On a recent July Saturday, an army of volunteers poured through the streets of Shorewood in between pouring rain, and by the end of the day, virtually every household – including rentals – had received a free, reusable, bright-green shopping bag.
By the end of the day, Boy Scouts, young families with children and other Shorewood residents pitched in to place over 6,900 green bags on the doorsteps of every Shorewood home.
Perhaps a small step in combating the tons of plastic shopping bags that head into the landfills every day, but a smart step nevertheless. This is a case where, rather than talking about the environment, something was done about it. No doubt this will lead to other actions.
The Associated Press picked up on the program and by the weekend, people from Phoenix were calling their relatives in Shorewood asking if they had gotten their free shopping bag.
This program was created and led by the Shorewood Conservation Committee, a group appointed by the Shorewood Board of Trustees. The main feature of the shopping bag drop was a number of local businesses provided the financial support for this effort, including Sendik’s.
When I was approached by the committee, I immediately felt the idea was a no-brainer from a business standpoint.
As a longtime business owner in Shorewood – in fact I own two of them – I can’t help but notice how the European style community of Shorewood is able to come together in accomplishing goals. Over the last few years we have seen a revival of the Fourth of July celebration; the establishment of a number of other community events such as Showcase Shorewood, the Holiday Walk and the Garden Walk; and recently and most visibly the massive renovation of the Shorewood football/track field largely through private donations led by the D2D (Drive to Distinction) citizen’s group.
The ambitious Shorewood Master Plan for the Village’s Central Business District has been a model of resident involvement and transparency on the part of citizen boards, government officials and the consultants connected with the project.
The Shorewood Shopping Bag project is the latest of these efforts.
The plastic bags you routinely accept in the stores are great advertising and a convenience for our customers, but a major contributor to landfills. The bags can take decades to degrade, plus are a major user of petroleum.
Here’s where the green bags make good business sense. In my store, we pack groceries into an average of $700 worth of these bags every week. Grocery stores, even a specialty retailer such as Sendik’s, have notoriously low profit margins, and if even 25 percent of our customers brought in their reusable bags, the reduction in our plastic bag costs would be a nice contribution to our bottom line.
This reusable bag program is a good example of how communities should work – businesses, government and citizen groups cooperating on a worthwhile project. And now even the residents of Shorewood are pitching in, as with every day I see more of these green bags crossing our register stands.
John Nehring and Anne FinchiNehring are owner of Sendik’s and JP’s Cafe in Shorewood, V Richard’s in Brookfield and Groppi’s in Bayview.