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New Seasons Market Expands Sustainability Initiative

Retailer has introduced new packaging, rewards system to reduce plastics waste
Photograph: Shutterstock

With a mission to further its commitment to sustainable business practices, New Seasons Market has introduced new packaging for its prepackaged bulk items and has expanded its Bag It Forward rewards program to reduce plastics waste.

To encourage customers to shop with reusable containers for items from the store’s deli, coffee bar, produce and bulk goods departments, the Portland, Ore.-based grocer has launched a rewards system in which shoppers will receive a 5-cent refund for every reusable container they bring in. The refund can be used toward a purchase or donated to one of three local nonprofit organizations at each store.

The incentive is an extension of New Seasons’ Bag It Forward program, which rewards customers with a 5-cent refund for every reusable bag they bring in. The retailer says its customers have saved more than 7 million paper bags and donated more than $300,000 to local nonprofit organizations in their communities.

“As a neighborhood grocer and local business leader, our customers, partners and community members look to us for guidance on how to reduce their own environmental impact,” said Athena Petty, sustainability program manager at New Seasons Market, in a statement. “Taking a closer look at our waste and revamping our packaging strategy is the next natural step in being transparent about our waste challenges, and gives customers and staff an opportunity to help us in our mission.”

The expansion of the Bag It Forward program was inspired after New Seasons invested in LifeCycle Analysis software to examine the environmental impacts associated with the full life cycle of a package, which led to the retailer partnering with GO Box in August to track how many customers are adopting reusable containers and how they are being used.

To further reduce its own packaging waste, New Seasons has also rolled out new packaging for its prepacked bulk items, including nuts, trail mixes and dried fruit, which now come in a thinner, food-safe zipper bag rather than a plastic tub.

According to the LifeCycle Analysis software, switching from bulk tubs to zipper bags reduces gHg emissions by 78%; water usage by 89%; and human health impacts by 63%.

“This data enables us to make sustainability decisions based on the true impact to people and the planet, rather than industry trends or simply whether a container is recyclable at the end of its use,” Petty said. “Looking back over the last year since the collapse of the global recycling markets, we’re confident about the measurable steps we’re taking to reduce waste in our communities and are excited to track our results to continue to evolve our sustainability programs in the future.” 

The switch to zipper bags is the latest in a series of steps the retailer has taken to reduce its environmental impact, including the elimination of plastic straws from all New Seasons stores, which the retailer said has saved an estimated 180,000 straws since April.

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