Thank You for Bringing Your Own Bags

Eye opener, palate pleaser

Eye opener, palate pleaser

Reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle changed my attitude toward food and now I feel like I have a cheating heart if I shop anywhere other than Whole Foods Market.  Though I don’t own a farm in Appalachia to grow all my own food or know on a first-name basis the person who did, I can’t sleep at night unless my food labels read:  “sustainable farming” “local” and “organic.” These are reassuring reminders that I’m supporting responsible farmers and not pumping pesticides into my family.


With a teenage athlete and a College Kid who works/parties/studies around the clock, food evaporates from my refrigerator faster than a puddle in Death Valley.

That’s how Whole Foods market in Beverly Hills became my second home. Given the frequency of my visits, I tend to notice the little things as I push my cart through the aisles. I’m first at the manager’s desk to politely alert them when they are out of stock on Kale Chocolate Flavor Chips. If new products pop up, I’ll put them to the taste test.  Parsley hummus? Carrot-Ginger soup? Yum.

But what is a home without the people. The guy who ‘guards’ your cart until you drive back to the packing area knows I like the eggs in a certain spot. The checkout people and I are like old friends swapping stories and recipes: What are you making for Thanksgiving? Are those vegan cookies any good?

Sometimes I shop at the Valley Whole Foods and the place is spotless and the staff cheerful. The main difference? The shoppers.

Brace yourselves.

According to the staff in the Valley, 80% of customers bring  their own bags, as opposed to the 35% of customers in Beverly Hills. “Well, I don’t want this to sound bad,” the bagger in the valley told me, “but the folks who shop in Beverly Hills don’t quite get it yet.”

The BH-Valley Feud continues

The BH-Valley Feud continues










Gulp! I couldn’t defend my Beverly Hills paper-bag-lovin’ brethren.  Back at the Beverly Hills Whole Foods, I asked them about it. “Oh, eight years ago nobody here used reusable, so customers have come a long way,” one employee said. “Still, I get a lot of requests for ‘pack light and double-bag’ and sometimes that’s for one bag of potato chips. Customers get really angry about the fact that we might start charging 10 cents for bags. It’s not like we’re making money on it.”


Don't Leave Them in The Trunk

Don’t Leave Them in The Trunk










I’m all for making people pay for bags. How else to change the hearts and minds of my fellow shoppers than to make them reach into their change purses? On the flip-side, I always get a little refund for bringing my reusable bags.

Make BH #1 in Reusable Bags

Make BH #1 in Reusable Bags










Maybe once shoppers see that reward, they’ll forget they ever had paper. What bags are happening in your zip code?


Author Description

Cynthia Baseman

Cynthia Baseman is the author of 'Love, Mom: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Hope.' She writes about motherhood, the environment and education.

There are 15 comments. Add yours

  1. 14th March 2013 | Helen says: Reply
    We've had a bag ban here in Santa Monica for a while now! I love it. It helps me to do better. We do have the "bring your bag" signs around the parking lots. We also have a ban on styrofoam containers...
    • 15th March 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Ever since I did a beach clean up with the scouts through Heal the Bay, I came to understand the insidious nature of styrofoam.
  2. 13th March 2013 | Carpool Goddess (@CarpoolGoddess) says: Reply
    You've inspired me to bring my own bags. I was doing it for a while and then stopped. FYI, Bristol Farms charges 10 cents a bag. I don't know if that's enough to deter shoppers.
  3. 13th March 2013 | Joanne Nadel says: Reply
    I almost always use my own shopping bags at any store(even Costco) I hardly ever see anyone even at Trader Joes and Whole Foods - Beverly Hills bringing their own bags. It really surprises me. Maybe you will have an impact on reminding people to be more diligent about bringing bags for shopping. I do remember that at the Trader Joes in San Francisco they had signs posted in the parking lot to remind you to bring your bags with you rather than forgetting them in the car. It was very helpful.
    • 13th March 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Brilliant idea! Signs in parking lots to remind you to bring your bags. Love it.
  4. 12th March 2013 | Elaine says: Reply
    I try my best to bring my own bags to Whole Foods, but sometimes forget to put them back in my car once I've brought them in to the house. Your post has motivated me to be more diligent. Thanks BH mom for striving to make us better citizens and environmentalists.
  5. 11th March 2013 | rithebard says: Reply
    when I lived in the valley I was one of those people who brought my own bags. I had whole bunch of them. Love that branch!!!!!
  6. 11th March 2013 | Jean says: Reply
    Hi Cynthia, As to your comment about "composting", the material that is taken away from the alleys in the Green Bins is composted! And is then given away "free" at the Earth Day Event which is held at the Sunday Farmers Market every year. This is a fabulous way of revitalizing your garden! Jean
    • 11th March 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      I wonder if BH folks know that those bins should be used for organic material? That they should be separating banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds etc. for the green bins? Is there a limit on how much compost residents can obtain for free?
  7. 11th March 2013 | Hayley Kaplan says: Reply
    Your family is lucky to have such a conscientious mom making sure they all stay as healthy as possible! I'm feeling rather guilty about my shopping habits after reading about yours. For me, it's mostly the convenient Trader Joe's and Ralphs that get my business - I don't always buy organic. But, I ALWAYS have my reusable bags with me - and most of the time I remember to take them out of the trunk and into the market with me. ;)
    • 11th March 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      @Hayley No guilt! No guilt! You're a great mom and we all have to learn as we go because we know there's no MOMMY MANUAL to tell us what to do.
  8. 11th March 2013 | Tom says: Reply
    Well, here's the thing- a lot of the shoppers who go to the BH store actually walk (like I do), sometimes after work. So my shopping bags are in the trunk of my car, which is parked at my place. Which means either I walk home to get the bag and and up walking the two blocks to Ralph's on Doheny or take my Whole Foods purchased in that paper bag home, then use it to toss out my trash instead of plastic garbage bags, which I haven't bought since the last century. FYI- to people who wonder why we don't have recycling bins in BH; Crown Disposal separates and recycles for us at their plant and has a much higher rate of return than the old system of having separate bins.
    • 11th March 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Great that you walk and at least gives the bags a second life. On Crown recycling...isn't there some way we could get composting in the mix?
  9. 11th March 2013 | DW says: Reply
    I know the Whole Foods you shop at and have been there many times. I sometimes hit other Whole Foods stores as well. One reason for the difference might also be that there is an older crowd shopping there, so much so I wonder often about the safety of some of the drivers. You know what they say about old dogs. I have seen a big change at other nearby markets though, and wonder myself why I didn't bring bags in before, especially for the 1-2 bag shopping trips. I always have them in my car for the Farmer's Market and such.
  10. 11th March 2013 | Ellen Lutwak says: Reply
    We really are kindred spirits. This is a spot-on story. Lead by example – and get this post out in the world. (You know that the city of Beverly Hills was thinking about thinking about eliminating plastic bags last year. Maybe.)

Say Something, Why Don't Ya?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.