The resolution to encourage the reduction of plastic bag waste by the City of Grand Rapids, passed Dec. 9 by the City Council, has led to creative efforts in the community to get the message out.

The resolution was passed largely due to a push from the environmental organization Earth Circle, and they have continued to spearhead the resolution’s implementation.

Smaller local stores, as well as the local grocery stores Cub Foods and Ogle’s Marketplace Foods, have been very responsive to the resolution, said Earth Circle member Pat Helmberger.

The organization has hung posters in shop windows to remind people to bring their own bags, and received a $400 grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation to distribute stickers and reusable bags.

Earth Circle has distributed 800 bags in total at Cub Food and Ogle’s Marketplace Foods, according to Helmberger.

But “big box” stores such as Target, Walmart, and Kmart have been harder to reach, said Helmberger.

Yvette Schultenover, another Earth Circle member, explained that such stores often have to get corporate approval for local endeavors, making it more difficult to apply their grassroots efforts.

Still, Schultenover emphasized that the representatives of these stores that Earth Circle has spoken with have been courteous and open to the resolution. She pointed out that Target even sells their own reusable bags to customers.

“Everybody seems to have reusable bags, they just forget to use them,” said Helmberger, and that’s where the group has concentrated their efforts.

Among the businesses that have put up an Earth Circle poster—which is a simple reminder to use your reusable bags—are the MacRostie Art Center, Jenny & Co., Reed Drug, and Bender’s.

One business, Grand Organic Food Market of Grand Rapids, began charging for plastic bags to encourage reusable containers even before the resolution.

Said Grand Organic owner and manager Karla Trast, “There are other ways to package food.”

She mentioned concerns about BPAs in plastic and the environmental impact of wasted bags.

Grand Organic now charges 5 cents per plastic bag used to purchase bulk food items.

Schultenover described the resolution’s goal as “promoting an awareness” of plastic vs. reusable bag use.

The sum total of the community response, according to Earth Circle?

“It’s been wonderful,” said Schultenover.


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