A lively discussion was sparked at EcoGeek over paper vs. plastic. The recurring point is the best solution is reusable bags. Paper vs. plastic is an unnecessary distraction. Whole Foods offers a 5 cent or more rebate per reusable bag. In Sweden, I've heard, they charge per bag. While the Whole Foods rebate is more customer friendly, the per bag charge makes a bit more sense since you're less likely to have some crazy person come in with 100 bags asking the clerk to put one item in each bag.
Thinking just about bags maybe stopping short of the finish line. What about fruits, vegetables, deli meats, and all other things packaged at the store? Shouldn't we have a reusable system for those as well?
There are only two obstacles to the in store packaging, motivation and convenience. Motivation can be addressed by a rebate or per bag charge. I'd like to see that expand to more stores. If I were looking to pass some effective legislation I would much rather mandate that all stores offer a reusable bag incentive program than ban plastic bags.
The second issue of convenience. I use Peapod, which unfortunately has no reusable bag program. That's silly because in terms of convenience they have the ultimate ability to deliver it. There's no reason to worry that you'll forget to take the bags into the store, or you won't bring enough. Peapod can easily collect the last set of bags the next time they deliver. In fact they do this already with the larger cardboard boxes they wheel on and off the trucks. Come to think of it, why do they even need the plastic bags at all?
Also, Peapod could gain some customer satisfaction points easily by using higher quality, reusable containers for fruits, vegetables and such. It's amazing they haven't thought to take advantage of that yet because in a sense, Peapod has an opportunity to really excel in the environmentally conscious market. Their customer base is primarily city dwellers.
They should be able to make the case for saving a great deal of gas by replacing individual trips back and forth to the store with delivery trucks running an optimized route. When my groceries are delivered, there is often one or two other deliveries in the building, and I'm sure many of the drivers other deliveries are around the corner or down the street.
Last, they have the ability to offer a good selection of eco products in addition to the "mainstream" products. About the only disadvantage they have over stores like Whole Foods is the preference of many consumers to personally pick their fruits and vegetables.
I think they are really missing out on an opportunity here to do something good for both their bottom line and green cred. I'll have to send this post their way as a "concerned customer".