Jewel has seen fewer plastic bags being used as customers bring in reusable bags. They’ve led the way in educating customers and employees so they move away from plastic and paper bags, an activist said.

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DOWNTOWN — Jewel-Osco cashiers are helping save the planet with one question: “Did you remember your bags today?”

If the customer answers “no,” they’ll get another question: “Would you like to buy one?”

Asking those two questions is the most important thing an employee can do at the register, said activist Jordan Parker, the founder of Bring Your Bag Chicago. Bring Your Bag advocates for reusable bags as a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic or paper bags typically used in grocery stores.

“That one question is really powerful,” Parker said. “Some people, that light bulb is gonna go on and they’re gonna say, ‘Oh, I guess this is the way things are done now. I guess this is a waste problem.'”

Parker’s theory seems to pan out: Jewel-Osco has seen a “significant decrease” in the number of plastic bags used in its Chicago stores and across the country, said spokeswoman Mary Frances Trucco. The decrease is a result of Jewel educating employees and customers, putting up signs and speaking with customers, Trucco said.

Those educational efforts came prior to Chicago’s “plastic bag ban,” which went into effect in August, Trucco said. The ordinance banned large supermarkets and chains from using thin plastic bags in the hopes of pushing customers to use reusable bags.

“When I have stopped by here … without a bag, and I don’t have it, they’ll say, ‘Did you bring your bag in?’ I go, ‘No, I’m sorry.’ Y’know, bad, bad, bad,” joked Martie, a Streeterville woman who brought a reusable bag to Jewel-Osco on Wednesday. “They don’t really shame* you, but I always feel like, ‘Yes, I’m sorry, I forgot my bag today. Normally I have it.’ “

Customer Kaitlyn Baker said it was difficult to remember to bring recyclable bags to grocery stores, especially since stores aren’t close to her home, and she doesn’t usually bring them. Baker shopped at a Jewel-Osco on Wednesday and was asked what kind of bag she’d like to use.

“She asked me if I wanted to use a reusable bag or if I just wanted to use a plain bag, so I just told her reusable because, I mean, it looks good,” Baker said. She got her reusable bag for free.

Jewel’s educational efforts put the chain ahead of others that haven’t moved customers away from paper and plastic bags, Jordan said.

“Stores need to take responsibility for educating their customers about this issue,” Parker said.

*Don’t worry, you will NOT encounter this when you go to Jewel:


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