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Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ – In honor of the 3 millionth plastic bag never packed with fresh food at New Leaf Community Markets since 1993, the local natural foods grocery store is promising to donate 20 cents for every customer who shops at any of its six locations Wednesday with a reusable bag.
It is a milestone for the store’s Envirotoken program, which usually donates 10 cents to one of six customer-selected environmental nonprofit organizations for every customer who foregoes a new bag for a reusable one. New Leaf, which has never provided customers with carry-out plastic bags, discourages the use of new paper bags for environmental reasons.
“This program has been one of the significant innovations that New Leaf created and has been copied all over the U.S. by other retailers including Wild Oats,” said Scott Roseman, co-owner and president of New Leaf, a 26-year-old company.
Before the Envirotoken program, New Leaf and many other grocery outlets offered customers a few cents back to customers who brought in their own bags. Then longtime Westside store customer Ron Goodman approached the owners with an idea he had seen on a recent trip in the Pacific Northwest.
He suggested giving tokens to customers with reusable bags which they could put in a donation box for a local nonprofit organization after they checkout. Since then, The Envirotoken has contributed $220,698 to dozens of local organizations including Save Our Shores, Fishwise, Homeless Garden Project, Native Animal Rescue and People Power.
“No one ever cared about a nickel,” said Goodman, a member of People Power, an alternative transportation advocacy organization that has been an Envirotoken recipient over the years. For an organization, however, nickels can add up. “We have gotten lots of donations over the years. I’m always pleased it inspires people.”
The environmental savings since 1993 could also be equated to about 4,300 trees, according to Roseman, who noted several other stores in the area have instituted similar programs.
Last year, Staff of Life donated $10,700 to local nonprofit organizations through its Sharatoken program, which has been in practice for more than eight years.
“Just last week I was up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and visited their natural food store Pilgrims and saw that they had their Envirotoken program,” Roseman said. “To me, it was really flattering to see that other people have copied this program because it’s a good thing.”
In 2009, the U.S. International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion bags are used annually.
“Considering the news that Santa Cruz County just passed an ordinance to ban plastic grocery bags, I think that New Leaf Community Markets has been ahead of the curve on this issue,” Roseman said. “People really make a difference when they reuse bags.”
Save Our Shores awarded New Leaf its first Business of the Year award for their “outstanding leadership in environmental stewardship.”
The 3 million milestone celebration includes store receptions from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at all stores. Roseman and a representative from Save Our Shores will make brief remarks at the Westside Santa Cruz New Leaf at 1101 Fair Ave. For those folks who have collected a heap of reusable bags, New Leaf will be collecting extras for re-use by others