Whole Foods hypocrisy

Whole Foods officially discontinued their awesomely durable, heavy-duty plastic bags as of Earth Day this year.

So what are they offering instead? Paper. Yep, tree-harvested, not-so-sustainable paper. Sure, I know paper bags biodegrade, but they also disintegrate in the rain and require us to chop down and process trees.*

I kept hoping they’d replace their plastic bags with alternatives like bamboo or corn, which are sustainable and biodegradable, but feel like plastic. These bags are also super-durable and don’t fall apart when wet — a major concern of mine here in Seattle, since I sometimes try to walk to the grocery store instead of driving, and I can’t always plan ahead in order to carry my canvas bags.

But the word from Whole Foods is that those alternatives are too high of a price point for Whole Foods. I could understand this in theory for a smaller organization, but Whole Foods has plenty of money with which to be more responsible. They should a) suck it up and do it anyway, since it’s not like they’re losing money in their business; and/or b) start charging customers for the bags. So friggin’ simple.

And the real kicker? The Whole Foods delis switched from paper containers to plastic shortly after the bag changeover. Yeah, take a minute to let that sink in. Now I not only can’t walk home in the rain with my groceries, but I also can’t microwave my deli dinner in its container. How’s that for green logic?

*Whole Foods states that their bags are made from 100% recycled paper, but they don’t tell us the percentage of post-consumer content. And as most green-savvy folks know, “recycled” is a moot point if it’s not post-consumer, as corporations are required by law to recycle their waste paper. The article I linked to suggests that this “recycled” paper isn’t post-consumer at all.

This is one of the oldest greenwashing tricks in the book, and I’m blown away that people still fall for it — I guess not everyone was raised in a commune and educated in the Seattle public school system! Most of all, I’m just frustrated by “Big Green” taking what appears to be another PR-happy shortcut. Michael Pollan already outed Whole Foods as a not-that-green source in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, citing a plethora of eco-BS practices. The list just keeps getting longer.

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