To kick off the initiative, the stores gave more than 50,000 reusable "better bags" to its customers on Tuesday. The bags, which are made from 80 percent recycled content from plastic bottles, will be sold in stores for 99 cents, or customers have the option of using a bag made from 100 percent recycled paper for free.
Whole Foods hopes to get rid of its existing supply of plastic bags by Earth Day (April 22) and is asking customers to "bring your own bag; save your own planet."
"A lot of countries are adopting bans or taxes on plastic bags. It's certainly not what drove this initiative, but there's a heightened awareness about it," said Whole Foods spokeswoman Robin Burton. "We're trying to act out one of our core values, which is supporting and caring for our communities and environment."
Other grocery stores in Utah also are urging shoppers to use reusable bags. Albertsons and Associated Foods sell reusable grocery bags for 99 cents, and Smith's Food and Drug offers an insulated bag for $1.99 or regular bag for 79 cents.
"Reusable bags and our plastic recycling program offer an easy way for our customers to take specific actions that will reduce the number of plastic bags being manufactured," said Smith's spokeswoman Marsha Gilford.
Although Albertsons, Associated and Smith's don't have plans to eliminate plastic bags, all have started recycling programs for plastic.
Burton said customers already have embraced the concept of going plastic-free. Whole Foods introduced the idea to test markets in San Francisco, Toronto, and Austin, Texas, before going nationwide with the initiative.
Whole Foods and its affiliates give customers who use reusable bags a 5-to-10 cent refund every time they visit.
Wild Oats Natural Marketplace locations in Utah:
* 645 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City
* 6930 S. Highland Drive, Cottonwood Heights
* 1131 E. Wilmington Ave., Salt Lake City
* 1748 West Redstone Center Drive, Park City