Friday, March 7, 2008

Bag-less in Dumbo

Two businesses in DUMBO have begun weaning customers off the latest symbol of wasteful consumerism: the plastic shopping bag. Foragers, the high-end grocery store at Front and Adams streets, has begun deducting 10 cents from the purchases of patrons who decline plastic bags. And Water Street Restaurant and Lounge has stopped delivering food in plastic bags. “We really want our store to be as garbage-free as possible,” said Anna Castellani, the store’s owner (pictured). Castellani said she been trying to cure Brooklynites of their plastic addiction since opening her store two-and-a-half years ago, but said that only recently have customers become amenable to the idea.

In January, the City Council joined the worldwide trend, passing a law requiring stores with at least 5,000 square feet, or chain stores with five or more branches in the city, to collect plastic bags for recycling. The goal of the bill, which goes into effect in July, is to save a tiny bit of the 12 million barrels of oil that are converted into plastic bags every year.


Jane Kojima, a spokeswoman for the DUMBO Improvement District, said she’s lined up about 20 businesses that will begin reducing plastic bags starting in March, once the group distributes canvas bags to every household in the neighborhood. As usual, the Park Slope Food Co-op, which charges members for plastic bags on the honor system, is way ahead of the green movement — though not as far ahead as its general manager would like. “This spring, the Co-op plans to up the ante, voting to entirely eliminate all disposable bags — plastic and paper — from the cooperative grocery store. Holtz predicted that the measure would pass.

Castellani said her three-week-old initiative appears to be having some effect. About 50 percent of her customers now decline plastic bags. Corey Szopinski, who frequently fills up his stomach — and a biodegradable container — with Foragers’ sublime mac and cheese, said he’s thrilled with the new initiative. “Business owners need to start thinking about reducing waste,” said Szopinski. “[And] now that they have biodegradable containers and potato starch utensils (which are awesome!), I go there instead of to restaurants that use Styrofoam or plastic.”
Also, staff from the Center for the Urban Environment have launched a month-long No Plastic Bag Challenge. The goal is to reduce plastic bag use by 75%

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