new “green.”